Friday, April 24, 2009

Nazi-bred Super Cattle in the U.K.



"Nazi-bred Super Cows Roam Farm in Devon"

That's the title of an article in The Guardian about Lutz and Heinz Heck's recreation of the Auroch, a type of wild cow, seen in the cave paintings at Lascaux, France.

Lutz and Heinz Heck were German zoologists who recreated the Auroch, by "back breeding" primitive-looking cattle until, at last, they got a cow that looked right for the part.

This was, quiet literally, "breeding to a picture," which is the basis of most Kennel Club breeding programs today, in which work and ability are given the hind leg.

The caves of Lascaux, of course, were discovered by a terrier by the name of Rocket.

And as for Lutz Heck, he was was instrumental in creating the Jagd Terrier, aka the German Hunt Terrier, a fact I uncovered based on a hunch that it would be the kind of thing a Nazi zoologist like Lutz Heck would do. And guess what? I was right!

Today, many of the Jagd Terrier web sites mention the Lutz Heck connection, even if they whistle past any real description of who Lutz Heck was.

So let's set that right, eh? Here's a short decription, which I think puts the man in time and place. It comes from a New York Times review of The Zookeeper’s Wife, a book about how the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife saved the lives of 300 Jews by hiding them in the zoo during the war.

The Zookeeper’s Wife proceeds chronologically, starting before the war, when the Warsaw Zoo was as esteemed as any in Europe. Soon the Nazis destroyed the zoo with bombs and guns. Led by the criminal zoologist Lutz Heck, they carted off the best animals for their own collections. Then Heck and the SS held a shooting festival on New Year’s Eve, 1939, to finish the job. Their brutality at the zoo foretold their brutality in the war, as Antonina intuited in her diary, which Ackerman draws on heavily for her book. “How many humans will die like this in the coming months?” Antonina asks herself, watching the Nazi shooting spree.



2 comments:

retrieverman said...

Dog breed histories often ignore terrible things about the founders and important people in their breed.

In my breed, the first person to coin the term "golden retriever" and the breeder of the first dual champion in the breed was child molester. This was Lewis Vernon Harcourt, the 1st Viscount Harcourt. Because he was Secretary of State for the colonies and a member of an important Liberal family, no one did anything to prosecute him.

He committed suicide when one mother said enough and began to spreading this fact among the media.

However, he was very good at choosing breeding stock. All of his dogs were well-built and of a lovely dark color. The dual champion he bred was a mahogany golden, the likes of which you would never see in the ring today.

As for the Hecks, they part of a German selective breeding culture that was into this breeding for some ancient primeval forms of animal. I think Max von Stephanitz, who was far earlier than the Hecks, tried to breed an ancient wolf-dog out of the herding dog landrace. That is what begot the German shepherd dog as we know it today.

Even after the Nazis were defeated the vestiges of these ideas were still around. Go back to the natural, primeval source.

So when Julius Wipfel read some of Konrad Lorenz's work (and Konrad was a Nazi scientist, although he later recanted and became a Green Party activist.) He thought that it would be a wonderful idea to recreate the ancient Eurasian spitz, which he and Lorenz felt was the primeval European dog. Wipfel crossed Wolfspitz(Keeshond) bitches with chow chow dogs. These became Wolfspitz-Chows. When Lorenz heard of the breeding program, he wanted one badly, so he was given one.

Later, it was decided that these dogs were a bit too aloof to make good family pets, so they added Samoyed to the strain.

Today, the Eurasier is good pet dog. It supposedly looks like that ancient spitz that followed the tribes across Eurasia.

Now, I'm not saying that Nazi ideas created this breed, but the ideas that remained inchoate in a society deeply affected by the eugenic movement and a deep romantic nationalism created a desire to breed back these various recreations at different periods in history-- a GSD as the ancient wolf dog, the recreated Tarpan and Aurochs, and the Eurasier spitz.

Heather Houlahan said...

"GSD as an ancient wolfdog?"

Oh young, man, where do you get these things?

Why not actually read what von Stephanitz wrote about the GSD, his reasons, and his vision for the breed?