Something Swedish


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Älg: Moose, Meese, Mooses or Elk?

IMG_8323editWhen people in Sweden talk about “älg” there’s always some debate on whether the animal is an elk or a moose.

The confusion is completely understandable because it kinda means both. But aren’t Moose and Elk different animals? Yes, but the word “älg” isn’t very specific in Swedish (Why would it be? Only one of the animals live in Sweden).  The Swedish word “älg” means “elk” in British English and “moose” in American English. To complicate it further, the American Moose/European Elk/Swedish Älg is scientifically known as Alces.  This is especially confusing because there are Elk (not the British English/European elk), also known as wapiti, in America and Asia.

Note the different types of antlers:

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Images from wikipedia


Oh, and the plural of moose is moose, the plural of elk is elk (not that we are talking about elks here) and the plural of älg is älgar. Now that we have that cleared up…

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Did you know that älg is Sweden’s national animal?

Moose  symbolize something very important in Sweden’s culture: Nature.

It’s also one of those things people associate with Sweden, even if they’ve never been here:

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Moose are superstars in Sweden. It’s impossible to walk into a tourist shop without finding moose key chains, bumper stickers, aprons, shot glasses, stuffed animals, and shirts. If you go to Sweden and you want some sort of souvenir, chances are it will be something moose shaped.

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The huge animals aren’t particularly dangerous (although,  I wouldn’t recommend getting close to one in the wild – they do protect themselves and their young by charging). More than anything though, with such a high population of älg in Sweden, they are a danger to drivers. It is common to see signs on roads to watch for them and accidents aren’t unheard of:

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Because of the high population, they are also the second most hunted animal in Sweden (about 100,000 a year). It’s common to see antlers hanging on walls as trophies or decor, and to eat älgkott (moose meat) for dinner.IMG_8331

So, after being in Sweden for almost 3 years and never seeing one, we decided it was time to go to them – at the moose park.

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There are many moose parks in Sweden, luckily we are only a short 45 minute drive from one that is open all year round, everyday: ElingeAlgPark (although the café that normally serves pancakes (crepes) was closed)

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When you go into the park, you get a bundle of twigs and leaves to feed the moose with.

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They particularly like the leaves:

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You can also pet them (There is a sink to wash your hands afterwards):

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Unfortunately, not all of the adult moose were there (probably due to mating season) but the four calves and two adults were on premise. Calves are born in May, so that’s the next time we will be going.

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These 5 month calves are almost the size of mama moose.

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This is the adult male (as you can see by the horns) he was not interested in us at all. The female adult (in another enclosement) was very friendly though!

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So, if you’re looking for something Swedish to do while your in Sweden (and you don’t live in or near a forest where you’d probably see moose in their natural habitat) Why not visit a moose park?


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City Girl: “Stadstjejen”

Being from New York City there are a lot of things that I haven’t been exposed to that have been met with great amusement here in Sweden. Yesterday a friend invited me to come with her to take her horse, Wielka, to the vet. After waking up at 6am (unheard of these days and a huge accomplishment in my book), meeting at 7, getting the trailer, and then arriving at the stable by 8 I had to give her a heads up that I was going to act like an excited kid with a new toy.

I explained that this is a known fact because I have shown this behavior before. With cows. You see, there are cows that graze on my in-laws property and having never seen a cow up close and personal, I was completely in awe of them the first time I saw them so close. (who am I kidding, I’m still in awe) I am slightly obsessed with them when we go to visit.  I never would have imagined that cows have such curiosity – before I knew it a crowd forms each time I stood close enough to catch their attention.

 

I giggle in delight as they all come to say hi, foolishly standing near the fence taking photos, completely unaware of the bull glaring at me until someone tells me that I should move along. They tell me a story of my husbands grandmother needing to fend off a bull by sticking her fingers up its nose. The cows are an everyday thing to my new family, but to me it is still new and amazing, I find them so cute.

I didn’t realize that horses show the same curious behavior and I would be just as entertained and overjoyed. However this time there was no fence in between me and the new animals. When we made our way up the muddy path to the grass pasture there were about 5 or 6 horses that came to say hello as soon as we approached to harness her horse. I never realized how large horses are, which I quickly learned once they surrounded me with curiosity. I, on the other hand, was a giggling fool, so excited to be face to face with horses, a joy which was constantly interrupted by being very startled when they made any movement. I was laughing and amazed all while being frightened and intimidated, which I could only imagine made for a very entertaining image of this city girl. I let out small sounds of nervousness and ducked away when they got too close, I was just happy that I didn’t fall in the mud with iphone in hand.

My friend asked if I wanted rubber boots and a jacket, which thankfully was more of a statement than a question since I didn’t understand that we would be walking through mud and manure to get to the horse. My ideas of what it’s like having a horse was a fantasy delusion. When I was maybe 11 years old I took about three horseback riding lessons, indoors with a small horse, a clean stable, and an instructor holding the reins most of the time. Of course I thought I was a pro and this image of having a horse has always been the one in my mind, not all the hard work and maintenance involved.

And so we drove for an  hour with the horse trailer in tow to the vet in Helsingborg, which is south of Halmstad. It took a few hours, and was a good visit with good news. She got new horse shoes, which was very interesting to watch. First the hoof needs to be filed down and shaped, and then the horse shoe needs to be fitted to her hoof, formed on the anvil, and then nailed in. I never knew there were so many different kinds of horse shoes, why and when horses needed them, and that they can fix problems with the horses legs.

It was quite an experience for a city girl to spend the day with a horse, helping out with walking her, feeding her, wrapping her legs, blanketing her, and everything in between. I asked a lot of questions (maybe too many, and maybe some were silly) and felt like I learned a lot. At the end of the day I was no longer jumpy and scared of the huge animal, but instead felt like I understood her a bit more. It sure is a lot of work and I was exhausted but it is something I would certainly do again even if it means coming home smelling like mud and manure in desperate need of a shower and a nap. Who can resist this beautiful face!?