The History of Lány Hunting Ground

The Lány hunting ground was first mentioned in the Early Middle Ages. Czech monarchs held red-deer and wild boars hunts there. Historical records reference a conflict between the family of Vršovci and Přemyslid princes concerning the hunting ground in Křivoklát and Lány forests, which dates back to the 9th century. Furthermore, we know that in the beginning of the 11th century, Přemyslid prince Jaromír hunted in the local forests. Besides, prince Břetislav II hunted here in 1100, king Přemysl Otakar I in the end of the 12th century, king Václav I in the middle of the 13th century and king Václav IV in the 14th century.

The first recorded allusion to the village of Lány, which also concerns a yeoman mansion, can be traced as far back as 1392; the mansion was owned by Pavel of Kladno and Hašek of Lány, both kin to the yeoman family of Kladenský from Kladno. In 1587, Emperor Rudolf II bought the stronghold in Lány. As a result, Lány became a part of Křivoklát estate and remained the property of Czech monarchs until 1658. Rudolf II also ordered the building of a small hunting lodge in Lány. Interestingly, the ground plan of the hunting lodge was fully preserved in the construction of the Lány Chateau.

After 1685, Emperor Leopold I sold the estate of Křivoklát to Earl Arnošt Josef of Wallenstein, thus breaking a rule made by the Emperor Charles IV in 1348, prohibiting the separation of the Křivoklát estate from the Czech Crown. The bill of sale, signed on 6 June 1685, compelled the dynasty of the Wallensteins to protect the big game in the estate so that they could arrange pompous hunts for the Emperor and his family.

In 1713, a wooden fence was built around the game park in order to prevent both organized and individual poaching. Consequently, a large game park had been created: the 47 km long wooden fence enclosed the area of 9,600 ha. In 1731, the princely family of the house of Fürstenberg inherited the whole Křivoklát estate.

An original administration building from the time of the Fürstenbergs.

In 1816, Jáchym of Fürstenberk divided the original game park into two smaller parts and created the Lány Game Park (3,000 ha) intended for big game and the Řevničov Game Park for wild boars. Later, the Řevničov Game Park was dissolved.

In the course of time, it became clear that the wooden fence did not serve its purpose because it was continually damaged by people trying to get inside the game park. Consequently, the game easily broke through the damaged fence and was then able to escape to the neighbouring fields. To prevent these problems, in 1787, the Fürstenbergs began with the construction of a massive stone wall that followed the northern boundary, starting in Pustá Dobrá and continuing to Lužná (ca 27 km). The construction lasted 10 years.

A gate to the Lány Game Park.

On 21 July 1921, the Czechoslovak Republic bought the Lány Chateau, farmyards in Lány and Ploskov and hunting grounds in Lány, Ploskov and Běleč. Altogether, it cost 25 million Crowns. Following the resolution of the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic, the chateau was declared to be the official summer residence of the presidents of the republic.

There were several reasons for this choice; first off, the interior was representative enough, and yet it fulfilled Masaryk´s requirements for simplicity. Secondly, the Chateau was close to Prague, with convenient railway and motorway connections, and it was situated in the beautiful area of Křivoklát woods. Finally, the residence was in the proximity of the Lány Game Park that had traditionally served as a site of aristocratic hunts.

The so-called Masaryk´s Stone that was erected in the game park on the president´s 85th birthday on 7 March 1935

It was the chancellor Přemysl Šámal who had suggested the purchase of the Lány Chateau. He was a passionate hunter who was very well aware of the importance of the friendly and casual atmosphere of hunting events when seeking favourable results in political or diplomatic negotiations. As the records in a commemorative book managed by Lesní správa Lány demonstrates, Šámal’s assumption was right - it was mainly foreign ambassadors, ministerial counsellors, and generals who were invited to the hunts in the Lány Game Park. One of the most important hunts that took place in the period of the First Republic was the so-called Royal Romanian hunt organised in honour of His Majesty king Carol II and His Majesty prince Michael (in 1936).

