'Nazi Cows' Roam English Countryside

Through the misty early morning sunlight dappling a Devon field, a vision from the primeval past lumbers into view.

The beast with its shaggy, russet-tinged coat, powerful shoulders and lyre-shaped horns could have stepped straight from a prehistoric cave painting.

The vision is a creature of which even Julius Caesar was in awe: Bos primigenius, the aurochs, fearsome wild ancestor of all today’s domestic cattle, immortalized tens of thousands of years ago in ochre and charcoal in the Great Hall of the Bulls at Lascaux in southwest France.

But this herd of 13 bulls, cows and calves known as Heck cattle is the product of Nazi genetic engineering, an attempt to reintroduce the extinct aurochs, the last of which died of old age in a Polish forest nearly four centuries ago.

The cattle have been imported into Britain for the first time by Derek Gow, a conservationist who is also at the forefront of attempts to reintroduce the beaver.

Gow 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."

The herd has Hermann Goering, the head of Hitler's Luftwaffe, to thank for its existence.

Goering hoped to recreate a primeval Aryan wilderness in the conquered territories of Eastern Europe.

Two zoologist brothers, Lutz and Heinz Heck, took on the task of scouring Europe for the most primitive breeds of cattle they could find in the belief that by "back breeding" they could resurrect the extinct species.

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