Pushkino Zoo Farm

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Coat of arms of the village of Puschkino with the image of a sable and two bobbins of weaving yarn

The former zoo farm Puschkino , later Pushkinskji Swerosowchos , which still exists today in a successor company ( Puschkin or Russkij sobol, FGUP ) , was the leading fur breeding company in Soviet Russia, which had also become generally known in the international fur breeding and fur industry. The farm was put into operation in 1929 under the scientific direction of the German Fritz Schmidt , who looked after it for six and a half years. It was the central Russian apprenticeship and training farm, at the same time connected with a large breeding farm for the delivery of high-quality breeding animals to other newly established businesses and a comprehensive experimental farm. Actually, the operation, also called I. Moscow Zoo Farm , was a combine of different individual farms, which were about four kilometers apart, belonging to the town of Pushkino , 30 km northeast of Moscow.

A significant area of ​​responsibility was scientific research, which was carried out in numerous fields and in close cooperation under the direction of a number of Moscow university institutes. After Schmidt, Curt Sprehn came to Pushkino from Germany to teach the Russian biologists in the field of animal diseases. Robrecht Declerq commented: "Instead of protecting their research findings from international interest, the Leipzig network shared them with the Russians".


The farm consisted of four locally separated operating parts, two silver fox farms, a large mink farm which, in addition to American mink, also included the breeding of European and Siberian mink and various types of polecat; an experimental farm for skunk, raccoon, raccoon dog, American opossum ; a sable and marten farm; an outdoor area for muskrat keeping and breeding; a rabbit farm for breeding special breed rabbits; a large farm and a veterinary station with buildings for examinations and research. Overall, this was under a uniform management and administration. The focus was a manor surrounded by a large park and numerous manor buildings with several small settlements. The system was easily accessible from Moscow within an hour. In addition to its practicality, the huge complex represented a kind of representative farm for the newly started and under construction national fur farming. High-ranking guests were shown through the facility, the then President Kalinin , the Defense Minister Voroshilov and the Moscow-accredited ambassador of the USA, Canada, Germany , Great Britain, many foreign trade delegations and a number of experts and leading figures in the international fur industry. It was customary for visitors to the newly introduced fur auctions of Sojuzpushnina in Leningrad to visit the farm every year to see for themselves the progress of the breed. The basis of the various fur animal breeds were mostly animals imported from abroad, mostly from Germany.

The individual farms or farms were all independent. They owned land on which they could produce a large part of their fodder, such as milk, grain and vegetables. In addition to their breeding activities, they formed quite respectable farms, which, in addition to breeding rabbits, often worked with supplementary farms, chicken breeding, gardening, etc. As a rule, every company had to look after itself, with little support from central management in Moscow.

In the period before the First World War there was hardly a Soviet fur breeder who had not spent at least part of his training time in Pushkino, from simple caretakers to trained zoo technicians, farm managers and specialists who had received academic training at the Institute for Fur Breeding.

Overall, the development of Russian fur farming gave a picture of the general problems of the construction of the Soviet Union with its planned economy (1934): “The tense economic situation, the successive crises in the supply of people and animals and the lack of materials on the one hand, and sometimes bureaucratic Mistakes, on the other hand, lead to some failures and severe blows to plans. […] As a result, however, the development of Russian fur farming can be described as successful despite the noticeable deficiencies ”.


Before the First World War, there are said to have been around twenty smaller fur farms in the Soviet Union, but these were run more out of hobby and sport than to make money. However, the world war and the following famine years as well as the upheaval in the economic system ultimately forced all animal owners to give up. They all dealt with breeding, more correctly with the rearing of young caught wild-caught from native blue, cross and silver foxes.

The breeding operation of the 1st Moscow zoo farm in Puschkino began in January 1929. For the German scientist Fritz Schmidt, after the Schirschen breeding farm was put into operation, it was the second fur farm that he put into operation in the Soviet Union. Schmidt was previously the breeding manager of a fur farm in Hirschegg-Riezlern near Oberstdorf (German experimental breeding company edler Pelztiere GmbH & Co, Leipzig). The fur farm founded in the small village of Schirscha near Arkhangelsk existed in Schirschinski ( ru: Ширшинский ) in 2018, when Shirshinsky Pelz worked with two independent companies "LLC SHP" Shirshinskoe "" and "LLC" Shirsha-mekh "". On her homepage she names the German businessman Rosen as the founder of the company that started in 1907 .

The initial task was: “There must be no skin of any importance on the market that we cannot deliver in the future”. Therefore, among the first imports of breeding animals were not only the silver foxes and minks, which were in great demand and highly paid at the time, but also North American raccoons, skunks, possums and South American nutria. In addition to the transfer of the offspring to other, newly established breeding operations, especially the nutrias and muskrats, were released in suitable places as part of the "fur breeding in the wild", which was heavily promoted by the Soviet Union, later especially the already decimated sable.

