|Early image of cave art depiction of the Aurochs|
The discerning reader will find "ice age remnants" within the stories of the Heroines of Classical Greece series. The gigantic mammals that roamed the far north didn't necessarily die out 10,000 years ago when the last great Ice Age ended. Some are alive today, like the musk ox, and a few species lived on well into the days of civilized man. In fact, wooly mammoths survived on a Siberian island while the pyramids were being constructed.
The mighty auroch was prominent in the ancient world. The forerunner of modern cattle, this beast dwarfed it's puny, domesticated descendants. This versatile beast was found over most of northern Europe and even in Africa and China, and was at home on the plains and in the forest. A universal black color with a lighter stripe down the spine, they were depicted beautifully in the paintings of Cro-Magnon in the caves of Lascaux, France.
The auroch was alive and well during the time of Ariadne. Massing over a ton, it was a feared and respected animal, though increasingly rare. It had survived predidation by saber-toothed tigers and dire wolves. With a mass half again or more than any living bull today and wide horns that splayed outward, an enraged auroch bull was the equal, if not the superior, to any living creature on the continent.
|Painting by Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) showing an auroch fighting off a Eurasian Wolf pack|
By the 13th century AD, the auroch was vanishing and found only in remote portions of Poland, the Baltic states, and Transylvania. In a rare consensus of conservation, nobles protected the last beasts by outlawing their hunting and even paying gamekeepers to provide and preserve fields for their grazing. In 1564 a census showed only 38 animals living in Poland, and the last Auroch died of natural causes within Poland's Jaktorów Forest in 1627.
Was the legendary Bull of Marathon a large Auroch? Nobody knows, but it's a reasonable guess. On a final note, it's possible that the auroch may come back from its extinction. For decades, agricultural scientists have been backbreeding primitive cattle to resurrect the auroch. Their DNA sequence has been analyzed and Polish scientists hope to bring the extinct auroch back someday to once again inhabit their ancient forests.