Four countries leech trade

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Medicinal leech ( Hirudo medicinalis ) sucking on the body

The Vierland leech trade was a successful Hamburg economic branch in the 19th century , operated by small farmers from the Vierlanden . It is assumed that pharmacists caused the greengrocers who travel daily to the city to bring leeches with them, which were abundant in the trenches, bracks and ponds of the Elbmarschen . With the growing popularity of leech treatments from the beginning of the 19th century, the trade in the Hirudo medicinalis turned out to be lucrative, so that the fishing areas were soon expanded to the east.

This resulted in convoys from four-country traders to Russia , and journeys to Orenburg in the Urals are documented for 1839 . The leech traders or Ihlenfänger (from Low German Ihl , leeches), as they were also called, were for a time considered richer than the greengrocers of the Vierlande, who are known for their wealth. So portrays Johann Heinrich Dräger in his biography of 1914: "They formed as it were the Hautes finances. If they showed up with their sleighs in winter, then all the peasants' glamor went out. [...] Since the German leech sites were exhausted very quickly, Russia became the sole supplier of leeches. The leech drivers, however, had acquired wealth and sophistication; they were very respected in their homeland. "

The captured leeches were kept in water, mud , moss or peat waste . In the early days, back pits were used as a means of transport. Horse carts were used on the trips to the east; Put together by the Ihlenfänger as wagon trains, they made the six-week journey to the fishing areas together. The leeches are said to have been caught by young peasant girls: “They waded through the ponds with their hips tucked up to their hips. The leeches sucked on their legs and then only needed to be removed. ”At the wedding, around four million leeches were imported annually, 200,000 to 500,000 animals per truckload. The Hamburg customs and Akzisedeputation reported in 1845 that they brought 3,995,975 leeches to Hamburg, of which 1,113,475 duty-paid and duty-2862500 further promoted.

Gasthof Schinkenkrug in Hamburg-Horn, so-called "Leech Exchange", 1881

Around 1850, a “leech exchange” was set up in the Schinkenkrug inn on Horner Landstrasse in Horn , as the return of the “Russia drivers” was expected by buyers from all over Germany, but also from France, England, Holland, Belgium and Sweden. In addition, the suburb of that time was characterized by this trade for a while, so Horner carpenters produced large quantities of catch boxes . To the south of the country road, leech ponds were created near the Bille , in which the animals were kept until they were finally sold.

From the turn of the 20th century, the leech trade declined; At the beginning of the First World War , Russian export tariffs , declining catches and the advent of the railroad led to the end of wagon journeys.


  • Harald Richert: leech trade. In: Franklin Kopitzsch , Daniel Tilgner (Ed.): Hamburg Lexikon. 3rd, updated edition. Ellert & Richter, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-8319-0179-1 , p. 726.
  • Harald Richert: Hamburg's leech trade between Vierlande and Russia . In: Journal of the Association for Hamburg History Volume 65 . 1979, pp. 53–71 Document from the Hamburg State and University Library
  • Harald Richert: News from the leech trade and its economic significance for Hamburg . In: Lichtwark No. 51. Ed. Lichtwark Committee, Bergedorf, 1987. See now: Verlag HB-Werbung, Hamburg-Bergedorf. ISSN  1862-3549 .
  • Ludwig Uphoff: Leech trade of the four countries . In: Lichtwark No. 24. Ed. Lichtwark Committee, Bergedorf, 1962. See now: Verlag HB-Werbung, Hamburg-Bergedorf.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ (Johann) Heinrich Dräger: Memoirs . 1914; quoted here from Marion Countess Dönhoff: The conquest of Bergedorf . The time June 11, 1993 , accessed January 1, 2012.
  2. a b Hamburg-Horn: Gasthof Schinkenkrug , accessed on January 1, 2012.
  3. Harald Richert: Hamburg's leech trade between Vierlande and Russia . In: Journal of the Association for Hamburg History Volume 65 . 1979, p. 60 f.