Bringing Back The Extinct Aurochs

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 21st, 2009

The aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) was a very large type of cattle that was prevalent in Europe until its extinction in 1627.

Now a breed of giant cattle created by the Nazis can be seen in Britain for the first time after a farmer imported the huge creatures to graze conservation land.

The Heck Cattle (shown above) were created by Adolf Hitler’s geneticists because the dictator wanted to bring back to life the extinct aurochs, a legendary breed believed to be the size of a rhino.

The aurochs were hunted to extinction in the early 17th century and before the Second World War zoologist brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck attempt to bring them back by breeding from modern cattle.

They created the Heck breed but the animal was seen as a symbol of efforts to build a master Aryan race and most were destroyed after the war.

A small number survived and now 13 are living in Devon where farmer Derek Gow hopes to use them for grazing as well as in wildlife photography and film-making courses.

The 44-year-old, who runs Upcott Grange Farm near Lifton, said: “We will be breeding to create a small pedigree herd which will hopefully be used for nature conservation grazing.

“The Nazis wanted to recreate the auroch to evoke the power of the folklores and legends of the Germanic peoples.

“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.”

Mr Gow said the bulls were used as a propaganda motif by the Fascist regime and the Heck was a mix of breeds from the Scottish Highlands, Corsica and the French Camargue, as well as Spanish fighting bulls.

He said: “The auroch was extinct, but domestic descendants – Friesians, Simmentals and everything else – were still kicking around the countryside.

“The two brothers argued that if the one wild animal that spawned all of these had gone, through a process of back-breeding domestic cattle, you could pull the wild genes out and recreate the ancestor.”

Mr Gow said his Heck cattle, which were quarantined, were much shorter than the aurochs, but they did retain the muscular build, deep brown complexion and shaggy, coffee-coloured fringe.

He said: “They look like the 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.”

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Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Bringing Back The Extinct Aurochs”

  1. TimmyRyan65 responds:

    Nazi cows! It’s almost like a campy sci-fi movie from the 50’s! But it is facinating that something from the Nazi’s genetic experiment past still exists! Once word spreads there will probably be a demand that these animals be destroyed. I mean the moral implications is that these animals are the outcome of experiments of a government program that did include humans which we all know was part of an even bigger policy that eliminated 6 million people from this Earth!

  2. Lee Murphy responds:

    Sounds kind of similar to what John Horner is proposing by bringing atavistic dinosaurian features out in chicken embryos. He’s written a book on it titled HOW TO BUILD A DINOSAUR, and is fascinating reading.

    Looks like the Nazis were looking to create a “Master Cow” too.

  3. Viergacht responds:

    They’re really beautiful animals, it’s a shame they were destroyed because of “associations” – it’s not like the cattle had a choice!

  4. thehoch responds:

    Hitler Heifers, Holy Cow!

  5. DWA responds:

    TimmyRyan65: well, there’s some irony loading.

    They represent a murderous regime!


    We keep descending to the level of the worst among us. That’s why I don’t hold out tons of hope for our long term.

  6. maeko responds:

    Wonder how the DNA matches up?

  7. StinkFoot responds:

    I dont know about you guys but I want some Heck Burgers……mmmmmm.

  8. Richard888 responds:

    After reading this article I thought of the giant bulls depicted on Minoan frescoes. Perhaps Aurochs were indigenous to Crete too. Best of luck to Derek Gow and his modest herd of 13 animals!

  9. aspenparkland responds:

    Here’s an article on the history of the Aurochs I found several years ago:

    Endangered Species: Jews and Buffaloes: Victims of Nazi Pseudo-science

  10. norman-uk responds:

    The programme to bring back the Auroch started in the 1920’s.Though later on the Nazis jumped on the bandwagon, even so I still think it was a good idea. The present Heck cattle are those bred at Hellenbrun and not by the director of the Berlin zoo but by his brother. In addition I see there is an ongoing attempt in the US under the name Diarmid.

    I am surprised that in any breeding programme use is not made of Chillingham cattle from the UK, these have been enclosed in a park since the 13 century and despite interbreeding have remained healthy and wild. Also I note their mating behavour seems much like that of the Auroch.

    It’s amazing and fortunate we still have these cattle. Though smallish they were captured before the extinction of the Auroch and maybe, maybe they are their closest living relative. I have a feeling these cattle are a bit of an unknown wonder.

    I wish Mr Gow success with his endeavour and would like to have a look at his Hecks when he’s organised. Though from descriptions I feel they fall well short of what is possible and yet to come.

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