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.