Fishermen Raymond McElroy and Charlie Coyle thought their nets had snagged on an old piece of dead tree at the bottom of Lough Neagh.
It had been a bad nightâ€™s fishing and when they ventured out to their nets on the lake at 4.30am, they found they had caught no fish, yet the net was straining.
It took two of them all their strength to lift the net from the lough floor. By the weight, they figured it might be a piece of a dead tree snagged at the bottom.
Instead, it was the perfectly preserved antlers of a giant Irish elk. Now extinct, this magnificent animal stood more than two metres tall and had antlers of up to four metres in diameter.
Though called the Irish elk because their skeletons have been found in the bogs of Ireland, they roamed across most of northern Europe, but died out 7,000 years ago in mysterious circumstances.
One of the largest collections of such deer is in the National History Museum in Dublin.
Mr Coyle said he got a fright when the two metre wide antlers came out of the water. â€œI thought it was the devil himself. I was going to throw it back in. I didnâ€™t know what to do with it.â€
Mr McElroy said he recognised straight away that it was the antlers of a giant Irish elk. The jawbone of possibly the same animal was recovered from the lake in 2014.
The last aurochs (Bos primigenius primigenius), the wild ox from which all domestic cattle descend, was killed in Lithuania sometime in the 1600s. The aurochs, like the European bison, was a survivor of Pleistoscene Europe representing the grandest possible hunting trophy.
Naturally, Nazi potentate Hermann Goering, driven by Romantic nostalgia for the pre-modern and mythic older Europe, made an effort to breed cattle backward in order to re-create the aurochs. The Heck Brother, directors respectively of the Berlin & Munich zoos, bred from a variety of ancient European cattle breeds and produced their own breed, thought to come very close to the original aurochs in size, temperament, and color.
In 2009, it was reported that Derek Gow, a British conservationist, was importing a herd of Heck cattle from the Netherlands to Devon.
The Daily Mail recently reported that Mr. Gow’s experiment proved rather dangerous, and that Gow was reducing his herd of thirteen by seven in order to eliminate the most dangerous and aggressive examples.
[Y]esterday Mr Gow said he â€˜couldnâ€™t handleâ€™ the rogue members of the herd, adding: â€˜What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval. The aurochs were wild bulls.â€™
The Hecksâ€™ programme was so successful the cows flourished and were used in propaganda material during the Second World War. Mr Gow says they are shorter than the aurochs, but retain their half-ton ancestorsâ€™ muscular build and lethal horns.
Mr Gow, a father of two, said he had to reduce his herd because the cows had tried to kill some members of his staff and would ‘attack at any chance they could’. They have now been sent to an abattoir.
Mr Gow said the cows he sent to the abattoir will be turned into sausages and will be sold in Europe.
He added: â€˜As far as being a commercial breed is concerned, they have little value, but they are a significant animal from a conservation point of view. For instance, each cow can produce its own weight in dung every year, which is a great source of food for insects and bugs and nutrients for the environment.â€™
But he added of the aggressive ones: â€˜I have worked with a range of different animals from bison to deer and I have never come across anything like these.
â€˜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.
‘When the Germans were selecting them to create this animal they used Spanish fighting cattle to give them the shape and ferocity they wanted.
The half-tonne cattle died out in Britain 4,000 years ago but remained widespread across much of Europe until the 1600s.
However, they were finally wiped out in 1627 after they were hunted to extinction for their horns, hide and meat.
They were saved in the early 1930s when Hitler wanted to recreate the breed to evoke the power of the ‘runes, folklore and legends of the Germanic peoples’.
Heinz and Lutz Heck found their descendants in a cattle from the Scottish Highlands, Corsica and the French Camargue, as well as Spanish fighting bulls.
They then identified the particular Auroch gene, which they were able to use to bring them back from the ‘dead’.
The cows were later transported to game parks in Schorfheide near Berlin, and the Neander Valley in Dusseldorf.
Mr Gow said: ‘The Aurochs were wild bulls. Julius Caesar recorded them as being bulls as big as elephants.
‘Young men hunted these bulls as preparation for battle and leadership in war, but also to obtain these huge 6ft-wide horns that the bulls had as drinking vessels and war horns. They were huge trophies.’
‘The reason the Nazis were so supportive of the project is they wanted them to be fierce and aggressive.
‘Since they have gone it is all peaceful again. Peace reigns supreme on the farm.
‘Despite these problems, I have no regrets at all. It has been a good thing to do and the history of them is fascinating.’
The meat from the slaughtered cows was turned into sausages which Mr Gow said were â€˜very tastyâ€™ â€“ and a bit like a cross between venison and beef. They will be sold in Europe, he said, but probably not marketed as â€˜Nazi sausagesâ€™.
