Aurochs: a very large type of cattle (extinct since 1627)
One of Europe's most famous extinct animals, the aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) were a very large type of cattle. Aurochs evolved in India some two million years ago, migrated into the Middle East and further into Asia, and reached Europe about 250,000 years ago. By the 13th century A.D., the aurochs' range was restricted to Poland, Lithuania, Moldavia, Transylvania and East Prussia. The right to hunt large animals on any land was restricted to nobles and gradually to the royal household. As the population of aurochs declined, hunting ceased but the royal court still required gamekeepers to provide open fields for the aurochs to graze in. The gamekeepers were exempted from local taxes in exchange for their service and a decree made poaching an aurochs punishable by death. In 1564, the gamekeepers knew of only 38 animals, according to the royal survey. The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland. The skull was later taken by the Swedish Army and is now the property of Livrustkammaren in Stockholm.
In the 1920s two German zookeepers, the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, attempted to breed the aurochs back into existence (see breeding back) from the domestic cattle that were their descendants. Their plan was based on the conception that a species is not extinct as long as all its genes are still present in a living population. The result is the breed called Heck Cattle, 'Recreated Aurochs', or 'Heck Aurochs', which bears an incomplete resemblance to what is known about the physiology of the wild aurochs
Great Auk: largest of all auks (extinct since 1844)
The Great Auk was the only species in the genus Pinguinus, flightless giant auks from the Atlantic, to survive until recent times, but is extinct today. It was also known as garefowl, or penguin.
Standing about 75 centimetres or 30-34 inches high and weighing around 5 kg, the flightless Great Auk was the largest of the auks. It had white and glossy black feathers. In the past, the Great Auk was found in great numbers on islands off eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Great Britain, but it was eventually hunted to extinction. Remains found in Floridan middens suggest that at least occasionally, birds ventured that far south in winter as recently as in the 14th century.
Cave Lion: one of the largest lions ever (extinct 2,000 years ago)
The cave lion, also known as the European or Eurasian cave lion, is an extinct subspecies of lion known from fossils and a wide variety of prehistoric art. This subspecies was one of the largest lions. An adult male, which was found in 1985 near Siegsdorf (Germany), had a shoulder height of around 1.2 m and a length of 2.1 m without a tail, which is about the same size as a very big modern lion. This male was even exceeded by other specimens of this subspecies. Therefore this cat may have been around 5-10% bigger than modern lions. It apparently went extinct about 10,000 years ago, during the Würm glaciation, though there are some indications it may have existed as recently as 2,000 years ago, in the Balkans.
Dodo: the archetype of extinct species (extinct since late 17th century)
The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius. Related to pigeons and doves, it stood about a meter tall (three feet), lived on fruit and nested on the ground. The dodo has been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century. It is commonly used as the archetype of an extinct species because its extinction occurred during recorded human history, and was directly attributable to human activity. The adjective phrase "as dead as a dodo" means undoubtedly and unquestionably dead. The verb phrase "to go the way of the dodo" means to become extinct or obsolete, to fall out of common usage or practice, or to become a thing of the past.
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