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Home of the first Mangalitsas in Austria

Castle Herberstein in Austria where Mangalitsa history is written.

Most people visiting this romantic palace and animal park, probably have no idea of its connection to the modern day revival of the Mangalitsa pig.

Over 180,000 visitors a year walk through the doors of this registered private zoo, a paradise for young families with children, where you can see a variety of animals from all over the world in outdoor settings. Styrian hill country is beautiful to start with, and the Herberstein Animal Park certainly makes for a most relaxing setting.

Kids Zoo Herberstein where kids could cuddle the piglets

What is unique about these surroundings here is the beautifully preserved palace, initially looking like an artist has painted it into the landscape. Going back to the 12th century, created as a castle for living, not strictly as a defensive structure, it was never attacked and destroyed. Over the centuries, it was transformed into this magnificent, romantic palace, still in private hands but no longer lived in, now open to the public.

Taking a guided tour from one of the dozens, in my case Susanne, an art history graduate from the University in Graz, provides you with quite an insite into the wealth and power the Herberstein family once represented. Hard to imagine how much Mangalitsa lard must have been used in the palace kitchen, or how many pigs in total were turned into sumptuous meals during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire before the outbreak of World War I.

Eventually you will get to a hall with the Eberstein family portraits, going back 500 years, and among them you will find Johann Maximilian I, Baron of Eberstein, the founder of the animal park, first mentioned in 1675. He must have been an impressive man.

The park he created has survived the centuries, and helped the Mangalitsa breed survive as well. The original park was located in the "Klam", meaning the deep, wooded valley area around the Feistritz stream, all around the palace. Steep slopes are all around the entire valley, with steep slopes reaching up to the rock outcrop palace hill as well. You can take a walk around most of the entire original enclosure, designed for fallow deer imported from Italy originally, but then shared with the Mangalitsas for several decades from around 1970 until 2008.

The only way to reach the palace or the Klam by car or truck is over the road through the valley itself, but that is for suppliers only. All actual visitors enter via the park entrance, take the path over a small hill through the children's petting zoo - and then see the gardens and the palace from a vantage point above. What a view!

I am quite sure the Mangalitsas cared a lot more about their regular feeding than about the views, but what a great life they must have had. Known as the "Herberstein line", the last 2 of them, a sow and a barrow were put to sleep because of old age, as no more need existed for the special program. There were over 80 breeders in Austria again, and the breed had been reestablished for good.

Below you can enjoy more pictures in a Dia-show.

More info about Herberstein:

For the Zoo go to:

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