Die You Nazi Cow!

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Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 12.59.16 PMSorry, but I couldn’t help the title.  It was just to much fun.  I guess regular readers have noticed that I’ve slacked off anything too serious the past couple of months. Sorry about that.  This is additional ‘slacking-off’. It is also a cautionary tale about genetics an a desire to recreate extinct species. If Hitler tried it, can it be a good idea?  It is a fascinating trek into science, culture, sociology, and the mind-set of mad men with unlimited money and power. It’s also the stuff of science fiction.

A farmer in the UK recently announced that he had been forced to destroy the highly bred Heck Cattle he had purchased because they were so violent.  While some may view this with skepticism, cattle can be  strangely volatile at times.  They are large animals, not to be treated like puppies or kittens.  They can and do inflict harm on people, even killing them, almost always by accident, not intent.

They are called Heck Cattle.  Maybe my interest is because of my grandfather and his dairy.  He was always experiment with cattle breeding, primarily to create a better bottle of milk.  FYI:  Good milk requires primarily Holstein cows with a blend of a specific amount of milk from Jerseys, who have a higher butterfat content.  Heck Cattle is being bred throughout Europe.  Evidently the genetics are such that certain qualities can be bred into different lines. According to one breeder, the “Nazi” attribution is something recent?  What about the Ecoland Cow?

“…Heck cattle originated in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s in an attempt to breed back domestic cattle to their ancestral form: the aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius). In the first years of the Weimar Republic, the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck independently started their extensive breeding-back programmes. Heinz was the director of the Hellabrunn Zoological Gardens in Munich and Lutz of the Berlin Zoological Gardens. Only twelve respectively eleven years later, just as the Weimar Republic was drawing to a close, they each announced their success.Both brothers used a different selection of cattle breeds in their breeding-back attempts. For example, Lutz Heck (Berlin) used Spanish fighting bulls, while Heinz (Munich) did not. The Berlin breed seemingly did not survive the Second World War, so all modern Heck cattle go back to the experiments of Heinz Heck in Munich….In 1932, the first bull that Heinz Heck believed to resemble the aurochs, named ″Glachl″, was born. It was a 75% Corsican and 25% (Gray cattle × Lowland × Highland × Angeln) cross individual. This bull and its father subsequently were bred into further breeds to increase weight. As a consequence, most modern Heck cattle go back to Central European milk- and meat cattle that were supplemented by cattle from other regions.Advocates of Heck cattle often claim that Heinz′ and Lutz′ breeding results looked largely identically ″proving the success″ of their experiment. However, Berlin and Munich Heck cattle did not look very similar.

In the German Zoo Duisburg, one Watussi cattle cow, which is a half-zebuine breed, was crossed with a Heck bull. Some modern Heck cattle, mainly those displaying large and thick horns, descend from this crossbred offspring. In some locations, primitive Southern European cattle, such as Sayaguesa Cattle and Chianina, have been crossed into Heck cattle herds aiming to approach the aurochs in phenotypical characters. This cross-breed is called Taurus cattle, which is not to be confused with the TaurOs Project..”

What is so fascinating is, behind the hype and the misinformation is an interesting tale about cattle breeding, without the should we or shouldn’t we.  The Heck Cattle being bred today aren’t even related – allegedly – to Hitler’s cows.  They are something else, entirely, sort of.

“…Derek Gow created a stir in 2009 when he imported 13 Heck cattle – linked to the extinct European wild ox, the aurochs – and set them to graze on his Devon farm.

He successfully bred the cattle and at one point had more than 20 roaming his fields but has cut the herd to six because most of the creatures turned out to be too dangerous to handle.

Gow said: ”The ones we had to get rid of would just attack you any chance they could. They would try to kill anyone. Dealing with that was not a lot of fun at all. I have worked with a range of different animals from bison to deer and I have never come across anything like these. They are by far and away the most aggressive animals I have ever worked with. Some were perfectly calm and quiet and they are the ones we have kept. The others you could not go near.

“We made sure no one went near them so there were never any incidents. To get them into the trailer to get them off the farm we used a young and very athletic young man to stand on the ramp and they charged at him before he quickly jumped out the way.”…”

The irony here is, after the herd was turned into expensive burgers and sausage, Derek Gow discovered that the meat was so good, he’s now considering breeding Heck Cattle for beef!.

The Dire Wolf Project
The Dire Wolf Project

This is what they are trying to achieve – an Auroch.  I wonder what my grandfather would think about it?

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