Let’s not offend The European Bison

The latest research results of European bison’s DNA confirm the relationship between the king of Polish forest with domestic cattle. However, scientists working on European bisons’ biology don’t find this information sensational.
27.10.2016 | URSZULA KIFER

The latest research results of European bison’s DNA confirm the relationship between the king of Polish forest with domestic cattle. However, scientists working on European bisons’ biology don’t find this information sensational.

The paper, released on October 18 and prepared by the international group of scientists supervised by Julien Soubrier and Graham Gower from the University of Adelaide (Australia), presents proofs for outcrossing between extinct primal bison (also called steppe or priscus bison) and aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle. In genetic code of historical individuals, that were discovered during excavation, scientists found proof that 120 thousand years ago the male aurochs mounted female primal bison. This is undoubtedly very interesting information for researchers working on this species, however, contrary to the news widespread by media, this is not a breakthrough.

Primarily, aurochs and European bisons lived within the same area, which of course gave the possibility of outcrossing between these species. We know, however, since many years that the European bison is related to domestic cattle, many previous DNA studies proved this – explains Professor Wanda Piasecka, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW), President of the European Bison Friends Society. –  Moreover, the latest research does not allow us to draw conclusions concerning the necessity of changing an approach towards active protection of the European bisons. The fact that in the past, ancestors of these animals favored open terrains does not mean that it is still true. According to our research, European bisons feed in open grassland for about one-third of the time, and they spend the rest of the time in forest, which provides essential tranquility and shelter.

Without a doubt nothing can justify calling this precious animal in media a “bastard” – everyone, who is able to imagine aurochs, won’t claim that European bison should be ashamed of this kind of ancestor.