Standing nearly as tall as an elephant, the auroch grazed for 250,000 years until its extinction in 1627. But its story may not end there: Scientists are close to resurrecting the "supercow," once the largest land mammal in Europe, reports CNN.
In search of herbivores to maintain land areas at risk of becoming barren, geneticists began breeding auroch descendants with similar cattle breeds in 2008 and found they could "produce animals far closer to the auroch than we would have expected," says Ronald Goderie of the Tauros Project.
Experts predicted a "near 100% substitute" in seven generations, around 2025. But fourth-generation beasts have already been introduced in Croatia, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Romania, with "very promising" results.
"We see progress not only in looks and behavior but also in de-domestication of the animals," says Goderie, noting one herd has learned to defend itself against wolves.
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The hope is that they will become part of the ecosystem to maintain land for other animals. But not everyone thinks this is a great idea.
A rep for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says it's unclear "whether primarily wetland forests like the aurochs used to inhabit still exist, whether it could negatively impact wild or domestic plants or animals, and if it might endanger people." Indeed, a British farmer had to kill some of his auroch-descended cattle in 2015 because they tried to kill people, per the Independent.
That species, however, came from a Nazi breeding program that used Spanish fighting cattle. (Tinder could save giant pandas from extinction.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Cows as Big as Elephants May Soon Roam Europe