Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Ταυρος Αιθιοπικος
Ταυροι Αιθιοπικοι
Tauros Aithiopikos
Tauroi Aithiopikoi
Tauri Aethiopicum
Ethiopian Forest
Ethiopian bull, Der Naturen Bloeme manuscript c. 1350, National Library of the Netherlands
Ethiopian bull , Der Naturen Bloeme manuscript
c. 1350, National Library of the Netherlands

THE TAUROI AITHIOPIKOI were a fabulous and extremely ferocious breed of bull native to Aithiopia (sub-Saharan Africa), whose red hides were believed to be impervious to weapons.

They were probably derived from travellers' accounts of the African buffalo.

Aelian, On Animals 17. 45 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"It seems that those Aithiopian (Ethiopian) Bulls which they call ‘flesh-eaters’ are the most savage of animals. They are twice the size of Bulls in Greece, and their speed is very great. Their hair is red, their eyes blue-grey, more so than the eyes of lions. In normal times they move their horns as they do their ears, but when fighting they raise them, making them stand strongly up, and so do battle; and once raised in passion owing to some truly wonderful natural cause their horns do not go aslant. No spear, no arrow can wound them: iron, you see, does not penetrate their hide, for the Bull raises its bristles and throws off the weapons showered upon it in vain. And it attacks herds of horses and also wild animals. Accordingly herdsmen who wish to protect their flocks dig deep concealed ditches and by these means ambush the Bulls. And when they fall into these ditches they are choked with rage. Among the Troglodytoi (Troglodytes, Cave-Dwellers) this is judged to be the king of beasts, and rightly so, for it possesses the courage of a lion, the speed of a horse, the strength of a bull, and is stronger than iron."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8. 74 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Aethiopia produces . . . many monstrosities : . . . But its fiercest animals are the Forest Bulls (Tauri Silvestres), larger than the bulls of the field, surpassing all in speed, of a tawny colour, with blue eyes, hair turned backward, mouth gaping open to the ears, along with mobile horns; the hide has the hardness of flint, rejecting every wound. They hunt all wild animals, but themselves can only be caught in pits, and when caught always die game."


  • Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd A.D.
  • Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Natural History C1st A.D.