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Nazi Cows Loose in the English Countryside?

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The Nazis had a number of nefarious plots for world domination and genocide, from occultism to the infamous Sun Cannon (a giant reflector that was designed to melt enemies in midair using the power of the sun) to animal husbandry.

That's right. Animal husbandry. And now, 70 years after the fall of the Nazi regime, there are Aryan cows roaming the bucolic English countryside.

It was the dream of two German zoologists, brothers who wanted to bring back to life the mythic wild auroch, a great beast of Teutonic folklore that was hunted to extinction in 1627. The plan, with its roots in the glorious Aryan past invented by the Nazis, won support from Adolph Hitler himself, who saw the resurrected auroch as the first step towards cleansing the German countryside of "racially degenerate" wildlife.

The two brothers, Heinz and Lutz Heck, crossbred several species of big cattle believed to be descendants of the bovines Julius Caesar described as larger than an elephant; the resultant Heck cows, shorter than the aurochs were believed to be, but sharing the same muscular stature and brown shag, were displayed in German zoos, installed in game parks outside Berlin, and even brought to the shooting estate of Hermann Goering, Hitler's second in command and head of the Luftwaffe.

But the fall of the Nazis was not good to the Aryan Heck cows "“ the cattle, an unpleasant reminder of the Fuhrer's "master race" ambitions, were all slaughtered after the war.

Almost all. Saved from (re)extinction by a Belgium conservation park, the breed now has a new lease on life, 70 years later, here in England. In July of last year, a herd of nine Heck cows and four bulls moved into their new digs at the Upcott Grange Farm on the Devon-Cornwall border, a farm that works to conserve rare and endangered species of animals. Said Derek Gow, owner of the farm and the Heck cows, explained, "The Nazis wanted to recreate the aurochs to evoke the power of the folklores and legends of the Germanic peoples. Between the two wars there was thinking that you could selectively breed animals "“ and indeed people "“ for Aryan characteristics that were rooted in runes and folklore."

Gow says there's nothing wrong with owning Aryan cows and that their Nazi past isn't their fault: "I don't think there is anything more sinister in owning Heck cattle than there is driving a Volkswagen," he told the Independent, adding too that because of the cows' hardiness, they could some day roam England free.

Not quite the Nazi invasion of England that Hitler was perhaps imagining.

Moreover, despite the shaggy evidence of the existing herd, the Aryan cow plan was in actual fact unsuccessful: While the engineered cows resemble the auroch in shape, genetic testing has shown that the Heck cows are pretty far removed from their supposed ancestors. Just another kooky, half-baked and horrifying plan of the Nazis.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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