Red wooden gates mark the entrance to the Jaegersborg Dyrehave, the deer park north of Copenhagen. On this rare warm and sunny summer day, the broad, paved entrance road is full of people walking or cycling. The park also belongs to the Danish UNESCO heritage.
We turn into Mathildesti lane, a sandy, but wide and rather straight lane heading north into the centre of the park. In the 17th century, Mathildesti lane was one of the major axes for riders to cross the huge deer park. Today there is still a smaller riding lane somewhere in the distance, but we don’t see any horse riders nor many other people until we reach the small palace in the centre of the enormous park. What we do see is different kinds of deer, such as red and fallow deer, roaming through the woods in groups, grazing or eyeing curiously the activities at the golf course below the palace. Even today there are still hundreds of deer living in this royal deer park and former hunting ground.
They were brought here in the 17th century. Back then the Danish King Frederik III decided to create a hunting ground perfectly suited to his new favourite pastime, the par force hunt.
Why this park is a Danish UNESCO World Heritage site
This type of persistence hunting became fashionable among absolutist monarchs because it required more people, more animals and more space than any other activity and thus made for a great display of power. During the par force hunt, hunters on horseback select a prey from a group of deer and pursue it, aided by several packs of hunting dogs with their handlers. The stag would run for hours in any direction until it eventually stopped, completely exhausted. Usually, the monarch or another eminent member of the hunting party “was given the honour” to kill the deer with a long knife, “demonstrating his power and courage”, as the visitor leaflet explains.
Cruel Hunting practices
As vegetarians we are not exactly partial to hunting anyway, but the “courage” in killing a worn-out animal leaves us particularly puzzled. As for the power – being cheered for that feat in the first place was clearly a display of power, as were the various groups of helpers involved, plus hundreds of classy hunting dogs, expensive horses, and any number of deer to choose from. And then, of course, to host a par force hunt you needed huge areas of lightly wooded land not used for agriculture – the stag might run for 20 or 30 km, with the hunters and officials, cheerleaders, and spectators following. Ideally, there should be straight, wide alleys for all those riders, and intersections offering good views for the spectators. Jaegersborg Dyrehave offers all that, on a lavish 11 square kilometres.
From the Hermitage Hunting Lodge (more a palace than a lodge) built to house the banquets during the royal hunt, we follow the suggested cycling route through the forest area with beautiful old oak trees. Along the way we pass a few more of those red entrance gates and some lakes. At a parkour training facility in the woods we try this more modern sporting activity – fun, but we need a lot more training …
The oldest amusement park in the world
Returning through the park, we see again several herds of deer before we arrive at the Bakken Fairground. Dating back to 1583, the Bakken is presumably the world’s oldest amusement park, but apart from a wooden roller coaster operating since 1932, the rides are modern standard attractions and not particularly exciting. Copenhageners come to the Bakken to eat crêpes, churros, ice cream and burgers. Deer meat is not a speciality, although it’s popular in Denmark. In fact, it wasn’t a speciality at the royal par force hunting events, either: Apparently, the meat of the stressed and exhausted prey was so unpalatable that it was divided among the hounds.
Is Jaegersborg Dyrehave worth a visit?
It is definitely not a must-see if you have only a few days in Copenhagen. We were in the city for the third time already. Wo we decided for the excursion because we are interested in visiting Danish UNESCO sites as we are in the country. We fully enjoyed our cycling day in Dyrehave and learned a lot about par force hunting. In fact, everything we know about par force hunting.
If you go you should definitely visit on a sunny day and if possible have at least 4 to 5 hours of time to spend. A bicycle gives you much more freedom to explore the park, as it is quite large. In summer you can also take a guided tour through the Hermitage Lodge. For us it was already too late in the year when we visited in early September).
How to get to the Danish UNESCO-site Jaegersborg
Can you reach Jaegersborg Dyrehave by public transport?
From Copenhagen you can go by local train to Klampenborg. From the station it is an easy walk to the Dyrehave area and the UNESCO site. You can also take bicycles into the local trains. There is also a Bike rental in Klampenborg. We cycled directly from Copenhagen city, which took about 1.5 hours one way.