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Cows & Other Wildlife


Throughout the centuries the Frisians have a reputation for being mixed up with animal species.

After the Frisians ‘invented’ a cow that produced milk like a +2400MHz computer processor, ‘Frisians’ and ‘Frisian cows’ were worldwide interchangeable concepts. Nobody knew the difference anymore. Of course, very funny jokes exists also in Germany about the interchangeability of cows and Frisian people, and especially how many Frisians (i.e. cows) fit in a Volkswagen car.

Not only confusion about cows, though. These days, when you hear people speak in, for example Texas, about a Frisian or Friesian do double check whether they are not, in fact, talking about horses. 


​The black and white patched-coat Frisian cow is actually the Frisian-Holland cow, FH for short. And, it is nearly extinct, alas. Only a few thousand left. The FH was bred in the nineteenth century and farmers, especially in the area north of the town of Leeuwarden in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, became ghastly rich with Arabic princes (no joke) and other buyers coming from all over the world with bags of money and hacked silver. Their big farm houses near the village of Stiens are a testimony of these golden days.


​The milk production of an FH used to be around 7,000 litres a year. Somehow typically for Frisian culture is the importance the Frisians attach to stylistic and harmonic features. Like their farmhouses with bizarre tall orange roofs and like their elegant, curly black horses, the same applies for the FH cow. For instance, the black patches should have sharp borders with the surrounding white of the coat. The backbone of the cow should be a straight and horizontal line. As straight as their treeless landscape. And many more of these features. Farmers can still be very nostalgic about the forms of this old breed, and they nickname the current Holstein-Friesian (HF) breed, which is bred by American farmers, a bonkerak ‘bone rack’. However, the HF produces more than 8,000 litres a year, and has less lactation than the FH.


​Besides the black and white patch-coat FH cows, another Frisian cow is at the brink of extinction even more, namely the red and white patched-coat Frisian. An estimated 300 of this red skin breed are left. The reason for its unpopularity? Discrimination. They are not black. No kiddin’. Being black is associated with producing more milk. The foundation Roodbont Fries Vee is trying to save this red Frisian breed from disappearing from the surface of the earth. Red Lives Matter (too).


Read our blogpost Golden Calves, or bursting udders on bony legs? for more about the Friesian Holland and Holstein Friesian breeds.


Other Wild Life

The Big Ten 
  1. European bison (en); Wisent (de); visenten (da); wisent (ne); wisent (mf)

  2. fallow deer (en); Damhirsch (de); dådyr (da); damhert (ne); deim (mf)

  3. grey seal (en); Keggelrobbe (de); gråsæl (da); kegelrob (ne); grize seehûn (mf)

  4. common seal (en); Seehund (de); spættet sæl (da); gewone zeehond (ne); seehûn (mf)

  5. highland cattle (en); Hochlandrind (de); højlandskvæg (da); Schotse hooglander (ne); Skotske Heechlanner (mf)

  6. Polish primitive horse (en); Konik (de); konikken (da); konik (ne); konik (mf)

  7. porpoise (en); Schweinswal (de); marsvin (da); bruinvis (ne); brúnfisk (mf)

  8. sturgeon (en); Stör (de); stør (da); steur (ne); steur (mf)

  9. swan (en); Schwäne (de); svaner (da); zwaan (ne); swan (mf)

  10. white-tailed eagle (en); Seeadler (de); havørn (da); zeearend (ne); earn (mf)

​Also wolves have been spotted sporadically in northern Germany and the Netherlands the last few years, in the area of the Coast Trail. But for now it is not a permanent wild inhabitant of the trail, although the first cubs have been born in the Netherlands and about 250 sheep have been killed for now (2021). Do not be afraid, yet. The distant relative of the wolf, the hound, is represented with two typical Frisian dog breeds. These are the Wetterhoun, also called Frisian Water Dog, and the Stabyhoun, also called Stabij.

Another upcoming species besides the wolf that is new to the landscape is the common raccoon dog. Looks like a raccoon but it is not. Originally living in Asia but making its way into Europe, including the Wadden Sea coastal area. A new challenge for breeding grassland birds.

Sheep were mentioned already. They can be found all along the trail, and will become a familiar sight when hiking dikes and the coastal areas. It is an animal which can survive in very uncomfortable weather condition, but is helpless once it rolled over on its back. Read our post Recuing Rolling Sheep to learn more about their extraterrestrial origin and how to save them when they start rolling.


