The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

The good, old bear, or the grizzly ursine, populated Romanian mythology since the times of the Thracians, and tales of its powers and wisdom have left their paw-prints on the Romanian folklore too.

The bear as a totem, as a symbol of one’s ancestry, was an animal revered by ancient Thracian religion, alongside the wolf. Why, it is even whispered in legends that the great Zalmoxix, the god worshiped by Geto-Dacians, was wrapped in a bear’s skin right after his birth. To soak up the power and the strength of the great beast, and perhaps even its endurance.

It isn’t a coincidence then that the bear held an important place in the beliefs and conscience of peoples all over the world. In the Celtic world, the bear was the symbol of warriors and even the root of its Celtic name, artos, sends us to the myth of the bear-goddess Artio and even tothe legend of King Arthur.

In the folklore of Siberia and Alaska, the bear is the beastly equivalent of the Moon as it disappears in late autumn only to reappear in spring. Here, plenty are those who consider the bear as man’s ancestor.

The Bear in Romanian Mythology

gold Dacian Helmet from Cotofenesti has with apotropaic powers

In Romanian mythology the bear is invested with apotropaic powers, able to avert evil influences or to turn around bad luck. While his presence, his spirit, also hold therapeutic and meteorological virtues.

As a result, the Bear Dance emerged. The choreography, as well as the symbology of the bear mask used, of the strength it inspires, depict both death and resurrection, nature’s natural cycle that no one can escape from. After all, the bear always defeats winter – this cruel mistress that leaves little but ice and snow along her path – and announces the forthcoming spring.

The Bear Dance represents the reminiscent of a pagan ritual and one can still observe it today in villages from Moldavian and Bucovina, in north-east of Romania.

Thus, on New Year’s Eve a sleuth of bears can be observed parading and dancing along the main road. Accompanied by drummers, pan flutes musicians, and whistles blowers, under the command of a bear tamer, the Bear Dance is supposed to bring a fertile New Year to the crowds of cheerful onlookers.

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

Much like the old year will soon fade, taking its ailments with it, during their dance the bears die and come back to life. Like the New Year will, stronger and happier.

Folk belief goes that the life cycle of the bear is responsible for regulating nature’s seasons. Not a coincidence then that the movement of the Ursa Major constellation is also closely connected to the sequence of the seasons.

During the 18th and the 19th century bear tamers were often seen along the roads of many European mountain villages. Apart from bringing good luck and spreading strength by their sheer presence, bears were, sadly, taught many tricks too. Luckily, no more life bears on a chain roam the country paths today.

The Bear in Romanian Folklore

In folk tales and legends the bear is indeed depicted as a peculiar creature. But how could they not? Bearing their cubs in the middle of winter; choosing to return to their burrows if the weather turns sunny; choosing forest paths over hibernation if glacial weather advances… Yet there is more. Bears would easily destroy a man-made bridge, yet knock over a tree if a river stops them in their pursuit of food.

Thus, Romanian folklore has associated the bear’s unpredictable behavior with the capricious weather looming between the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Bear tales…

Bears were believed to heal, through their presence or touch, ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, or fevers. For example in the area near Suceava, Moldavia, they say that if you allow a bear to step on the small of your back (and survive), you will be saved from any other diseases.

Bears could even heal the evil touch of Ielele, the evil eye, or bad spells. But a bear’s robust step was also meant to bring fertility and good fortune to a young family. Of course, once a bear stepped in one’s farmyard, no evil spirit or wild beast will ever set foot in it again. Makes sense…

Ursarii, bear-tamers of the 19th century Europe in a snowed Romanian village.
Old Postcard. Ursarii, bear-tamers of the 19th century Europe in a snowed Romanian village.

I can see now why the bear tamer was always welcomed in people’s yards, and in their homes. To have the bear dance on your property was considered auspicious, and many cheerful days were lined up ahead for your kin.

So, dreamed of a bear lately? Know that you’re in good luck!

Thus, there are a few important dates in Romanian folklore when the Bear, Moş Martin, is celebrated. Here are a few of them.

Theodor Aman, Ursarul (Bear Tamer)
Theodor Aman, 19th century Romanian artist, Ursarul (Bear Tamer)

The Winter Martinii, or San-Martini

Celebrated 40 days after Christmas, between the 1st and the 3rd of February, this celebration is meant to protect livestock and humans against any wolf or bear attacks.

