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The Story of the Nazi Super Cows

Heck cows
Heck cows

This may sound like an internet hoax but it isn’t.

In January of 2015, farmer Derek Gow from Devon had to put down seven of his rare breed Heck cows. The reason for their demise? The cows were so aggressive they had tried on multiple occasions to attack him and his farm hands (and this is a breed with large horns so attacks by goring could lead to very serious injuries).

In a way this shouldn’t have surprised farmer Gow because of the Heck cow’s history, you see the Heck cow is a result of Nazi breeding experiments.

It is well known that Hitler and Himmler were obsessed with the “Aryan” history of Europe and when they couldn’t find it they made it up. Archaeological finds were faked or the wrong conclusions were placed on innocent artefacts to support his idea of a pre-Christian nirvana in Northern Europe.

Some of the greatest and most well respected archaeologists of the day were co-opted into spending exaggerated time looking at Pagan Germanic ancestors, some of the research and conclusions were legitimate, but when the facts didn’t match the propaganda they were discarded in favour of the Aryan fantasy.

Attempts were made to get back Europe’s true roots which included looking at blood lines and lineage. Nowadays we would call this looking at the human genome or DNA but DNA was unknown in the 1930s. There is footage of Nazi researchers in places as far afield as Tibet taking head, nose and eye measurements to look for racially “pure” subjects.

If all this interest in human past and human breeding was weird, prior to the 1940s experiments on humans were limited, the experimentation and breeding of livestock wasn’t and animal husbandry was and is a standard way of creating new breeds of animals for various uses. The idea then with the cows was the selective breeding of livestock to get them to revert back to an early form of the breed. This is what the Heck cow is. It was specially bred by German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck (hence the name) to simulate what in essence a racially pure cow would have looked like (according to Nazi theories anyway).

The Nazi’s in particular wanted to create the long extinct auroch (a kind of ancient bovine species) but also wanted the cows to be aggressive and part of the breeding process involved Spanish fighting bulls. The Heck cow then is a kind of Nazi super cow (a phrase you don’t get to write all that often).

As for the Heck’s in Devon that were culled? They were somewhat appropriately turned into rather tasty sausages.

About Jem Duducu

Jem Duducu is an historian and the founder of the hugely popular @HistoryGems . He is soon to publish his next history book.

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