Dances with Wolves was the name of a fantastic film which showed a man’s interaction with wolves. Reality is even more fantastic. And you too can get a taste of it at Langedrag Nature Park and Mountain Farm, a 2 ½ hour drive from Norway’s capital Oslo.
Here animal keepers have been accepted as members of the wolf pack. It is an experience to see at close range how the wolf pack works together, and intriguing to learn more about this great ancestor of the dog. You may join a wolf expert on an exclusive one hour tour into the Wolves Enclosure. Inside the fences you will learn about the language of the wolves, their instincts and life within “The Pack”, all while you sit just a few meters away from them.
The confidence and trust needed to achieve this level of contact has been built up by understanding and using the wolves’ own signals. There are not many places in the world which can show such close contact between humans and wolves. Watching it happen prompts feelings of warmth and humility in both children and adults.
But Langedrag is not only about dancing with wolves. It has an extensive collection of wild and domestic animals, with the emphasis on preserving the animals which are as close as possible to the original, wild species – without human ‘engineering’. It is an exciting philosophy, and the host family has succeeded in making Langedrag an exciting place to visit for adults as well as children.
“Animals, large and small, wander freely around the place, and are accessible to visitors,” says the owner, Tuva Thorsen. Asked whether that is not perhaps a little dangerous, her enthusiasm for the concept is clear: “It is quite safe because we place great emphasis on teaching all our visitors how to act around the animals. We tell them how important it is to respect the animals, how important it is to let the animals come to us, that we must not chase after them to make contact. As a result our animals feel safe, and an animal that feels safe is not a dangerous animal.”
We asked Tuva to list the species kept at Langedrag, but that proved not to be an easy task. She had to explain why each individual species was so special.
“Take the fjord pony, for example,” she said. “Everyone knows it as a patient, good-tempered horse that is very well suited for teaching youngsters to ride. But few people know that it is the only breed in existence today that is practically identical with the original wild horses, the Przewalski horse. The Fjord pony is also the only breed of horse with a ‘stand-up’ mane.
“We also have Scottish highland cattle, which are well suited to the harsh climate in the Norwegian mountains. The species is most similar to the primitive European ox. We have 12 of them, and they normally stay outside all year round. We also have yak from central Asia, where they are used as pack animals. You can also see reindeer at Langedrag, both herds of wild reindeer in the mountains and a few tame reindeer which live within the park.”
Tuva admits that it is hard to think of the large animals as cuddly, nut insists that they are peaceful. And it is certainly possible to make contact with them – when the animals feel like it!
We ask which animals are the most popular with the many youngsters who visit Langedrag. “We have lots of beautiful mouflon sheep. They wander about here in the park and up the mountains. I need hardly say that this is Europe’s original wild sheep! When it is out on its own, it can live side by side with wolves, since it can actually outrun a wolf in mountainous terrain. The wolves can only take the weakest members of the flock, so contributing to natural selection. The rabbits are a bit special, too,” Tuva continues. “They live free in a harsh climate, and that has an effect on their reproduction. They do not mate all the time like most rabbits. They have young only in spring.”
Tuva speaks with passion about the lynx, Western Europe’s largest and most fascinating wild cat, and about the mountain foxes, which are threatened with extinction and which they hand feed! Everyone can enjoy this exciting meeting with the animals, whether you are here just one day or a whole week. Langedrag offers activities for children, families and school classes. All the buildings have been built and are maintained with the same respect for nature that Tuva has for the animals.
We finish where visitors to Langedrag begin, in the reception center. It is impossible to imagine a building more in keeping with its environment than this one, built as it is of 10” logs with a grass roof. Just look, even the sight of it soothes the soul!
Dances with Wolves in Norway, written by John Hammond