The Tauros programme

The search for a new icon for European wilderness

The Tauros Programme started as an initiative of the Taurus foundation (Stichting Taurus), a private Dutch organization using feral cattle and horses in nature management and natural grazing schemes. Up to 2008 the foundation was using the hardiest breeds at that moment, serving their ecological role at best, such as Scottish highland cattle and Exmoor ponies. However, with regard to cattle, none of the current breeds is the optimal grazer for wilderness areas, especially not with big predators around such as wolves, in the bigger European wilderness areas. So since 2008 the Taurus foundation has been working on a better adapted breed, better suited for its current and future role.

The Aurochs

By far the best choice for European wild nature would undoubtedly be the Aurochs. The animal has survived for more than 250.000 years in Europe. However the Aurochs has gone extinct. In ecological terms it only recently (in 1627) died out, because of habitat loss and overhunting. The Aurochs was an impressive animal, a natural icon for Europe. The myth of the Greek god Zeus seducing the virgin Europa in the form of an Aurochs bull is at the base of Europe. And very important: the Aurochs also played a key role for Europe's biodiversity, greatly impacting on the vegetation where it lived. Hundreds of plant and animal species developed in co-evolution with the vast herds of these Europe's heaviest land mammals and other large grazers.

European Wilderness

In the near future European nature will be more and more interconnected in an Ecological network. Rewilding Europe is an initiative aiming at the rebuilding of the 'Natural heart of Europe'. Its goal is to 'rewild' ten large European areas. A rebuild natural heart of Europe needs its key role players. The Aurochs was one of them, in fact one of the most important. So for complete rewilded areas a credible substitute will be needed. That's were the Tauros Programme comes in. The programme is aiming at a near 100 % substitute for the Aurochs: the Tauros, a bovine breed that will be indistinguishable from the former Aurochs. Now is the time to make a choice for a truly wild bovine that once again can roam around in the (new) European wilderness.

A Scientific approach

The Aurochs may be gone, luckily, the descendants of the Aurochs survived and in the millions, but as domesticated cattle. Among them - in remote corners of Europe - some 'primitive' breeds: breeds with a lot of the characteristics of the former Aurochs. The Tauros programme identified the most promising ones for a breeding programme. The breeding is done on a broad scientific foundation with a multidisciplinary team. The team includes experts on genetics, ecology, molecular biology, archaeology, archaeozoology, history, as well as Aurochs and breeding experts. Genetics play an important role in the programme. Recently parts of the genetic code of the Aurochs have been unravelled. This opens the door to comparison of the breeding results on a genetic level as well. The genetic comparison is a major research line in the programme.


From 2008 on the Taurus foundation has been in the lead. Since 2011 we cooperate with the Ark foundation to populate an area in the southern parts of the Netherlands with a group of Tauroses. In November 2012 the Taurus foundation and Rewilding Europe signed a strategic partnership agreement. Goal of this cooperation is to re-populate large European rewilded areas with wild bovines again. You can read more about the joint initiative on the site of Rewilding Europe . One of the goals is that by the year 2020 herds of Tauroses roam around in a number of European rewilded areas.

The actual breeding program started in 2009 and the first results look very promising. The international media responded in a positive way and we have featured in for instance Time Magazine, National Geographic magazine and in Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Dutch national papers. Although we are well on our way, the programme still needs additional funding. If you are interested you can contact us.


Ronald Goderie
The TaurOs Programme is a joint initiative from Stichting Taurus, Rewilding Europe and Ark foundation . This website will be extended end 2013.