In the first few years of the farm's training, however, the focus was on breeding the silver fox, the most advanced branch of breeding up until then. Each participant had to go through this once within a breeding season before he could specialize in other animal species such as mink, sable, nutria, raccoon dog, etc.

The development of fur farming has changed significantly since the late 1920s, which also changed the appearance of the farm. In the beginning the animals were housed close to nature on the ground in enclosures, but for reasons of economy and hygiene they moved to cages, which were housed in covered sheds to improve the quality of their fur. Another change brought a new fashion trend that neglected long-haired skins, at the same time the rise of mink breeding began, in which the Soviet Union was temporarily the largest producer after the Second World War. The great diversity in fur farming disappeared and the development went so far that in the 1960s, apart from a few local breeders, practically only mink breeding was practiced. Chinchillas and marsh beavers were also bred to a lesser extent.

In the early 1990s, buyers at the Leningrad fur auction were able to convince themselves on one of the farm visits that lynxes were now also being bred. The breeding of white sables was also successful in the meantime. After legal disputes - due to the expansion of Moscow, the value of the surrounding area has now risen considerably and is in great demand - the Pushkino farm continues to exist as the only state fur farm. In 2018 the company traded as Russkij sobol, FGUP ( Russischer Zobel, FGUP ) and its director was Rukovoditel .

Animal species kept

In order to gain general knowledge about the biology of fur animals, which is still largely unknown, species that were not likely to be used commercially in the future were soon kept. In addition to keeping fur animals, there was also the breeding of the spotted Siberian deer, as well as the Isubra deer, which provide "panty", young antler formations that were an important export item to China because of their alleged medicinal properties, as well as the breeding of the karakul sheep on a scientific experimental farm with a research institute in Samarqand .


Breeding of the Siberian sable began in Pushkino. The farm for sable and marten was closed for itself in a high forest belonging to the former estate park, a "uniquely beautiful" complex with huge oaks and spruces that impressed the visitors. The German expert Fritz Schmidt was initially not allowed to enter this part because previously well-kept secrets about the breeding of the sable with its skins, which only come from Russia, should not leak out. However, Schmidt wrote: "But there was nothing that was worth it, as I soon discovered during my frequent visits to this farm".

The first and only offspring of sables was successfully bred in the Moscow Zoo in 1929, albeit from a pregnant animal that had previously been captured in the wild. Before that, in 1927, Fritz Schmidt was able to demonstrate a pair of rancid martens on the Hirschegg-Riezlern farm to the head of the Russian fur animal breeding , who was on a trip through Central Europe to find out more about the state of fur breeding . This was brought to Professor Pëtr Alexandrowitsch Zoege von Manteuffel from the Moscow Zoo, who was then making the first attempts at sable breeding. After several years of unsuccessful attempts, Schmidt was also given the management of the sable farm, "with the express mandate to do everything possible to finally get the breeding of this valuable fur animal up and running"; they would have "already invested several hundred thousand rubles in the matter" . The first litters were born in the spring of 1932. The offspring increased from year to year, in the year Schmidt left the farm there were 136 young sables, in 1936 the population of 200 animals was reported, which were kept on about 100 square meters. After the mink and perhaps also the foxes, including the raccoon dog, which is also known as the sea fox in the fur industry, fur from farm sables was probably the most important product of Russian fur farming in 2018, with fur production generally extremely reduced compared to the Soviet era.

American mink (mink)

In 1932, American mink breeding was mainly limited to the Pushkino farm. At the time it was still expected that the animals would be crossed with it once to refine the Siberian mink.

Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia was temporarily the largest producer of American mink, the mink still provides the largest contingent of fur of the fur skins grown in Russia. (2018)

European mink

Simultaneously with the breeding of the North American mink, that of its close relative, the European mink, was taken up, which, however, occurs almost exclusively only in the area of ​​the former USSR. It did not get any economic importance because the American mink more corresponded to the demands of the market. Attempts to mate the two species were unsuccessful, although at the time they were thought likely to be possible.

Red fox, silver fox

Numerous attempts have been made with crosses between the various subspecies or geographical races of the red fox , as well as studies in the field of heredity, such as the inheritance of silver in the silver fox or the genetic analysis of the various colors and drawings of the red fox family. This was reserved for a special department of the centrally located silver fox farm, internally called the “red” or “colorful” department. It had a hodgepodge of all kinds of fox races, the Siberian black-brown fox, various color shades of the European red fox, various drawings of the cross fox , yellow Mongolian and pale gray Persian foxes, light Turkmen steppe foxes and even the South American azara fox ( Maikong ).

