First Boskarin cattle now released in the Velebit mountains

Twelve Boskarin cattle (five cows, five heifers and two calves) were transported at the end of March to the Tauros programme breeding site in the Velebit mountains in Croatia. According to the latest information the animals are doing well at their new home. This is the first time Boskarin cattle have been brought to Velebit. It is a part of the rewilding efforts by Rewilding Europe and the Tauros programme’s plans to de-domesticate or rewild primaeval cattle breeds back to get close to its original form: the aurochs. Because the ecosystems really need this animal.

Boskarin cattle

Boskarin cattle
Ronald Goderie / Tauros Foundation

The Boskarin is an indigenous, ancient cattle breed, typical for the region of Istria in Western Croatia. Its colour is grey, it has enormously strong legs, and its cloven hooves are also hard and strong. A bull weighs about one ton, but the cow seldom more than about 550-650 kilos. In the 1960s, there were about 60,000 heads of Boskarin cattle left. In the 1980s, the former Yugoslavian government – like in most other European countries – promoted the use of higher productive cattle breeds and as a result, in 1994 their numbers had dropped down to only 104 remaining cows and only 8 reproducing bulls. The Boskarin cattle breed was saved at the very brink extinction by cattle associations and a group of enthusiastic Istrians like Aldo Stifanić and his brother. The cattle now brought to Velebit come from the Stifanić’ farm in the village of Višnjan, Istria. The Boskarin has been identified as a very important carrier of some of the original aurochs’ rarest genes and is therefore an important part of the puzzle in order to back breed cattle into an animal that very closely resembles the aurochs.

Once the Boskarins in the Velebit mountain have adapted to the local conditions, they will be released into nature where they will need to find their way to live in the wild with hot summers, cold winters and wolves and bears around. But for a start there is also a human backup for the Boskarins. Petar Knezevic, a B&B owner right outside Paklenica National Park, in the southern part of Velebit, will initially take care of the animals. He will help the Tauros herd to get used to its new environment: keeping it according to the veterinary regulations and at the same time assisting with their ‘rewilding’.

In November 2012,Rewilding Europe and the Taurus Foundation signed a long-term agreement about helping to preserve biodiversity in Europe through a breeding programme to bring back a functional, wild version of the aurochs. The aurochs was the ancestor of every head of domestic cattle in the world. It was for hundreds of thousands of years a keystone-species in many European ecosystems. Around 2025, the so-called Tauros is expected to again have the right, fully natural characteristics of the aurochs.

Read here about the Tauros Programme.

Read the blog post of Ronald Goderie, President of the Tauros Foundation about the transportation of the Istrian Boskarins to Velebit.

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