​Highland cattle, Polish primitive horses (koniks) are not native to the region, and have been introduced in the Netherlands. Highland cattle to replace the extinct aurochs (Bos primigenius) and can be found anywhere in the Netherlands. The koniks in dune landscape of North Holland, in Dune Reserve North Holland. The wisent has been reintroduced into the dune landscape of province Noord Holland, namely the National Park Zuid-Kennemerland. In National Park De Biesbosch you even come across water-buffaloes. If you think it is weird, it actually is not, since in pre-historic times buffaloes did roam the wetlands of the southern coast of the North Sea too.

Wadden Sea Flying Five 
  1. dunlin (en); Alpenstrandläufer (de); almindelig ryle (da); bonte strandloper (ne); bûnte gril (mf)

  2. oystercatcher (en); Austernfischer (de); strandskade (da); scholekster (ne); strânljip (mf)

  3. shelduck (en); Brandgans (de); gravand (da); bergeend (ne); berchein (mf)

  4. brent goose (en); Ringelgans (de); mørkbuget knortegås (da); rotgans (ne); rotsje/rotgoes (mf)

  5. herring gull (en); Silbermöwe (de); sølvmåge (da); zilvermeeuw (ne); sulverkob/ kôb (mf)


​The herring gull deserves a bit more attention. Not only is it placed on the list of endangered species, it is also the companion of the coastal dweller, for better or worse. Read our post Rats with wings or Masters of the Sky. More birds you can encounter hiking the Frisia Coast Trail, please find here on Pinterest the album Fûgelguod Top 50, with bird names in Mid-Frisian, Dutch and English languages.


​And, quite on its way back, is the white-tailed eagle or sea eagle. In 2020, already twenty nesting couples have been registered. Places along the trail where you might be lucky to see them are National Park Lauwersmeer in province Groningen and Friesland, National Park the Biesbosch in province Brabant, National Park De Âlde Feanen in province Friesland, and in National Park Oosterschelde in province Zeeland.

A last one, not specifically the Wadden Sea coast but of mythical importance over many centuries is the common raven. These big birds, spanning over 70 centimeters, were the helping spirits of Woden, a deity that had significant meaning for the Frisians during the Early Middle Ages. Read our post Odin’s Ravens reigned the southern shores. Not the Hammer of Thor.
​Shark attack
  1. mud shark (en); Dornhai (de); pighaj (da); doornhaai (ne); doarnhaai (mf)

  2. porbeagle (en); Heringshai (de); sildehaj (da); haringhaai (ne); hjerringhaai (mf)

  3. sandy dogfish (en); Kleingefleckter Katzenhai (de); småplettet rødhaj (da); hondshaai (ne); hûnshaai (mf)

  4. school shark (en); Hundshai (de); skolehaj (da); ruwe haai (ne); rûge haai (mf)

  5. nurse-hound (en); Große Katzenhai (de); storplettet rødhaj (da); kathaai (ne); kathaai (mf)

​You can relax and go swimming in the brown, cold North Sea. No shark attacks have been reported, thus far, along the Frisia Coast Trail. The biggest swimming animal along the coastal water of the trail are porpoises, a small type of dolphin, and the grey seal and the common (or harbour) seal. In 2021, a female walrus was cruising around the Wadden Sea waters between the islands Texel and Schiermonnikoog for weeks, before continuing her journey to the English coast.

The only sea species to be afraid of is a fish of around 35 cm long, the weever. During the day they hide in the sand. Do not step on them on the beach. The venom from their gills and dorsal fin is extremely poisonous. In fact, the weever fish is one of the poisonous animals in Europe.

North Sea Swimming Five Fish
  1. angler (en); Seeteufel (de); havtaske (da); zeeduivel (ne); seeduvel (mf)

  2. mackerel (en); Makrele (de); makrel (da); makreel (ne); makriel (mf)

  3. common sole (en); Seezunge (de); søtunge (da); tong (ne); tong (mf)

  4. whiting (en); Wittling (de); hvilling (da); wijting (ne); witing (mf)

  5. European flounder (en); Flunder (de); skrubbe (da); bot (ne); bot (mf)

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