The department was formed with at times up to 400 animals, "an almost inexhaustible visual aids for the variety of colors and drawings as one might almost say, unique in its kind, the red fox, even the silver fox from, mutation has emerged, has achieved ". Such a collection of foxes in their different colors probably never existed before or after.

The head of this department was the geneticist and later lecturer for fur farming Dr. ED Ilyina . Their work in Pushkino clearly confirmed the investigations and experiments in the American experimental farm for fur breeding in Saratoga Springs that the cross fox is a hybrid form of the red fox, that it cannot be bred purely, but can be found in red, cross and and silver fox splits.


More than 10,000 animals were imported for breeding rabbits alone with their diverse breeding forms, while the total number of other imported animals was around 2000 by 1934. Together with the offspring, there were at times well over 25,000 rabbits who consumed 70 to 90 quintals of green forage and around 30 quintals of grain feed every day. The high demand for animal feed was one of the reasons why other fur farms in the Soviet Union abandoned the all too large farms that were set up at the beginning. The enormous quantities could no longer be produced on site, and the costs for the long transport made the breeding uneconomical.

The German Friedrich Joppich worked alongside his work in his home country between 1928 and 1931 as a technical advisor in setting up the fur farm in Puschkino. In 1928 he founded a well-known farm for fur animals including rabbits in Boberg near Hamburg, where, for example, the first nutrias imported into Germany came. During this time, Joppich imported various rabbit breeds to Germany and was intensively involved in the outbringing of other breeds. After the Second World War he was intensively involved in building up rabbit breeding in the GDR.


The largest overseas transport of muskrats was carried out in 1929 by a Leipzig company, from Canada for the Soviet Union. In Leningrad, around 900 animals were taken over by Professor Manteuffel , director of the Moscow Zoo. A small part came to Pushkino in the early summer of 1929. The then director of Puschnogostorg , the state-owned trading company for tobacco products (later Sojuzpushnina ), rightly prophesied when she arrived: “We will one day deliver animals to America from these animals”. There were around 550 muskrat, along with those imported from Finland and Canada a year earlier. After several years of observation, they were released in various places in northern European Russia, usually in groups of 20 to 50 animals. They formed the basis for naturalization in north-eastern Europe and Siberia, which was built on a broad front and in further planning. One reason for the expatriation of the muskrat was to provide a replacement for the many peoples who lived exclusively from hunting, especially the Siberian, for the sometimes already very reduced stocks of individual fur animals. The Siberian sable had been under complete protection for a number of years and the appearance of one of its main sources of income, the Feh , the fur of the Siberian squirrel, was also decreasing every year. By the 1960s, several hundred thousand muskrats were already being exported each year.

A good three kilometers from the central farm area at the Vorwerk Kaptelne was a well-fenced area several hectares in size with a smaller watercourse that was partially dammed into a pond. Muskrats were kept here in order to study their way of life, which food they preferred, in order to release them in the most favorable places. Some of them were kept in cages in order to obtain information about the reproduction, also to obtain a good, already acclimatized strain for the offspring. The maximum number in free-range breeding may have been up to 2200 animals at times.

The exposures extended to the Far East. With an interruption in the war years, they were carried out until the beginning of the 1950s. A total of 80,000 muskrats are said to have been exposed. Their distribution is now far greater than in their country of origin, North America.

Raccoon dog

The East Asian raccoon dog was one of the native animals kept on the farm . Little was known about him until then, but breeding with five wild-caught pairs in 1928 was immediately very successful. As a frugal omnivore with a pronounced community life, high fertility and with low demands on its accommodation, it was an ideal animal for keeping. However, as the demand for long-haired pelts soon dried up, this animal only played a very modest role in fur farming, despite the ideal conditions at that time in Russia and Germany.

However, since the resurgence of the long-haired trimming fashion at the end of the 20th century, they have been bred again in large numbers. The skins come from Russia as "Russian Raccoon", from Finland as "Finnraccoon" and China as "Chinese Raccoon"; Raccoon, English raccoon, because of their raccoon-like appearance. Classic trade names for raccoon dog fur are, among others, sea fox and tanuki.

Like his breeding, numerous transplantations into new areas of the Soviet Union were extremely successful. The animals have also emigrated to numerous other European countries, including Germany.


The nutria or swamp beaver was also bred for expatriation, especially for the swampy landscapes of the North Caucasian and Turkestan lowlands and rivers. In June 1930 the Soviet fur syndicate from Argentina received 113 nutria, in August of the following year 43 pairs. Although the successes due to the strong stalking of predatory game and abnormally cold winters were initially not so successful, they ultimately spread far.


