What to See in Germany
Buffalos on the Rothaarsteig
If you are going to take on the Rothaarsteig in central Germany anytime soon, you must not miss this: for the first time in hundreds of years, buffalos will again roam the forests of Europe – south of Kühhude (Bad Berleburg), alongside Stage 4 following the Rothaarsteig in a north-south direction.
European buffalos have been living in the Rothaar Mountains for several years, but exclusively in an enclosure called “Wisent-Welt” (“Wisent” is what the European Bison is called in German).
On April 12, some of them were released and are now free to roam –although, for the first few weeks, hikers will have no access to the “transitional area” of 88 hectares where the herd – one bull, five cows and two calves – will be gently prepared for their new lifestyle.
Once the animals have settled in, the fences will be gradually removed. The organizers hope that the herd will eventually increase to a size of around 25 animals.
At one stage, the entire European wisent population was down to about 25 cows and 25 bulls.
“Wisents” are the largest land animals in Europe – and essentially as peaceful as domestic cattle. Which is a good thing, because adult males can reach a shoulder height of about 2 metres high and weigh up to one ton. Only 4000 of these “European buffalos” are still left – and that after decades of wildlife conservation. At one stage, the entire European wisent population was down to about 25 cows and 25 bulls.
Spotting wisents along the Rothaarsteig will not be easy, considering their small number and the relatively large area they have at their disposal. So, for all of those hikers who are not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the herd in the wild, there is still Wisent-Welt where, for the time being, those animals that were considered not quite ready for a life in freedom continue to live in their 20 hectare preserve.
The park is closed on Mondays and charges an entrance fee of €4.50. You can find more information – in German – here.