Until 1960 the site, now called De Harstenhoek, was used for drying and polishing (repairing) of fishing nets used. After that, the fishing method changed, so that the net modeling field was no longer necessary. The site remained unused until 1960 lichens were discovered. Harstenhoek was declared a protected nature reserve and from that moment on fell under the Nature Conservation Act.

Scheveninger Peter Roeleveld is fascinated by the beautiful nature reserve and is happy to tell you more about it:

Rabbits in the Harstenhoek

Many different animals roam around in this part of the dune area. For example, rabbits played a crucial role in maintaining the lichens. When there in 878 a deadly disease prevailed among the rabbits, the number decreased drastically. Dunea, already more than 63 year owner of Harstenhoek, conceived in 2010 that fifteen Shetlanders

could take over the function of lichen manager from the rabbits.

Photo Alex Falconer/Pexels

The Shetlanders indeed behaved like rabbits but in a different way than Dunea envisioned. The number of Shetlanders quickly increased to thirty-five and that was a bit too busy on twenty hectares. After four years of grazing, the Shetlanders had seriously impoverished the soil and the decline of the lichens was worrying. Harstenhoek was designated as a Nature Conservation Project precisely because of these lichens, so the Shetlanders had to leave.

Konik horses

the weather is better with the rabbits at Harstenhoek. To prevent the formation of young shoots at the bottom of the trees, shrubs and the growth of the tall grass, five Konik horses were released on the Harstenhoek.

Konik horses. Photo Jan Twigt/Dunea

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My neighbors

From 2002 I am the neighbor of family rabbit. I think the five Konik horses had already disappeared by then. I remember from the first years that I lived there that Harstenhoek was crawling with rabbits. With the naked eye I saw them happily running after each other. When I zoomed in on a small group with binoculars, it initially seemed like an endearing scene in which the animals were playing carefree with each other. But when I observed them a little longer, it turned out to be a little less cute. The ladies (nurses) often had a hard time because the gentlemen (rattles) were chasing each lady in groups and that was not for a nice weather conversation. I saw the expression ‘by the rabbits off’ put into practice here.

Photo Peter Roeleveld

Despite the rattles working hard to instantly reduce the population, during the years that I continued to observe, the population declined almost unnoticed.

Since 2010 I regularly see foxes on the fine field to appear. The rabbits did not immediately respond to the fox, but remained alert and at a distance. Yet there were rabbits that kept hopping around just a little too casually, with sometimes dramatic consequences for those rabbits.

A comment on this Youtube film about foxes and rabbits on the Boetveld, was that two hours later a young fox was seen with a rabbit in its mouth’.

Galloway cattle

Furthermore, in recent years I regularly see two sometimes three Galloway cattle walking around on the field. From a Tweet from Dunea I understand that the third, a male of 1.5 years, in the spring of 2023 moved to Harstenhoek.

The Galloway cattle are originally from Scotland and the original Scottish breed mainly has a black, long, shaggy coat that can withstand severe cold. The red hairdress with white cloth on the back that we see at Harstenhoek is because an original black Scottish Galloway has been crossed with a Dutch Lakenvelder. In the spring of 2022 two black Galloway calves were born with a white sheet on the back. The Galloway’s are there to graze and fertilize the dune terrain and are used in several places in the entire area of ​​Dunea (Meijendel) and are therefore not always visible at Harstenhoek.

About how it is now in 2010 with the rabbit population and with the lichens I cannot find any recent counts or research results on the internet. I myself see little or no rabbit on the penitentiary field anymore. Maybe they are still there but they stay in their dens because of the presence of foxes.

Photo Ricardo Ortiz/Pexels

The story about Harstenhoek has been written with great care, yet it may contain factual inaccuracies. If there are readers who need to add to or correct the story, please contact me


      Sources: Theme map Harstenhoek, Tweet Dunea , Youtube: Foxes on the Boetveld. Thanks to Dunea for making some photos available.

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