The Bear’s Day, Stretenia (Feats of Presentation), or the telling of a coming spring

Bear’s Day (Ziua Ursului) is celebrated on 2nd February, coinciding with the Christian celebration of the Feast of Presentation, or Stretenia.

The ancestral origin of Stretenia

Stretenia is a celebration as old as the seasons. For it is now when winter and spring stare each other in the eyes. They finally meet again: from the old Slavic word for meeting, greeting, vstrecea –> vstrecenie –> stratenie.

Yet there is another layer to it.

During roman times it was now, in February, that one would prepare oneself, purify oneself to welcome the New Year, celebrated on the 1st of March. Ahead of new field labors meant to start soon, the purification was made with water and fire. Today, candles are used during the Feast of Presentation.

Stretenia, telling the weather

If the bear comes out of his hibernation on this day it means that spring is on its way – even if it’s cold and foggy, even if it snows. The summer will plentiful, the harvest enough for all. But if the bear spots its own shadow on the snow, he will return to its lair for an extra long nap. About 40 days long. Thus, spring is still a long way away.

It clear now why the winter celebrations are connected to the bear ending its hibernation; by following the bear’s behavior, farmers knew when the warm season was approaching.

Interesting to note is that a good wine is said to have bear’s power, while in Romanian folk tradition on the 1st of February Saint Trifon is observed, the protector of vineyards and orchards.

The Bear’s Saturday (Sâmbăta Ursului) – during Easter fasting

Women, especially, celebrated Bear’s Saturday to protect themselves against any beats when rummaging for berries, in summer. So during Bear’s Saturday no one would even whisper the beast’s name. People would not do any work either, so that their cattle and children stay protected against the brown bear.

This Saturday was also considered best for collecting medicinal and magic herbs. for only if picked today do they keep their powers. Like this: when the healing plant was found, a cross was made over it, and a prayer was told. The root was dug out, and in its place a crumb of bread was placed, wetted with a few drops of red wine.

The Old Bear in Romanian Mythology and Folklore

Celebrating the bear in summer

The summer bear’s celebration is connected to honey/ fruit harvest and the peak of the bear mating season – a time when bears move around more than usual and they may accidentally come across humans. Which is why on these days of celebration no work should be performed. On August 13, a special celebration is held, honey pies and wine sweetened with honey are consumed, in the belief that it will protect both livestock and farmers against bear attacks during the honey and fruit and berry harvest (since honey and fruits are part of the bear’s diet). A blessed time, summer preparing for winter by reaping autumn’s bounty.

Romania still holds the largest and most spectacular wilderness of Europe. Its vast ancient forests still grow atop great mountains that reach up and kiss the sky (the Carpathians are 1600 km long, 2544 meters in height). Its winding waters twist and turn among lush flower beds (a third of Europe’s bouquet), and beasts from myth and legend, like the old bear, still roam free.

I’m asking you then, who is the king of animals in Europe?

As always, you can discover my books on Amazon.

Subscribe to my e-Newsletter for fun and informative content on dogs, books, history, folklore and a castle or two:

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes

the ape and the travelers, an unusual fable

Ever found yourself a traveler in the land of apes? We found ourselves in a different kind of primate land once, holidaying in Durban, on the KwaZulu-Natal coast of the Indian Ocean. We were enjoying the ocean’s breeze coming through the open balcony door when with it in jumped a monkey! Bouncing from the neighboring tree onto the balcony ledge, then into the living room and up on the kitchen island where she picked her reward, a bunch of bananas!

Had she thanked us? I think she waved – her tail.

Better the bananas than the car keys nearby…

I do enjoy a fable every now and then, more so now as a grownup than I did during my childhood. And surely, if I will ever visit the land of apes I will make sure to think before I speak.

And how interesting to notice that medieval kings and modern day dictators have so much in common with the characters from The Ape and the Travelers – a clever, timeless fable, teaching us the value of choosing one’s words wisely.

The Ape and the Travelers, a clever fable

Two travelers and friends, lucky them, wanderers through the world and sharing many passions yet so different in looks, for one was tall, and one was short, one was chatty, one was quiet, one lied all the time, and one who only spoke the truth… such two travelers arrived at the Land of Apes.

Should we follow them from the safety of our chairs?

Wishing to welcome the strange travelers but also to mend his people’s reputation (for it had reached the King’s right ear that his nation was labelled as cunning and…  hairy), wishing thus, as well as desiring to learn more about the foreigners, the Ape King, who was a rather curious king, invited the tourists over to his palace.

So, with great chatter all around and rather pushed than transported, the two travelers were soon brought before the King of the Apes, as the custom was in the Land of Apes.

The King sat on his monarchic throne made of banana tree stumps, with banana leaves overhead for shade, and a soft pillow made of banana leaves stuffed with dry grass (the previous pillow, made from banana peels, had turned bad rather quickly), while two young apes fanned him with great banana branches. In front of his throne were two stumps, rather short, for words had also reached the King of Apes that the two travelers, or at least one, was tall…

So, finally seated in front of the King the travelers were handed two coconut drinks and then were asked, before they could even take a sip, for their opinion of the King Ape, first, and of his subjects, of course.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
Francesco Ungaro

The one tourist, the untruthful traveler, nearly choked on his drink as he rushed to speak first. Some of the droplets even landed on the King of Apes’ fur. Yet the King just squeezed his eyes and kept quiet. Waiting eagerly. The traveler, while remaining seated (someone even gasped at this in the back of the great hall), praised the primate sovereign saying how powerful and impressive he thought him to be as a ruler. And he praised his subjects too, the monkeys, saying how worthy they were of their amazing, unique leader (he emphasized).

The Ape King was simply delighted, he even looked taller as he sat on his high throne, and he ordered that a fine gift be offered to the first traveler.

Then, with a big smile on his round face, he turned towards the second traveler who was rather enjoying his drink. Not even paying attention to what was happening around him, nor to the gift bestowed upon his friend.

All the apes in the throne room stopped their chatter at once(for they were following their king’s gaze), curious as they were to hear what the second visitor had to say.

So they waited, while the second human slurped his drink. And the Ape King smiled, but took a deep breath to calm himself.

Finally, drink finished, it was the second voyager’s turn to speak. He glanced left, towards the primates seated on tree trunks, he glanced right, towards the ones watching from the trees, and then he looked ahead, at the Ape King who was smiling so sweetly. And he thought, he thought to himself that if his friend had benefited by telling such tall stories, such fibs, such lies, he would benefit more by simply telling the truth.

For it made sense to him.

So he stood, for although an ape he was still in the presence of a king, he stood, bowed, and said, loud and clear, that he thought the king to be a great ape, and all his subjects to be great apes too.

Why a Traveler Better be Watchful Near Apes
mwangi gatheca

Oh, what a chatter, what yelling, what banter exploded all around while the Ape King bounced, hooted, grunted, and screamed in rage. Then he ordered that the second traveler (who couldn’t tell what he did wrong) be taken away and locked up in a cage made of banana tree sticks, and situated high up in the canopy.

For All to see. And learn. What not to do.

Moral of this story

Think before you speak. There are times when choosing your words wisely and being more tactful is more valuable than what we say or don’t say. (I know, harder said than done).

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Did you know? Monkeys and apes are not the same

The quickest way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is by the presence or absence of a tail. Almost all monkeys have tails; apes do not. Yet both monkeys and apes are primates.

A chimpanzee, baboon, or orangutan are all apes.
Mandrill or Rhesus are types of monkeys.
Apes are larger and much heavier than monkeys.

The Chimp and the Dog, Patricia Furstenberg

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable

dog reflection bone story

Dogs must be the most unselfish creatures on earth, yet The Dog and his Reflection is a fable about a foolish, greedy mutt who was not content with what he already had – and that sounds familiar…

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable retold

Once upon a time there lived a stray dog. Now stray dogs have been around ever since man befriended the wolf, and turned him into a pet… But that is another story.

This stray dog is important because he made it on his own for many moons, while keeping his tail intact, thus long enough for him to become the hero of his own tale.

So, a stray dog with grey, shaggy fur, a rather scruffy tail – for he always got into fights – and bright, grey eyes (perhaps a dull color for some, but his just sparked with wit and a bit of mischief too), such a dog was hurrying home one day.

There was a bounce in his step and his tail was held high and it was wagging, his ears were pricked, and he was in a big hurry for he had just won a prize. That’s how he felt, for the butcher had thrown him a bone. Out of compassion, and fondness too for the shaggy, familiar dog. The butcher was a chatty, friendly fellow, and that morning he had just got a good deal from the farmer, see?

Now our dog, the stray dog, stepped so quick along the path that his paws seem to not even touch the ground. Ah, he felt so energized, the stray dog did (although he could feel his tummy sticking to his ribs), for he couldn’t wait to get home already and enjoy his prized possession. Besides, he was already drooling, the tasty bone sending such an alluring aroma into his quivering nostrils.

His home was by a pile of logs and brambles, on the outskirts of the village. A thick tree grew nearby too, so he had shelter from rain and wind, and a stream gurgled up from the ground too, so he had fresh water. What more could a young dog like him ask for?

Image by Gleb Albovsky, Unsplash

There, there was his home, he thought while peeking ahead between two stray tufts from his eyebrows. All that was left was for him to cross the bridge. And on he went, bouncing and drooling, ah, the scent of his bone!

As he made his way across the narrow bridge the dog happened to catch a glimpse into the water below. What do you expect, it was a bright, sunny day and the pond gleamed in the sunshine. Its sparks just caught his eye.

Hello…

So he slowed down to get a better look, the water as clear as a mirror. And what he saw in the water? What? But another dog! How! Carrying a bone! Really so?

Really?

Grrr… half-growled our dog, for his mouth was occupied with his juicy bone, yet his eyes narrowed. Grrrrrrrr, he growled again at the dog he spotted bellow and his fur stuck up on his neck, some drool dripping onto the bridge boards.

While the dog bellow appeared to growl back! Guarding his bone, a much bigger bone…

Is that so, thought our shaggy mutt, his eye now as big as two (empty) saucers.

Our rough dog whose tummy was growling quite loud by now broke to a halt on the bridge and dropped his bone, its heavenly scent still strong in his nose for bits of meat had stuck to his unkempt fur.

If he had only made it home, as his initial plan had been…. If he had only kept its pace across the bridge… It he had only stopped to think first, he would have been far better off.

If only…

But instead of thinking the greedy dog abandoned his tasty, juicy bone he looked forward to eating and pounced at the dog in the river. He jumped right in, mouth open to capture the bigger bone and make it his. Just because!

All he got was himself in the water, swimming around like mad and biting emptiness, fleeting water, while his bone, the real one, rolled on the other side of the bridge and was soon gone with a very soft plonk.

The shaggy and very drenched dog, albeit in a lighter shade of gray, eventually swam to shore, exhausted. After he managed to scramble out, and as he stood miserably – and quite hungry – thinking about the good bone he had lost, of which nothing was left, not even the scent caught in his woolly fur – finally realized what a silly and greedy dog he had been. And learned a lesson, we hope.

~~~

Read more like this in:

the chimp and the dog picture book

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

If you ever plan on going in a journey, make sure you do so with true friends, warns us ‘The Bear and the Travelers’, a timeless fable here retold for its killer advice on always considering the bare bones of a friendship.

The Bear and the Travelers, a fable

Once upon a time, when wild animals roamed the forests in peace and people mostly kept to their villages and, when forced to travel, they did so only by horse, donkey or cart… once upon a time two lads, still wet behind their ears but eager to see the world, decided to travel together. They were good friends, they could swear by it, so they started their journey relying on one another – for fun, for encouragement, and for safety.

The path ahead appeared clear, bordered by grass and flowers, winding only near streams and shady trees. It felt soft to step on it.

The two young men were merry, their journey easy. Chatting and laughing, not noticing when the path had turned narrow, stony, and that in places only one traveler at a time could step ahead. Yet they joked still, laughed, and took turns to go first. Here and there now stood a lone tree with little shade, but mostly shrubs by now.

And the path had turned hard and felt stony underfoot. Didn’t matter, for they were two at it, two friends.

Soon enough they entered the forest; dark, cool, and quiet. So quiet, that even the lads – although happy for its shade – had stopped laughing, and they had stopped chatting too. They just looked around, listened to tiny noises. What was that? A branch snapping underneath their foot? Or something else… What? Where? And they kept near one another.

They had only taken a few steps inside the shady wood when, all of a sudden, a huge bear fell on them. Jumping out of nowhere, crashing branches with his strong arms, scratching off the tree bark with his sharp, long claws. Roaring that it echoed to the end of the forest, and back again.

Bear And Travelers, A Killer Fable On Bare Friendship

‘Grrrr!’

And louder.

‘Grrrrrr!!’

The lads froze. At first. Then one of the boys, thinking first and foremost of his own safety, climbed the nearest tree. And before he knew it, before the bear could even spot him, he was up, as agile as a monkey.

And just as shameful. He did not look for his friend, left on the ground.

The second boy, not as good at climbing trees for this is not part of the human nature, found himself standing alone to face the fierce black, furry giant. For this is how the bear appeared to him, waving his forearms, shaking his head, and growling, ‘grrrr,’ spit landing everywhere. Even on the boy’s cheek. Yet he dare not wipe it off. He dare not move a muscle.

If he could have stopped his heart from beating, he would have gladly done so.

For what else could he do? When he suddenly remembered his grandfather’s advice: not to look the beast into the eyes, but to fall to the ground and lay still. As if dead. ‘For bears,’ he could still hear his grandfather’s low voice, and he could still see his eyes sparkling from behind bushy, grey eyebrows, ‘for bears are not clever beasts, although they might look fierce. And they are might strong. But clever, they are not, and can easily be tricked.’

So the second boy let himself drop to the ground where tried his best to lie very still. As if dead.

‘For bears are not scavengers. They do not feast on dead animals,’ his grandfather had said next.

Once again, his grandfather’s words proved golden for the bear ceased growling, fell on all four legs, and looked at the hip of a boy on the ground. He turned his head left, then right, then took a step forward – making sure he’s not too close either (big animals are not as brave as they seem, you know?) – and from a safe distance sniffed at the boy. Then the bear took another step – the boy could hear all this, although his eyes were closed tight – sniffed again and, appearing convinced that a dead body indeed lay in front of him, turned away slowly, for he was a heavy bear who took his time, and walked away.

The forest closed behind the bear, and soon all was silent. None of the boys dare speak and they stood like that, one up in the tree, the other flat on the ground, until they heard the first bird song. And knew all was safe.

The first boy, the one that had climbed the tree, was the first to jump to the ground.

He looked around, listening, his heart hammering in his ears, ready to climb back up should the bear return.

Finally, he turned to his friend who was just brushing the leaves off his clothes. He did not ask him how he was, nor did he explained his rushed and coward gesture. Instead, he laughed, yet not staring his friend in the eyes.

‘Say, that was some bear! Chatty too. It looked as if he whispered something in your ear. What was it?’

The second boy had just finished patting himself all over and was now adjusting his travel bag. Only when he was done did he caught his friend’s shifty stare and smiled.

‘The bear said that it was most ill-advised of me to travel with someone who is a friend just by name, but not by his deeds, for, look, he had deserted me at the first moment of danger.’

Moral of the story:

Mishap is the test of true friendship.

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.

Read more fables and animal stories on my blog here.

Who Are the Hounds of Kruger National Park

who are the hounds of Kruger National Park

If you ask yourself who are the hounds of Kruger National Park – where rhinos and hippos, wild dogs, impalas and zebras, crying cheetahs, slithering snakes, and other African animals live – know that these dogs are an ultra special K9 unit trained to protect the wildlife of Kruger National Park especially the rhinos, against poachers.

Once upon a time, as late as the last Ice Age, the woolly rhino roamed as far as Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century only 500 000 rhinos were left in Africa and Asia. Today, only 27 000 rhinos are left in the wild, says WWF.
Out of the 20 000 white rhinos and 5 000 critically endangered black rhinos still living on the African continent, approximately 80 percent are found in South Africa.

But the situation is dire as here, in sunny South Africa, between 2008 and 2018 over 8 000 rhinos were poached in nature reserves such as Kruger National Park – that conveniently borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique making it easy for the illegal huntsmen to escape law.

Whenever a rhino is poached its horn will reach the smugglers in Asia in the blink of an eye, all the middle men taking their hefty profit… while its carcass is left to rot under the African sun where it first saw the light of day.

That’s why the free-running hounds of Kruger National Park entered the wildlife scene. But who are these dogs?

Who Are the Hounds of Kruger National Park?

They are beagles, short-haired pointers, bloodhounds, spaniels, German Shepherds, and Malinois (the same Malinois who make great military working dogs), and other breeds of hounds, but what they all have in common is their passion for following the trail, their love for chase, the stamina, and their deadly… olfactory abilities.
For these free-running hounds catching the scent (meaning following it till they seize it – and apprehend the poacher) is a way of life. Is what’s on their mind when they get up in the morning, and what they dream of while they nap.

In their spacious, open-air pens – where they are kept for protection against the African beasts as well as to restrict them from going on a wild chase on their own, out of too much excitement – you almost never see them laying down to rest. They are either standing, alert as soon as their handlers approach, springs of pent-up canine energy with focused eyes, pointy ears and quivering noses, or sleeping in blissful exhaustion after a day of training or poacher-hunting.

They say if you love them, let them go… Let them catch the scent. Let them run.

amazing dogs from history, dogs who changed it - Who Are the free-running dogs of Kruger National Park

These pack dogs are like this, chasing together over any kind of tricky landscape at 40km per hour, while each one longs to be the first to reach the target. And if they don’t, when another hound is first to lounge at the petrified, cornered insurgent, baying and barking in a spray of foamy drool, they still feel the same thrill and celebrate the group effort and the shared victory with a song of yipping and howling, and a storm of wagging tails. A chorus of shared joy for a job well done, the capture, and not in the least to celebrate a planned slaughter… For these free-running hounds the chase is what fills their heart, and what their hearts beat for.

They bolt from their shelters after a feint scent, even a couple of hours old, race across the golden African plains, often under an unforgiving sun, speed past herds of undisturbed impala and fierce wildebeest, dart through thickets, dodge thorny Acacias, and jump over fiery termite mounds. On and on they run, their eyes focused through a tunnel-like field of scent that only their noses can pick up. The scent of the poacher, and it pulls them like a magnet. The stronger it gets, the faster the hounds chase and the louder they cry – even after a 15 kilometers chase – as if they are one with it until they get their fill, and the target is apprehended. Before it reached the border, and made it for freedom.

The triumph is always shared, as are the yips and barks, the signals they send to one another during the chase, the cries indicating that they’re on the right track and they are making good time, as the scent gets stronger. Shared are their meals too, the lengthy walks meant to relax and keep in shape, and the sleeping quarters.
But mostly, these free tracking dogs share the mind-set to bring it all together. Each time.
Affectionate towards their human handlers, fearsome when following a poacher’s scent.
They are like a platoon of Marines fighting not rebels but poachers (in Kruger National Park) or escaped prison inmates (in Texas, USA, where they were first introduced.)

the ultra special k( unit of Kruger National Park who protects the rhinos

In the Kruger National Park these dogs form a K-9 unit fitted with GPS collars that tracks the poachers and scares them to death into a tree, where the field rangers make the arrest, while all the time being supervised by aerial pilots (to drive off dangerous predators or shoot before a poacher starts a gun fight.)

Why free-running hounds? Because no human can keep up with a hound dog chasing a scent on a leash, both exhausting themselves too soon – the human from sheer racing exertion, the dog from tracing a scent while dragging a clumsy human on a leash.

Before the first free-running hounds were introduced in the Kruger National Park (from ‘Texas Canine Tracking and Recovery’ USA), an average of 3 to 5 percent of poachers were caught. The rate increased to 54 percent with the aid of the K-9 unit.

With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work our grandchildren might get the chance to see rhinos in their natural habitat. I do ask myself, though, if it is fair towards these free-running dogs. But dogs are happy being with their humans, happy when chasing a laugh and the wind together… Dogs stood by our right side, right side of our hearts, from immemorable times. To take care of us.

“Early in the morning as the sun comes up
And heat and war engulfs the land,
A man and his dog walk side by side
And know that none is all alone.”

Patricia Furstenberg, The Soldier and his Dog

South Africa is not the only country in Africa to fight rhino poachers. Kenya does too and part of their dogs forming the elite K9 unit are trained in Suffolk, UK. The Kenyan Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to 144 rhinos. Ol Pejeta prides itself that none of its animals have been poached since 2018. The hard work of the free-running dogs pays off.

Some book links!

Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon

Discover The Cheetah and the Dog on Amazon.
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond (Afrikaans Edition) on Amazon.
Der Gepard und der Hund (German Edition) on Amazon.