The staff of Lesní správa Lány (1928)

In 1925, the negotiations concerning the Little Entente (a military and economic alliance between Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) took place in the game park under an oak that has been since then called the “Agreement Oak.” In that year, they mainly dealt with the possibility of transporting armed forces and military equipment across the territories of the states involved in the treaty. In 2007, in commemoration of this event, Lesní správa Lány initiated the erection of a small obelisk.

The headquarters of Lesní správa Lány (1941)

During the Second World War, high-ranking Nazi German officials made use of the Lány Game Park. Despite the intimidating presence of the representatives of Nazi power, some of the employees of Lesní správa Lány bravely supported partisan groups that sought shelter in Křivoklát woods. Towards the end of the war, local people rescued a pilot of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress shot down near Sýkořice and took care of him. The commemorative books of Lesní správa Lány were hidden during the war, so that they would not fall into Nazi´s hands.

The main building of Lesní správa Lány was built between the years 1931-1932

Between the years 1948 and 1989, those who hunted in the Lány Game Park came mainly from the USSR, Hungary and Bulgaria, but among the visitors were also the ambassadors from the German Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Argentina, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Ghana, Mali, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, India, Switzerland, France, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Syria, Poland etc.

Since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the number of commercial hunters has increased, but the main purpose of the game park remains the same - to accommodate the guests of the Czech president. For instance, during the 2006 summit of the Visegrád Group, the game park was visited by the four presidents - Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish.

The History of Game Keeping in Lány

The red deer has been kept in the Lány Game Park from the very beginning. A hunting code issued as far back as 1817 by Jáchym Egon of Fürstenberk set the dates for the shooting season for this game, as well as the first rules for its selective culling.

A red deer in the Lány Game Park – 1950s

In 1736, the fallow deer was introduced to the game park. They increased in number and assimilated soon afterwards. Before the First World War, the population of fallow deer reached several hundred, but during the war, their numbers were drastically reduced because their meat was used for food supply, mainly for military hospitals. What is more, the game was not fed enough and its population was negatively affected by the decay of local people´s morals, that is to say by poaching. This resulted in the extinction of the white fallow deer – the last one was shot and consequently donated to the National Museum by Professor Julius Komárek in 1931.

In 1885, a pair of mouflons was introduced into the game park, but they did not breed. In fact, the ram killed itself - it hit a tree while running. In 1922, three mouflon rams and four sheep were brought from Topolčianky, Žinkov and Ždírec. In 1928, the population of mouflon increased to 60 – 70, but only ten of them survived the severe winter between the years 1928 and 1929. Later, three other mouflons were purchased, so in 1937 their number increased to 80 and it was kept at this level.

In 1922, one stag and two hinds of sika deer came to the game park. This was a present from Count Coudenhove-Kalergi who donated another stag of sika deer in 1923. In addition, another stag and a hind were bought at a farm in Holešov. The population of sika deer was deliberately protected, which resulted in 36 individual sika deer by 1937.

During the winter between the years 1961 and 1962, the first two hinds, two stags and two fawns of sika Dybowski deer were brought into the game park from the USSR. They assimilated very well, and their number reached 60 in the course of a few years.

The wild boar was at first kept in the Řevničov Game Park and in the beginning of the 20th century, it was also brought from the Carpathian Mountains.

The first recorded reference to the shooting of pheasants in Lány comes from 1858. In 1899, they started with the breeding of pheasants. At first, the birds were let out at a distant end of the Chateau Lány Park, and later in the area of the current Pheasantry Amálie, which was rebuilt to its present-day image before the visit of King Carol II.

Predatory animals were systematically reduced in the region of Lány. The last bear was shot in 1692 and the last wild cat in 1780.

Sources: Nechleba, Alois. Obrázky z Dějin Lánské Obory. (The Lány Game Park in Pictures), Commemorative Book of Lesní Správa Lány from 1937-1959, Robin Ambrož´s and Václav Vodvářka´s archives