Leopards used to live in Dalmatia?

Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Vuković Vuka
Dubrovnik, Croatia, photo by Ivan Vuković Vuka

When you live in Croatia, and you create and sell private trips to Croatia – every day you think about what should be said for someone to decide to come to Croatia, then research, and find fascinating facts that could be tempting to future guests.

In one of my many visits to Dubrovnik, my excellent and very theatrical guide ( we who work in tourism often use private guides !!!) mentioned leopards as part of the old Dubrovnik, or I believe Dalmatian coat of arms. He even said along the way that a leopard once lived in the forests around Dubrovnik!

Photo by Maurits Bausenhart on Unsplash
Photo by Maurits Bausenhart on Unsplash

 

Leopard!?

This caused a rush of amazement and disbelief in me.

Leopards in the vicinity of Dubrovnik were ‘too much’ even for me. Dubrovnik’s sightseeing was coming to an end with a few accents on the theme of the famous Game of Thrones that I genuinely adore, but it was impossible to drive those beautiful cats out of my head. Leopard!

But maybe I could find traces of that story somewhere in the backwaters of the internet?

So, I did. 

Either ‘curiosity will kill the cat’ or ‘revive’ it. 

Coat_of_Arms_of_Dalmatia, DIREKTOR : Public domain
Coat_of_Arms_of_Dalmatia, DIREKTOR : Public domain

Leopards? The search engine takes me to some other continents.

Leopards in Dubrovnik; takes me to a brigade of brave veterans in the Homeland War because they were called Leopards. That tells me I’m on the right track.

Leopards in Dalmatia? 

Here we go !! The coat of arms of Dalmatia! Three leopard heads!

I find all the possible coats of arms of Dalmatia and the mention of a leopard, but heraldic; the one on the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Dalmatia!

Coat_of_arms_of_Dalmatia_(crown_historical), DIREKTOR : CC BY-SA (https-::creativecommons.org:licenses:by-sa:3.0)
Coat of arms of_Dalmatia (crown_historical), DIREKTOR : CC BY-SA (https-::creativecommons.org:licenses:by-sa:3.0)

The coat of arms of Dalmatia is the heraldic symbol used for the historical region of Dalmatia on the eastern coast of Adriatic Sea. It is also featured on the crest of the coat of arms of Croatia. (https://hr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grb_Dalmacije

 

 

But, although many times, these 3 ‘leopards’ was interpreted as a ‘lions.’ It was even believed that the Dalmations of that time took this heraldic symbol from ancient Romans as a symbol in favor of the royal coat of arms and to make ‘a better appearance,’ and more ‘serious look.’ 

But the story is much more authentic. 

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash
Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

These heads were not lions. These were leopards – with the reason. Leopards used to live on the territory of today’s Croatia!

The last leopards from the Ice Age in Europe use to live (who wouldn’t 🙂 in Croatia.

Moreover, only 20 kilometers from the city of Dubrovnik is the cave Vjetrenica in neighboring Herzegovina. This cave is fascinating because of its length.

Vjetrenica Cave, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Vjetrenica Cave, Bosnia & Herzegovina

It measures up to 7 km in length, but some research is believed to reach as much as 20 km, even as far as the Adriatic. In Vjetrenica, the best-preserved skeleton of the European Leopard from the Ice Age was found! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panthera_pardus_spelaea was found.

Vjetrenica Cave, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Vjetrenica Cave, Bosnia & Herzegovina

And the last leopards from that time, more precisely the ‘youngest’ lived in the area of ​​today’s Dalmatia, and I believe that they were the inspiration for the name of the famous Dubrovnik brigade; Leopards.

When you go to Croatia – and when they tell you about Dubrovnik and Dalmatia … and Venice … be super original. Tell them the story of the leopards.

Andreja Horvatić

Andreja Pruša
Andreja Pruša

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