Thursday, January 17, 2013

Heck Cattle

Heck Cattle
Way back we talked about the Aurochs, a now-extinct species of Cattle that once lived throughout Europe.  The Heck Cattle are an attempt to recreate the massive Aurochs by back breeding the animals until they resemble their ancestral form.

This project isn't recent... it actually started back in the 1920s in Germany. Two brothers, Heinz and Lutz Heck, developed programs in Munich and Berlin respectively. Interestingly, these programs were, in part, supported by Nazi leader Hermann Göring.

The two brothers used different breeds in their methodology-- Heniz used Friseians, Hungarian Greys, Scottish Highlands, and a handful of other breeds, while Lutz focused more on French and Spanish Fighting Cattle. The results were actually very similar, producing calves in only a few generations that looked like the images of Aurochs from old cave paintings and representations. However, after WWII the Berlin line was lost.

There has always been controversy over the Heck Cattle project, and not only because of its benefactor. Other scientists have criticized the brothers' messy methodology, and their quick proclamation of results. There is also the fact that many other cattle breeds resemble the Aurochs even better than the Heck Cattle do. There is even a newer project, the TaurOs Programme, which is worker to create a better Aurochs.

There are still Heck Cattle today, though most remain in Europe. Of the estimated 2,000 of them, many live in nature preserves. This is because of the Heck's claims that these animals were resurrected wild animal, and thus should be left in nature as the Aurochs were.

Status : Domesticated
Location : Originated in Germany
Size : Height up to 4.5ft (1.4m), Weight up to 1,300lbs (600kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae -- Genus : Bos -- Species : B. primigenius

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