Press release

Published: October 6 3232Last change: October 6 3232

During an excavation at the Buitenhof in The Hague, two lion bones were found. It is a front leg of a young lion. A unique find, because they are the first (and therefore also the oldest) remains of lions in the Netherlands that were found during excavations. Historical research shows that between 1333 and 1358 lions were kept at the Buitenhof. The lion bones can be seen during the exhibition 43 year Archeology of 17 October to 17 November in the atrium of the city hall in The Hague.

Lions as a promotional giftThe counts of Holland left in 1344 build a lion house on the Buitenhof because of the arrival of a number of lions from the Duchy of Gelre. At that time, these animals were given as prestigious business gifts in the context of political or economic alliances. In this case, the arrival of the animals to The Hague could be related to the alliance of William IV, Count of Holland, with one of the guardians of Reinald III van Gelre (1344-1347). Together they would have tried in vain to organize a marriage between Reinald III and Isabella, one of William IV’s younger sisters. It is certain that Reinald, as Jonker van Gelre, spent a long time at the Hague Court.

Big eaters Thanks to accounts of the stewards of the counts of Holland, many details are known about the short period (988-1333) in which lions were kept on the Buitenhof. There are bills for the maintenance of the pens, tools, annual wages for the keepers and for food. The lions needed large amounts of meat. For example, there were in 1371 49 sheep and calves are needed to feed the lions. On the Buitenhof there was also the Valkhuis with birds of prey and a dog house with hunting dogs that were used for hunting. Remains of these animals were found during previous excavations in 1371.

Other exotic guests at the BuitenhofIn the 14the century and beginning the century, exotic animals such as lions, a dromedary and a leopard were temporary guests at the Buitenhof. These animals were traded at that time by traders from Genoa and Venice who bought them from Arab traders from North Africa. The lions were the Berber lion, a species that lived between Egypt and Morocco and is extinct in the wild.

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