The aurochs return

Photo: E. Reisinger

Unique habitats and back to nature - this is what Naturefund wants to achieve together with its project partner NfGA. To achieve this, Taurus cattle and Exmoor ponies will graze the Uhlstädter Heide all year round.

The project

Once aurochs and wild horses roamed through our landscapes. With their hooves and their way of grazing they created small biotopes for numerous insects and birds. When man pushed them out of the landscape, their important ecological function also disappeared. Naturefund and the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Altenburg e. V. (NfGA) are therefore starting a collaboration to bring the large grazing animals back to our native forests and meadows.

The first joint project will be a "wild forest pasture" in the Uhlstädter Heide in Thuringia. It is the only forest-pasture project of this kind in Europe. Taurus cattle, a phenotypic back-breeding of the aurochs, and Exmoor ponies will be released into the wild in a 577 ha forest, where they will be able to graze wild and free all year round, thus re-creating the habitats that have disappeared. Further joint projects with wild pastures are to follow.

The aurochs

There were three large wild cattle in Europe: the bison, the water buffalo and the aurochs. The aurochs lived mainly on grass. With its way of grazing, it created semi-open landscapes together with the likewise grass-eating wild horse. This ecological function of the large grass-eaters was immensely important, as they created habitats for a variety of animals and plants that could not exist in dense, dark forests. Numerous birds, insects and countless other species had adapted to these semi-open landscapes. 

The Taurus cattle is a copy of the original aurochs, which was exterminated in Germany in the 17th century. The Taurus cattle is the result of a further breeding of the Heck cattle and crossbreeding of different old cattle species in which genes of the aurochs are still suspected. Due to their high resistance to weathering, the wild cattle are very well suited for year-round grazing.

The forest pasture for more diversity of habitats and species

Together we want to promote the year-round free-range keeping of Exmoor ponies and Taurus cattle. Therefore Naturefund supports the NfGA in several wild grazing projects at various locations. Above all, Naturefund wants to bring a new, old form of animal husbandry back into the landscape and thereby increase the diversity of species and habitats on pasture and also in large wooded areas such as the Uhlstädter Heide. A new forest habitat is to be created where natural processes can take place again and a forest rich in structure is created.

"The cooperation with Naturefund is most welcome" confirms Nico Kießhauer, who looks after the animal stock on behalf of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Altenburg: "In this way the complex pasture logistics can be sustainably secured. This lays the foundation for our scientific studies and the research into the behaviour of semi-wild cattle and horses in the landscape.

Promoting wild pastures

Naturefund and the NfGA create habitats for many native species and make room for aurochs and wild horses in our landscape. Help us with this! Just five euros will secure 3 m² of wild pastures and help to create a natural forest dynamic!

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