Friday, April 24, 2009

What The Heck Is A Heck.

Was reading in the Melbourne Herald Sun Newspaper an article on April 23RD about Heck cattle being introduced to England from Germany and so I started to wonder what the heck a Heck was.
Looking at some on line Dictionaries, I found that a heck was a lot of different things. According to the “Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper” it is a euphemistic alteration of hell, first recorded 1865.
As such it is used as an interjection like:
1. (Used as a mild expression of annoyance, rejection, disgust, etc.): What the heck do you care?
2. Something remarkable of its kind (usually used in the phrase heck of a): That was a heck of an impressive speech. Have one heck of a good time.
3. As heck (used as a mild intensifier): I say he's guilty as heck.

Then according to “Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.” It can be: Heck\, n. [See Hatch a half door.] [Written also hack.]
1. The bolt or latch of a door. [Prov. Eng.]
2. A rack for cattle to feed at. [Prov. Eng.]
3. A door, especially one partly of latticework; -- called also heck door. [Prov. Eng.] --Halliwell.
4. A latticework contrivance for catching fish.
5. (Weaving) An apparatus for separating the threads of warps into sets, as they are wound upon the reel from the bobbins, in a warping machine.
6. A bend or winding of a stream. [Prov. Eng.]
Half heck, the lower half of a door.
Heck board, the loose board at the bottom or back of a cart.
Heck box or frame, that which carries the heck in warping.
1. Then according to the “Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.” It Is: A comblike attachment on a loom, for guiding the warp threads as they are dressed for the warp beam.
2. A device that guides yarn onto the bobbin of a spinning wheel.
3. A gridlike arrangement of glass or metal rods below the hooks on a Jacquard loom, used for lifting all harness eyes equally or evenly.

So after reading all that, I learnt a heck of a lot more about heck than I previously knew; but still didn’t know what the heck a Heck cow was. For that I had to leave the On-line Dictionaries and go back on Line where I found the following about Heck cattle. And found that their name had nothing to do with the other heck, except in their spelling.
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 presumed ancestral form, the aurochs, Bos primigenius primigenius. Heinz Heck working at the Hellabrunn Zoological Gardens in Munich began creating the Heck breed in 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 an idyllic history of the Aryan nation.
Heinz Heck crossed Hungarian Grey Cattle, Scottish Highland, Murnau-Werdenfels, Angeln, German Friesian, Podolic cattle 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 was lost in the aftermath of World War II. So modern Heck cattle are descended from the Hellabrunn breed. At the end of the 20th century, other so-called primitive breeds were crossbred with Heck cattle to come closer to the aim of creating a cattle breed that resembles the extinct aurochs in external appearance.
Characteristics: A typical Heck bull should be at least 1.6 m (5'3") high and a cow 1.4 m (4'7"), with weight 600 to 900 kg (1,300 to 2,000 lb). Heck cattle are twenty to thirty centimeters shorter than the aurochs they were bred to resemble. However, cross-breeding efforts continue to increase the size and weight of the breed, particularly in Germany.
The Heck bulls were not much larger than the bull of most breeds of domestic cattle, while wild aurochs bulls are believed to have often exceeded 1000 kilograms (2,200 lb), half the size of a rhinoceros. So the African Watusi cattle were then brought into the herd. The result was a somewhat larger animal, but it also caused infertility among the cows, a sign of the genetic divergence that had occurred between these populations of Bos over the millennia. Heck cattle were first bred outside of a zoo in 1980. There were 88 registered at that time. Continued crossbreeding with these animals resolved the infertility in the cows.
Distribution: There are about 2000 Heck cattle in Europe and few elsewhere. Although there are now 13 In the Devon countryside of England too!
Controversy: Even though trying to bring back extinct species may seem commendable, "breeding back" is a controversial procedure in the scientific community (see also Quagga). The general consensus among biologists today is that the Hecks' original methodology used to "recreate" the aurochs was flawed: once a genetic lineage is gone, it cannot be "bred back". Some go as far as to consider it outright deceitful. For example, Professor Z. Pucek of the Bialowieza Nature Preserve has characterized the Heck cattle as the "biggest scientific swindle of the 20th Century. Professor Pucek has devoted his life to the conservation of the surviving native Wisent (European Bison) which is seen by some as competition to Heck cattle development.
On the other hand, Heck cattle are considered by some the most suitable cattle breed for low intensity grazing systems in certain types of nature reserves, due to their ruggedness and lack of need for human care. Heck cattle today are propagated in some places to fulfil the role of extinct megafauna in the ecosystem. However, there is uncertainty as to what ecological niche the aurochs itself 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, Retracing the Aurochs: History, Morphology and Ecology of an Extinct Wild Ox suggests that the aurochs dwelled in dense forests and marshes while the Wisent dwelled in the open landscape. Wisent supporters claim that Heck cattle landscape management is a public relations ploy in order to illegitimately garner support for Heck cattle at the expense of a genuine native species, the Wisent.
Nevertheless, in view of today's farm breeding programs (primarily to increase milk and meat production), the Heck cattle represent an important source of vital genes. Since a single breeding bull with good genes can be a sperm donor for a hundred thousand offspring, inbreeding becomes a serious problem in modern farm animal management, potentially resulting in diseases that rarely affect Heck cattle and other old farm breeds.
Now you may be wondering what the heck all this has to do with you today? Well all I can say is, that a heck of a lot of people went to a heck of a lot of trouble, and expense, not to mention spending a heck of a lot of time, to bring these Hecks into existence. Whether it was worth it may be never known, but I can’t help but wonder what our own heck cows are?
In other words, is there something that we too are spending a heck of a lot of time, effort and expense on, which is also controversial in whether the end results are really worth the time, trouble and expense? Or would we and the world, be better off if we spent all that time, expense and effort on more purposeful projects?
Oh, what the Heck! Your thoughts please?

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