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?