Prof. Dr. Kurt Kotrschal

Leader and Founder
Contact kurt.kotrschal@univie.ac.at
With us since 2008
Favourite wolf tale The tale "Fenris, the Wolf"
Favourite animal at the WSC All dogs and wolves, the birds in the wildpark
Companion Bolita

For many years it was a dream of me to work with wolves and thus to complement our work with all kinds of birds at the Konrad Lorenz Research Center (KLF; http://klf.univie.ac.at/news/) with mammals. Friederike came around already in 2002 as an ally, but not until we were a (tripartite) team of three together with Zsófi in 2008 we had the courage (dared) to plunge in (to jump in at the deep end) collectively. Thus we are fully occupied (tied up) with science and management at the WSC and 'twas worth. Step-by-step the Wolf Science Center developed into a great international research facility for men, wolves and dogs.
Besides many a management tasks I am involved most of all in the hand raising, the dealings with the animals, the work with the students and in the communication with the public as well as in certain research tasks. That includes the social relationships, stress hormones, behaviour and certain aspects of cooperative behaviour as testet e.g. in walks at a leash. I also strived for th treadmill, which by the way is the largest one int the world with its running surface of 2,5x10m and we want to use it for testing the social hungting of dogs and wolves. But it would be wrong to think I would be interested "ony" in science. Actually there's a lot of nice moments at the WSC, as well in the work with the animals as with the colleagues. A harmonious cooperation between men, wolves and dogs can make one happy, too.

My favourite animals at the WSC? That are of course all of the wolves and the dogs. But also the lot of woodpeckers and the other birds inhabiting the woodlike park of Ernstbrunn, in which the WSC is embedded (nestles). Their chants and their colours give pleasure to us throughout the year.

One of the strenghth of the WSC lies in the different background and the various interests of its founders, Friederike, Zsófi and myself. I was born in May 1953 in Linz - already as a biologist - what was proved by the study of biology at the University of Salzburg. There I finished with the doctorate in 1981 and habilitated in 1984. Together with the family I stayed repeatedly for research tasks abroad, mainly in the USA. First I dealt with comparative anatomy and physiology in fishes and in 1980  I mutated by order of the University Vienna into an ethologist with the takeover or the Konrad Lorenz Research Center in Grünau (www.klf.ac.at), who successfully worked together with many students and postdocs on the social behaviour and the mental abilities of birds. Thereupon finally roots the WSC, which was founded at the KLF, but moved to Ernstbrunn one year later, were we found excellent working conditions. 

My favourite wolf tale is "The Wolf Fenris" of the germanic Edda Saga. It's not that this story would be as bloody and violent or as an example for the dangerous-sly wolves, but as wonderful example of projecting the condition of a society onto the wolf, what happened at all times and in many cultures still happens today. in sublime manner the Fenris-tale reflects the germanic macho-, warrior- and blood vengeance society. Another fascinating aspect of the wolf Fenris lies in the enormous force attributed to a wolf, which even surpasses the force of the all too human gods in the germanic Olympus and them survives. It was the wolf, indeed, who sounded the bell for Ragnarok (twilight of gods/"götterdämmerung") and thus terminated the might of the gods. According to this tale two descendants of Fenris still are chasing sun and moon to gorge them one day, what means the end of the world (Armageddon).

But this story also can be read as parable for the final victory of animism and its animal totems over modern and anthropocentric religions with man-like gods. Moreover this saga is an outstanding example for the once outreaching role of wolves in human spirituality and mythology.

During the last 20 years I have been assistent professor at the University of Vienna, in 2010 I was elected Austrian Scientist of the year 2010 and shortly after full professor at the University of Vienna. Colleagues like Thomas Bugnyar, Eva Millesi, Tecumseh Fith, Walter Hödl and Ludwig Huber provide a stimulating academic environment in a worldwide web of colleagues and facilities making scientific work to a daily thrilling experience. Embedded in the fantastic supportive University of Vienna. A special delight is caused by the successes and results we have worked for within the research group for man-animal-relationship the last 10 years (http://mensch-tier-beziehung.univie.ac.at).


Result of the last decades are more than 200 unter peer review publicates original papers, some articles in books and books. Biology was my hobby since ever, now I'm even  paid for it! Helping to establish the WSC and to work there with men, dogs and wolves certainly counts as one of the highlights in my life. If i could wish something, then id would be 4 week's holiday to make a travel through time back to the Neolithic for hunting together with our ancestors and wolves and to chat with the Neanderthals. A wonderful dream, but of course the Stone Age was no better time than the times today, with a completely different way of life, though the humans with their important interests, joys and fears problably did not differ that much from us.