Denmark – 225 Years of the Kopenhagen Veterinary School

In August 1998 the Veterinary School in Kopenhagen celebrated the 225th anniversary of its foundation.

At that occasion a 115 page book was published with 14 contributions, i.a. written by I. Katic (on the highlights in the history of the school; on the sculptures and paintings in its possession and a bibliography of earlier Festschrifte) and by A. Rosenbom (on the developments in veterinary practice).

The title of the book reads: Veterinærskolen 225 år; Rids af de seneste års udvikling [The Veterinary School 225 years; Sketches of the developments in the last 25 years]. Red. G. Lefmann. Frederiksberg: Kollegiet for Husdyrbrugs- og Veterinærvidenskab/Den Kgl. Veterinær- og Landbohøjskole, 1998. ISBN 87-7432-526-4.

In 1999 the Danish Veterinary Association celebrated its sesquicentennial jubilee. For that occasion a special exhibition was held at the Danish Agricultural Museum (Gammel Estrup, Djursland) about the work of Danish veterinarians throughout 150 years.

Dr. Bent Christensen reports:

The Veterinary school

In this exhibition special mention is made of Peter Christian Abildgaard (1740-1801), who founded Den Kongelige Veterinærskole (Royal School of Veterinary Medicine) in Christianshavn, Copenhagen, in 1773, and of Erik Viborg (1759-1822). After Viborg’s death in 1822, it was not long before the space available at the school in Christianshavn became too cramped. In 1858, Den Kongelige Veterinær- og Landbohojskole (Royal Danish Veterinary and Agricultural University – commonly referred to as KVL) could receive its first intake of veterinary trainees “far out in the country” in Frederiksberg, where it is still situated.

Military veterinarians

From very early times, the army has had a proud tradition of employing veterinarians. As far back as the first centuries AD, reports tell of “military veterinarians” in the Roman legions, and this was a tradition that persisted throughout the subsequent centuries. Around 1780, a new era began for the army’ s veterinary service as the army was slowly supplied with qualified veterinarians. The army’s veterinary corps was established in 1810 and has thus been in existence for almost 190 years. As horses were gradually phased out of the military, the military veterinarians were assigned to other tasks – primarily related to food control – although the officer in command is still called colonel of the veterinary corps.

The Danish Veterinary Association founded in 1849

Absolute monarchy in Denmark was abolished in 1848, and this signalled the start of the formation of countless associations. Veterinarians, too, discussed the options for organising themselves, and this led the colonel of the veterinary corps, David Gottschalksen Ringheim (1787-1875) to insert an advertisement in the newspaper Berlingske Tidende in January 1849, calling the veterinary profession to demonstrate its presence and to show its role in society. Ringheim acted fast. By 8 February 1849, a meeting had already been held in the Kongens Nytorv 5 restaurant where Den Danske Dyrlaegeforening (Danish Veterinary Association) was founded and agreement was reached on the guidelines for the association’s regulations. In March 1849, the association approached the authorities concerned with the Royal School of Veterinary Medicine to draw their attention to the wishes of veterinarians with respect to training and their professional role.

Evolution of the profession

Throughout its 225 years of existence, the veterinary profession has developed and changed. This applied also to the employment options for veterinarians. Denmark’s entry, in 1973, into what was then the EEC, resulted in comprehensive harmonisation of legislation and regulations that have also had an impact on veterinary areas. During the first ten years of Denmark’s membership of the EEC, employment for veterinarians in the cattle industry was stable, but at a later point the number of herds fell considerably. This can primarily be attributed to milk quotas imposed to limit the increasing levels of milk production.

In the pork industry, the veterinary service has moved from diagnosis and treatment of individual animals to providing diagnosis and advisory services at herd level.

In the area of small animals and hobby animals, veterinary activity and employment has increased over the years. The number of veterinary clinics and hospitals has also increased significantly.

For many years, veterinarians have played an important role in veterinary meat inspection at abattoirs. The objective is to safeguard consumers against any health risk associated with eating meat and meat products. The number of cattle slaughtered has fallen markedly while the number of pigs slaughtered has increased to approx. 20 million per year.

In the early 1970s, Denmark passed new food legislation that established the Miljo- og Levnedsmiddelkontrollen (Municipal Food Control Unit – MLK) within a municipal framework, and about 50 MLK units were set up employing many veterinarians. From 1993, the units were assigned new tasks involving industrial and consumer milk control, but at the same time the number of MLK units was reduced to 32. With the introduction of new food legislation, 11 regional units will remain.

