The perfectly preserved pooches of Castle Bitov (and it looks like a few of them Bitov more than they could chew)
Last updated at 9:30 AM on 19th July 2011
The castle’s last owner, the ever-so-slightly eccentric Baron Georg Haas, was an animal lover – to say the least. He was the proud owner of thousands of animals – including a lioness called Mietzi-Mausi, with whom it is said he enjoyed sharing lunch every day.
But his favourite style of four-legged friend was the humble canine, and he eventually had more than 200 in the castle grounds. It means the castle might well have been the hardest building to sneak into in the 1940s – certainly the hardest to walk around without looking down.
Petrified pooches: The largest collection of stuffed dogs in the world creates a truly unique visitor attraction at Bitov Castle, in the Czech Republic. The dogs were one-time live pets of the Baron Georg Haas
When the playful pets passed away, the baron buried the majority of them – their final resting places can still be seen in several cemeteries in the castle grounds, each with a wooden cross and small metal plate bearing their name.
But, for a select few, the baron had loftier plans – and the handiwork of the local taxidermist is still being enjoyed today. It’s clear that the baron did not play favourites. Spaniels, terriers, poodles, boxers – hounds of every shape and size – are included in the collection.
They are either sitting obediently, lying lovingly in wait for their master, and there is the occasional specimen standing up.
Each has a sign, telling the bemused onlooker what type of dog they are looking at - and there is often a name attached as well. Perhaps the baron didn't get around to naming all 200 of them.
The collection is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest of its kind, and Kan Bider – the warden of Bitov Castle – has the honour of keeping the individual pieces in tip-top condition.
Leader of the pack: Kan Bider, the warden of Bitov Castle, holds one of the special exhibits as he re-arranges the collection. They may not have to be fed but they still have to be looked after
They don’t need feeding and, mercifully, they don’t have to be cleaned up after. But they do have to be cared for and maintained like every other ageing collection.
Unfortunately, Baron Haas was not allowed too much time to enjoy his quirky collection. Despite being a vocal anti-Fascist during the Second World War, he was nevertheless an ethnic German. At the end of the war he was given just 24 hours by Czech partisans to leave everything he owned behind and get out of the country.
At the age of 64, and no-doubt broken-hearted at leaving his beloved castle and menagerie, he was forced to leave by foot across the Austrian border. He was later found dead, having shot himself.
Beauty and the beast: The picturesque Castle Bitov, South Bohemia, in the Czech Republic, was at one point home to more than 200 dogs roaming the grounds. The charming specimen above right, despite being a little moth-eaten around the ears, has stood up relatively well to the test of time
Georg Haas was as eccentric an aristocrat as they come. But he was also ahead of his time, designing a magnificent zoo for his animals, with terrariums, bird cages, and various paddocks that he filled with exotic creatures from around the world.
And it wasn’t just animals that were close to his heart. He was well-liked in the region, mixing with locals as well as the nobility – he often picked up the tab at the local pubs, to the delight of the commoners.
Perhaps not so well liked was his roving eye, as records in the region show he had a healthy sexual appetite, and that many of the local village maidens fell for his charms.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2016284/The-perfectly-preserved-pooches-Castle-Bitov-looks-like-Bitov-chew.html#ixzz1SYVjjXEK