He explained: ‘I’m not sure how appealing Third Reich sausages would be but they might be popular with some.
‘They are very tasty though and taste like a cross between beef and venison and are sought after in Austria and Germany. They are a different product with low fat and cholesterol.
‘I don’t imagine any of them are sold locally but we are looking in the future to create a speciality market for them.
‘But we need to get to a stage where it is a manageable herd that can be used for normal farming.’
Modern Farmer said, in essence, what do you expect to get, when you try raising Nazi cattle?
â€œThey look like cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira. It makes you think of the light of a tallow lamp and these huge bulls on these cave paintings leaping out at you from darkened walls.â€ Gow admiringly told the Telegraph at the time.
But thatâ€™s hardly all that the cattle evoke. This particular breed dates back to the 1920s, when German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, recruited by the Nazis, began a program to resurrect extinct wild species by cross-breeding various domestic descendants â€” an effort typically referred to as â€œback breeding.â€ Among their success stories was the half-ton Heck cattle, a reasonable facsimile of the hearty and Herculean auroch cattle that dated back some 2 million years prior and has roamed en masse all over Germany centuries prior.
The back-breeding program reflected the dual Nazi obsession with eugenics and nostalgia; the wild ancestry of the auroch reflected a time of â€œbiological unityâ€ before civilization softened and â€œuglifiedâ€ man and beast alike. And in fact, the programâ€™s research patron, one Hermann Goring, sought to preserve biological unity not only by resurrecting extinct species, but by restoring them to their original habitats; thus his plan was to return the aurochs to the primeval BiaÅ‚owieÅ¼a forest.
Is anyone really surprised that the cows turned out to be murderously dangerous?
"Avatar" (2009), 2008 Election, Aurochs, Barack Obama, Democrats, Extinct Species, Joe Biden, Joseph Biden, Martha Coakley, Massachusetts, Satire
“Chemical Ali” sentenced to death again. They’re going to have to hang that guy several times.
James Cameron endorses ecoterrorism.
Martha Coakley losing in Massachusetts Senate race. Democrats blame George W. Bush.
Aurochs images from Chauvet cave.
Italians scientists propose breeding living cattle backwards to a genetic match with the extinct aurochs. Heck cattle descended from Herman Goering’s similar program are available, but they are intending to use Highland cattle and the Italian Maremma.
Frank Fleming, at PJM, reveals more Game Changing moments from 2008:
Barack Obamaâ€™s rumored drug use was a lot more recent than most people think, but he vowed to never do it again after he woke up one morning with Joe Biden as a running mate.
Read the whole thing.
Aurochs, Big Game Hunting, Britain, Extinct Species, Heck Cattle, Hermann Goering, Hunting, Natural History
The Nazis were pretty bad, but they weren’t all bad. They invented the Volkswagen and the Superhighway. Leni Reifenstahl made terrific films, and Adolph Hitler was a superb designer of military uniforms. Hermann Goering, in his capacity as Reichsforst- und JÃ¤germeister (Reich Master of the Forest and Hunt), was a keen conservationist eager not only to protect endangered species of big game, but ambitious enough to promote attempts at breeding backward in order to restore especially desirable extinct species, including most notably the aurochs (Bos primigenius).
Reuters reports that one British aficionado has brought a herd of the Heck cattle resulting from Hermann Goering’s breeding project to Britain. According to Wikipedia, there are roughly 2000 Heck cattle in Europe these days. The last known aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the JaktorÃ³w Forest in Masovia (Poland).
A conservationist has re-introduced to Britain a modern relative of the ancient ancestor to domesticated cattle.
The shaggy, russet-colored “Heck” cattle imported into Britain from The Netherlands by Derek Gow are the product of a Nazi-sponsored breeding program intended to bring back the aurochs,” an ancient beast mentioned by Julius Caesar, British newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The ancient species were immortalized tens of thousands of years ago in ochre and charcoal cave paintings in the Great Hall of the Bulls at Lascaux in southwest France.
The modern-day British herd brought to Devon, England is the product of Nazi breeding, an attempt to bring back the extinct aurochs, the last of which died of old age a Polish forest nearly four centuries ago. …
The herd has Herman Goering, the head of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, to thank for its existence. Goering hoped to recreate a primeval Aryan wilderness in the conquered territories of Eastern Europe. Two zoologist brothers, Lutz and Heinz Heck, took on the task of scouring Europe for the most primitive breeds of cattle they could find in the belief that by “back breeding” they could resurrect the extinct species.
Heinz Heck, based at Munich Zoo, cross-bred shaggy Highland cattle with animals from Corsica and Hungary, while his brother in Berlin was crossing Spanish and French fighting bulls. The success of the Hecks’ breeding program is as disputed as the techniques they used.
Hat tip to the News Junkie.