A recent story has been making headlines in the UK that involves Hitler bringing an extinct cow species back into existence. Derek Gow, a Devonshire farmer, has to slaughter most of his herd because of their aggressive behaviour. As per Gow, the herds would try to kill anyone who approached them, and because of this aggressive behaviour, he killed all but four cows and two bulls from his herd. He said that he hasn’t seen any animal that is as aggressive as these.
Aurochs, or Bos primigenius, became extinct in the year 1627 in Poland. They were the ancestors of the modern domestic breed. Aurochs stood up to 1.8 meters in height with their characterised curved horns reaching 80 centimetres in length. They also had legs longer than the modern breed.
These wild species began to be domesticated around 8000 years back but disappeared from Britain in 2000 BC. They were seen again in Eastern Europe till 17th century. By the 13th century, the population of Aurochs began to fall dramatically. Their historical accounts suggest that they were fast, very aggressive and would attack back in response if attacked.
In the 1930s, Nazi commander Hermann Goering asked geneticists Heinz and Lutz Heck to recreate the species. Goering instructed them to back breed from Auroch descendants. The Heck brothers crossed Spanish fighting bulls with highland cattle and breeds from Corsica and Hungary which eventually created the “Nazi Super Cows”. They used the cows for propaganda. The size and strength of the cows resembled the strength of the Nazi party.
Gow said, “There was thinking that you could selectively breed animals – and indeed people – for ‘Aryan’ characteristics, which were rooted in runes, folklore and legend. What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval”. He thinks the Nazis were supportive of this project because the bulls were fierce and aggressive, the International Business Times reports.
The Heck cattle never reached the size of the Aurochs, though they resembled them in muscle and strength. Neither of the brothers survived the war, and Lutz Heck’s breed of cattle died before 1945. What we have now is the Heinz Heck’s breed.
The modern Heck bulls measure about 1.4m in height and weighs about 600kg. Their horns don’t resemble those of the Aurochs, but they are very capable of living and sustaining in the wild. There are about 2000 Heck’s cattle roaming in the European reserves of Barvaria and the Netherlands.
Gow said that since he killed the most aggressive ones, the others have been peaceful.