Aggressive ‘Nazi’ cattle and Hitler’s talking dogs

Julie Wiener

The Hecker breed of cows was developed by Nazi scientists in an effort to recreate an ancient ox-like creature. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Heck breed of cows was developed by Nazi scientists in an effort to recreate an ancient ox-like creature. (Wikimedia Commons)

This week, media outlets throughout the world have been sharing a Guardian story about a herd of “Nazi cattle” that, due to excessive aggression, had to be butchered and turned into tasty (and presumably not kosher) sausage.


Two scientist brothers recruited by the Nazis bred the cattle, a type known as Heck cows, in the 1920s and ‘30s in an effort to recreate the auroch, an ancient ox-like creature from Teutonic legend.

Interestingly, the Heck cows – which farmer Derek Gow imported to his British farm five years ago (only to slaughter after they repeatedly attacked farm workers) – were part of a larger, and little-known, Nazi animal breeding program.

Nazi zoological ambitions, particularly the effort to convert a Polish forest into a sort-of wildlife reserve for once-extinct species, were also the focus of a U.K. National Geographic Channel program, “Hitler’s Jurassic Monsters,” that aired in June 2014 and will be airing again next month.

The film’s website describes it this way:

As part of their crazed dream to create a thousand-year Reich [Nazis] developed detailed blueprints for Aryan settlements and vast hunting parks for ‘Aryan’ animals. Goering and Himmler employed Germany’s best scientists to launch a hugely ambitious programme of genetic manipulation to change the course of nature itself, both in the wild and for domestic use.

A perhaps even odder bit of Nazi animal lore can be found in Jan Bondeson’s 2011 book, “Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities,”  which reported that the Nazis attempted to breed dogs capable of reading, writing and talking. According to the book, as described in The Sun and reprinted in Time, Nazi scientists “envisioned a day when dogs would serve alongside German troops, and perhaps free up SS officers by guarding concentration camps.” Toward that end, Hitler reportedly created a school called Animal Talking School, whose teachers claimed one of its canines could spell by tapping his paws on a board.

The humanization of dogs (and the simultaneous dehumanization of Jews and other non-Aryan people) was apparently not limited to Nazi leadership: Bondeson’s book notes that when Germany started interning Jews “the newspapers were flooded with outraged letters from Germans wondering what had happened to the pets they left behind.”

Julie Wiener is JTA’s online editor. Follow her on Twitter @Julie_Wiener