The unique layout of paths for the royal parforce hunts are a protected World Heritage Site. Photo: Anne Meisner, SLKE

The Royal Hunting Grounds are now a UNESCO World Heritage site

Christian V visited Louis XIV in France where he enjoyed the Sun King's newfound form of recreation - parforce hunting. A parforce hunt is a hunt where riders and dogs would chase a powerful and magnificent stag through the forest until it dropped from utter exhaustion. It was not just a death struggle for the stag. Horses and dogs would also succumb from exhaustion. The stag rarely ended up on the lunch table because the stress of the chase rendered the meat inedible.

Christian V’s parforce hunting in the Deer Park

Parforce hunting was a piece of theatre in which the absolute monarch was the main character. The king, of course, exercised absolute power over his subjects. He determined who should live and who should die. The riders in the party would don their finest attire. Dogs and horses were carefully selected according to how their colours and markings would blend into the landscape. This form of hunt required specially landscaped woodland with paths that cut through the forests like a star.

When Christian V returned from France in 1670, he laid waste to villages, felled trees and fenced off large areas of forest in North Zealand to create his new hunting grounds. By 1777 parforce hunting was prohibited, but the paths are still there to serve as a permanent reminder of the royal hunts. The entire area has therefore been made a UNESCO's World Heritage Site.