For polecat breeding, the white polecats, also called steppe polecats or Russian polecats, are particularly suitable, which have a particularly beautiful and silky coat. Breeding began with just over 150 females and 50 males. They formed the basis for extensive studies extending over several years into reproductive biology, the keeping and breeding conditions and crossings with the European Landiltis . It turned out that there are quite significant differences, especially in behavior, in living together but also in the forms of movement. The entire stock was later transferred to the breeding farms in Kaluga and Voronezh , where the breeding probably no longer existed before 1966.


The planned breeding of raccoons was also attempted in the course of the emerging fur farming in the second half of the 1920s. But it only played a very insignificant role everywhere. However, raccoons began to be released in the Kyrgyz Soviet Republic in 1936 . Later, the southern part of the Primorsky Mountains (Far East) and Transcaucasia , namely Azerbaijan , were added as particularly suitable landscapes . They have settled in well almost everywhere, as in Germany, where they are now a lot of annoyance.


Even with the fire weasel, also known as the Siberian weasel or Siberian mink, traded in the fur industry as Kolinskypelz , the takeover into breeding went without any particular difficulties. The first offspring of the sixty wild caught appeared after six months.


The Skunk was after the silver fox the first animal that was bred on schedule for its fur. Breeding was at least successfully initiated in Pushkino as well. Some of the offspring was abandoned in southern Russia because it had been shown that wild-caught animals in the areas suitable for this cause far less costs than animal-rearing. The fur that was once very much in demand, together with the fashionable rejection of long-haired fur, was at times hardly on the market after the Second World War.


The attempt to naturalize the Desman , known in the fur industry as silver bisam, in a pond on the site was not very successful. The animals, which are under strict nature protection, are observed for one summer, but after the following winter they disappeared without a trace.


The American possums introduced at the very beginning of the farm were the only animals that caused problems. The breeding was successful, but the animals, with their almost bald ears and long hairless tail, could not stand the long and severe periods of frost. During the first winter, they were temporarily housed in the attic of the central residential building. In the second autumn they were given to the Moscow Zoo. They were probably no longer bred for fur purposes elsewhere either.

Wolverine and charmer

Breeding attempts should also be made with the wolverine and the South Indian great spotted marten , also known as Charsamarder. Here, however, it already failed because it was not possible to obtain sexual partners for the existing animals. They were later also given to the Moscow Zoo.


SN Kashtanova, GE Sulimovaa, VL Shevyrkovb, GR Svishcheva: Breeding of the Russian sable - Stages of industrial domestication and genetic variability . In: Russian Journal of Genetics , September 2016 [last accessed July 5, 2018]

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Alexander Tuma: Pelz-Lexikon. Fur and Rauhwarenkunde, Volume XX . Alexander Tuma, Vienna 1950, p. 139–140, keyword “fur farming” .
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Fritz Schmidt: Memories of Puschkino, the I. Moscow zoo farm. To build up fur farming in the Soviet Union . In: Das Pelzgewerbe No. 2, 1966, Hermelin-Verlag Dr. Paul Schöps, Berlin et al., Pp. 63-70.
  3. ^ Robrecht Declercq: World Market Transformation - Inside the German Fur Capital Leipzig 1870 and 1939 . Taylor & Francis, Routledge, New York and London, May 25, 2017, p. 117 [last accessed October 5, 2018].
  4. a b c d e f g h Fritz Schmidt: About the development and structure of Soviet-Russian fur farming . In: Der Rauchwarenmarkt , No. 89, Leipzig November 10, 1934, pp. 3–5.
  5. Paul Schöps: The farm breeding of native fur animals . In: Der Rauchwarenmarkt , January 19, 1932, p. 2.
  6. http://shirsha.ru: About the company (О компании) (Russian) Russkij sobol, FGUP [last accessed October 3, 2018].
  7. ^ Information from the tobacco shop, Klaus-Dieter Ribak.
  8. homepage Russkij sobol, FGUP [Last accessed November 5, 2018].
  9. ^ Fritz Schmidt: Letter to Christian Franke, Murrhardt, from September 29, 1977. Collection G. & C. Franke, Murrhardt.
  10. Le .: Planned fur production in Russia . In: Der Rauchwarenmarkt No. 20, May 15, 1936, p. 3.
  11. ^ A b Paul Schöps: The expansion of the Soviet-Russian fur production . In: Der Rauchwarenmarkt No. 7, January 19, 1932, p. 3.
  12. a b c Fritz Schmidt: The book of the fur animals and fur . FC Mayer, Munich 1970, p. 188, 315 .
  13. Paul Schöps: The beginnings of fur farming in Europe . In: Die Pelzwirtschaft issue 1, January 1979, p. 39.

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