“Their meat will not be reaching the Sunday lunch table any time soon and nobody would dare get close enough to try to milk them.”
That’s how the UK daily Guardian described the descendants of a bovine breed created in Nazi Germany to replace the extinct European wild ox, which were recently imported into Britain from a nature preserve near Amsterdam.
The Heck cattle are currently residing in Devon, wrote the British Times, where their importer, conservationist Derek Gow, is encouraging wildlife photographers and animal lovers to come and ogle.
“They are getting used to me now but they are very nervous with people they don’t know,” Gow told The Times.
Dubbed Heck cattle after their breeders Heinz and Lutz Heck, the animals were originally intended to revive the extinct aurochs, a breed of wild cattle that stood two metres at the shoulder – and whose last known members died out four centuries ago in what is now Poland.
Hitler’s Luftwaffe chief Herman Göring led the effort to resurrect the cattle by commissioning the zoologist Heck brothers to “back breed” the most primitive pedigrees of cow available in Europe. The success of the project – part of Göring’s vision to turn conquered Eastern European territories into a primeval Aryan wilderness – is widely disputed.
“Most geneticists now believe that it is impossible to recover a lost species by back breeding, but few dispute that Heck cattle resemble the ancient aurochs, at least superficially,” the paper reported.
The Times added that Gow, who is also heading the effort to reintroduce the beaver into the British wild, intends to breed calmer examples of the cattle, which he eventually hopes to offer “as grazing animals for nature reserves and ‘rewilding’ projects.”