Heck Cattle

Heck cattle
Scientific classification
Breed:Heck Cattle

Heck Cattle (Bos taurus) also called reconstructed aurochs is a hardy breed of cattle often erroneously referred to as Aurochs .

Heck cattle were developed in the early 20th century by the Heck brothers in Germany in an attempt to breed back modern cattle to their ancestral form, the Aurochs (Bos primigenius). Heinz Heck working at the Hellabrunn Zoological Gardens in Munich began creating the Heck breed about 1920. Lutz Heck, director of the Berlin Zoological Gardens, began extensive breeding programs supported by the Nazis during World War II to bring back the Aurochs. The reconstructed aurochs fit into the Nazi propaganda drive to create a idyllic history of the Aryan nation.

Heinz Heck crossed Hungarian Steppe, Scottish Highland, Brown, Murnau-Werdenfels, Angeln, German Friesian, Podolic and Corsican breeds. In Berlin, Lutz Heck crossed Spanish and French fighting cattle with other breeds. The resulting animals' configurations were largely similar. The Berlin breed later was lost because of the hardships in the times after World War II and modern Heck cattle are descended only from the Hellabrunn breed. In the last decades other so called primitive breeds were crossbred with Heck catte to come closer to the aim to create a cattle breed that in all aspects resembles the extinct aurochs.


A typical Heck bull should be at least 1.6m high and a cow 1.4m, with weight 600 to 900kg. Heck cattle are twenty to thirty centimeters shorter than the aurochs they were bred to resemble. But there are quite successful attempts in Jena to breed Heck Cattle to the size of the original aurochs.


There are about 2000 Heck cattle in Europe and few elsewhere.

In Oostvaardersplassen in Flevoland near Lelystad, there are about 600 Heck cattle free roaming without human interference. Other cattle are at the Falkenthaler Rieselfelder near Berlin. There are also Heck Cattle at the Nesseaue nature reserve near Jena, Thuringia and at the Grubenfelder Leonie nature reseve in Auerbach, Bavaria. There were about 100 registered in France in 2000.


Some biologists consider the methodology used to recreate the aurochs flawed and deceitful. Professor Z. Pucek in Bialowieza Nature Preserve regards the Heck cattle as the biggest scientific swindle of the 20th. Century. Professeor Pucek has devoted his live to the conservation of the competing wisent (European Bison).

Heck cattle is considered by some as the most suitable cattle breed for low intensity grazing systems to protect nature reserves. Heck cattle today are propagated in some places to fulfill the role of the Aurochs in the ecosystem. However there is some incertainty what ecological niche the aurochs filled. Dr Frans Vera claims that the aurochs lived in open parkland and supports their inclusion in nature reserve management. Cis van Vuure, however, in his book, De Oeros - Het spoor terug suggests that the aurochs dwelled in dense forests and marshes while the wisent, (European bison) dwelled in the open landscape.[1] Wisent supporters claim that Heck cattle landscape management is a public relation ploy in order to illegitimately garner suppport for Heck cattle at the expense of native wisent. [1]

Breed organizations

SIERDA - Syndicat International pour l'Elevage, la Reconnaissance et le Développement de l'Aurochs-reconstitué (International Syndicat for the Breeding, the Reintroduction and the Development of the Heck cattle)

External links

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