Erik Zimen

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Erik Zimen with Wolf (1968)

Erik Zimen (born May 12, 1941 in Berlin ; † May 19, 2003 in Grillenöd near Haarbach in Lower Bavaria ) was a behavioral researcher who worked in particular on the development of pets and the behavioral genetics of wolves and domestic dogs . He supervised research projects with wolves in the Bavarian Forest National Park and in Abruzzo . Erik Zimen became popular as a book author and documentary filmmaker.

He was considered the most important wolf expert and one of the most knowledgeable cynologists in Germany. In an obituary, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung compared him to the "mother chimpanzee" Jane Goodall and the "gray goose father" Konrad Lorenz . Zimen was an active member of the Bavarian Ecological Hunting Association (ÖJV Bayern).

Research projects

Erik Zimen was born in Berlin, where his father, who was born in Sweden, was employed at the Hahn-Meitner Institute . Zimens grandfather, Gottlieb Haberlandt , is considered to be the founder of physiological anatomy. Erik grew up in Sweden, has lived mainly in German-speaking countries since 1971 and studied zoology and ethnology in Zurich and received his doctorate from the pet expert Professor Wolf Herre at the Institute for Pet Science at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel on the behavior of poodles and wolves ( Comparative behavioral observations on wolves and king poodles , Diss. 1970). At times he was also responsible for the institute's “pet garden”. Even for his doctoral thesis, which began in 1967, Zimen mated wolves and royal poodles, because he  wanted to investigate the behavior of their offspring - the so-called Puwos . The behavior of the subsequent generation from the mating of the Puwos to one another was also examined in Kiel. Zimen and his first wife Dagmar lived "for a few years in the middle of a pack of wolves and a group of poodles". As a result of his studies, Zimen et al. a. states that the behavior of the dogs should in no way be interpreted as a “negative failure of species-specific behavior” of the wolves. Rather, it is very likely that the domestication of the wolf has brought about "a new quality" of behavior in domestic dogs. He suspected that the ancestral form of today's dogs was less shy of humans than today's wolves, but more shy than our dogs: "Today we only know the two extreme forms of development: the wild wolf and the tame dog." The relatively easy malleability of the behavioral characteristic Confidence - shyness "was therefore not only the prerequisite for the wolf to survive to this day despite all persecution, but also for the fact that it was once a dog."

From 1971 Erik Zimen worked for Konrad Lorenz at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen . However, out of consideration for the many geese and ducks living in the wild, his wolves were not housed in their immediate vicinity, but in the newly established Bavarian Forest National Park. There Zimen was able to study the social behavior of the animals in the pack for seven years under almost optimal conditions. In addition, he repeatedly traveled to Italy to research the ecology of the last wolves living there in Abruzzo on behalf of the WWF and to work out measures to protect them. From 1978 to 1986 he was employed at the chair for biogeography at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken .

In 2002, Zimen and Michael Grewe founded the CANIS Center for Cynology in Grillenöd as an academy for dog trainers. He died in 2003 at the age of 62 from a brain tumor. Following his request, a meeting place for children and young people was set up on the Grillenöd farm.

Fonts (selection)

  • The wolf: behavior, ecology and myth. The legacy of the famous wolf researcher Erik Zimen . New edition, Kosmos, 2003, ISBN 3-4400-9742-0 .
  • The dog. Descent, behavior, people and dogs . Goldmann, 1992, ISBN 3-4421-2397-6 .
  • Wolves . Tessloff Verlag (series: Was ist Was, Volume 104), updated edition 2010, ISBN 978-3-7886-0667-1 .
  • Wolves and Royal Poodles. Comparative behavioral observations . Piper, 1971, ISBN 3-4920-1921-8 .
  • The Red Fox. Symposium on Behavior and Ecology . Springer, 1980, ISBN 9-0619-3219-X .


  • Wildlife trails
  • Wolf tracks
  • The long way
  • A stable full of animals
  • The wolf of Lillehammer

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Honorary award for the wolf researcher Dr. Erik Zimen
  2. Socialized in packs. Obituary by Joachim Müller-Jung,, May 21, 2003
  3. Obituary for Dr. Erik Zimen - Bavarian Ecological Hunting Association. In: Ökologischer Jagdverein Bayern e. V. Accessed November 29, 2018 .
  4. Biographical note on Erik Zimen at Random House ( Memento from July 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  5. a b Zimen, The Dog , 1988.