heck cattle
January 7, 2015

Bovine Kampf: Aggressive Nazi cattle sent to slaughterhouse

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The Nazis of Interwar Germany may be mostly dead and gone now. But one thing still remains: their cows – and they are pissed.

In a plan that sounds like it came from a Nazi brain, German scientists in the 1920s and 1930s tried to reverse engineer the ancient wild ancestor of today’s cattle: aurochs. By selectively breeding cattle, the Nazi scientists hoped to develop a bovine that looked and acted like aurochs.

The modern by-products of this unsuccessful breeding are Heck cattle. Smaller and beefier, Heck cattle appear to have inherited the aurochs ill temper – so much so that a herd of Heck cattle in the United Kingdom recently had to be culled of all but the most docile animals.

British farmer Derek Gow had brought the Nazi cows to the UK in 2009 to raise and graze them on conservation lands. Unfortunately, the herd of 20 had to be culled down to 6 after it became unmanageable for him.

”The ones we had to get rid of would just attack you any chance they could,” he told The Guardian. “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.”

“We made sure no one went near them so there were never any incidents,” he added. “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.”

Created by two zoologist brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, the cattle were meant to be a tribute to the wild beasts in German mythology. The plan was to release then into the wild for sport hunting.

“When the Germans were selecting them to create this animal they used Spanish fighting cattle to give them the shape and ferocity they wanted,” Gow said. “The reason the Nazis were so supportive of the project is they wanted them to be fierce and aggressive.”

The farmer added that the cattle have very little commercial value, but are worth saving from a conservation standpoint. Gow said he tried to sell off his more aggressive cows, but couldn’t find any takers and eventually had to send them off to the slaughterhouse.

“Despite these problems, I have no regrets at all,” Gow said, describing the peace that recently returned to his pasture. “It has been a good thing to do and the history of them is fascinating.”

American bovine geneticists have recently been discussing their own cattle cross-breeding program. Instead of trying to engineer a long-lost subspecies, the American scientists are looking for way to mix dairy cows with beef cows in an attempt to lower the price of beef.

“Quality beef crossbreds from dairy cows offer benefits throughout the supply chain, from dairy farmers, to beef cattle feeders, meat processors, retailers and consumers,” said Richard Williams, a general manager for the bovine genetics company ABS Global. Williams was speaking at the 67th Reciprocal Meat Conference, which unites commercial, academic and government segments of the meat industry.


Follow redOrbit on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest.