An unexpected sight meets visitors to Rathlousdal forest, close to the Danish town of Odder. Surrounded by trees is a large compound with a solid floor and high walls made of stone blocks. The abandoned enclosure is the only remains of a zoo established in the 1800s by a local landowner, Emil von Holstein-Rathlou.
Von Holstein-Rathloul had an interest in wild animals and established a zoo in the forest on his estate that was open to the public. He also enjoyed traveling. On a trip to Russia, he bought two bear cubs and transported them to his zoo. The stone bear enclosure was completed in 1878. It is still possible to see the year of completion and von Holstein-Rathloul initials (EVHR) carved into the stone wall.
Along with bears, visitors to the zoo could also see fallow deer, roe deer, and kangaroos. The bears lived at the zoo for around 10 years. However, the demands of caring for these exotic animals became too much and the bears were donated to a zoo in Copenhagen. After losing the main attraction, the zoo closed.
The walled structure is well preserved. There is a large viewing window on one wall with metal bars. Inside a low opening in the opposite wall leads to small sleeping quarters. An adjacent opening leads to an access tunnel that allowed animals to be transported in and out of the enclosure. Sunken into the stone floor is a sloped bathing area.
Know Before You Go
Drive to Rathlousdal forest. The enclosure is 300 meters from the main road (Kongshusvej), to the west of Rathlousdal house.