Practising veterinarians use both state and private laboratories when diagnosing diseases. Under the terms of legislation concerning contagious diseases in domestic animals, the state laboratories – Statens Veterinaere Serumslaboratorium (National Veterinary Laboratory) and Statens Veterinaere Institut for Virusforskning (State Veterinary Institute for Virus Research) – are required to conduct the laboratory tests in connection with such diseases. Furthermore, the two laboratories are also engaged in a certain level of vaccine and serum production and important related research. The virus research institute on the island of Lindholm has a fine 70-year-long tradition for research in foot and mouth disease in cattle. Finally, agricultural organisations have established several nationwide laboratories, which also employ many veterinarians.

The exhibition at the Danish Agricultural Museum

In illustrating the long development right back from the time of the cattle plagues and Abildgaard, the exhibition presents a wide range of instruments and other articles, including horseshoes, used by veterinarians in their day-to-day work. These items stem from the Veterinaerhistorisk Museum (Historical Museum of Veterinary Science) at KVL, where extensive work is carried out to preserve these valuable objects for posterity. There is also a range of specimens from KVL’s pathology department, where they are used for teaching purposes. Other objects are on loan from the Slagterimuseet (Abattoir Museum) in Roskilde, the Garderhusarregiment (Royal Hussars) in Naestved, the abattoir in Bjerringbro and from Kruse, a firm for veterinary supplies servicing today’s veterinarians. The National Veterinary Laboratory shows how the campaign against salmonellosis is being conducted through collaboration between veterinarians and others involved in industry. Along the way, the exhibition looks at some of the many veterinarians who have worked abroad over the years.

This tour of veterinary history concludes with a look at a modern small-animal clinic, food control, abattoir meat inspection and at the latest, state-of-the-art equipment found in vehicles used in a veterinary practice of today – complete with cellular phone, fax and PC.

Denmark – 1997

Visit of the Danish Veterinary History Association to Berlin and Poland,

1-10 June 1997. Report by Ivan Katic.

To commemorate the fact that prof. Eric Viborg travelled 200 years ago to Poland in order to buy horses for the Royal Danish Studs*), 34 members of the Danish Veterinary History Association followed Viborg’s steps. The way there, they made a stop in Berlin, where they were received by Dr. Martin Brumme. He showed them around at the old Veterinary School in Berlin-Mitte with its famous Zootomy Building, and told about the history of the school, established in 1791. His talk was followed by a short lecture by I. Katic on 200 years of relations between the Danish and the Berlin schools. In the afternoon Virchow’s Museum was visited and the restauration of his institute, demolished during World War II, was seen.

The next stop was in Poland, where the participants had the chance to visit the Wavel Castle in Cracow and some museums, a.o. the Czartoryski Museum, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with the ermine is the absolute attraction. South of Cracow, in Bialsko, the Danish vets visited a stud farm with Anglo-Arabian horses. Every year many yearlings are sold to be trained for the sport.

In Pulawy the Veterinary Institute was visited, and also the famous Czartoryski Castle, once the only place where Polish noblemen could meet and discuss the liberation of their country. In Pulawy is also a small museum with a display in memory of the eradication of rinderpest in Poland in the 1920’s.

In Lublin a visit was paid to the Veterinary School, the University and the Lublin Academy, where a concert was given.

The last destination was the Veterinary Museum in Ciechanowiec. The visitors were received there very cordially. Under the guidance of Grzegorz Jakubik DVM the large collection, consisting of 3500 items, was admired. Jakubik explained the activities of the museum, that regularly organizes symposia together with the Veterinary History Section of the Polish Veterinary Association. In 1997 two symposia are held: one on the contributions of women veterinarians in Poland (vide infra sub POLAND) and the other on Polish veterinarians abroad.

The total price of this excursion was 4500 DKr. (approx. US $ 750.-) with travel by bus and very good hotels.

*) A brochure of 32 pp. to commemorate Viborg’s journey, and at the same time the 175th anniversary of his death, was published by I. Katic under the title En rejse til Polen og Rusland i 1796 (Kilder til veterinærhistorisk forskning nr.10. ISBN 0903-96-86), also published as a supplement to Dansk Veterinærhistorisk Aarbog38, 1998.

Denmark – 2000

Dansk Veterinærhistorisk Årbok

The Dansk Veterinærhistorisk Samfund has published vol. 37 (1996) and vol. 38 (1998) of Dansk Veterinærhistorisk Årbok, with resp. 197 and 163+32 pp.

Vol. 37 is richly illustrated with six ills. in colour. All texts are in Danish. The contents of vol 37 are:

  • A. Rosenbom [Victims during the years of German occupation under the Danish veterinarians and veterinary students];
  • J. Schouenborg [The Danish expedition to Poland in 1920-21 to campaign against the rinderpest];
  • T. Nielsen [Mårten Lindfors (1800-1869), the first Finnish student at the Danish Veterinary School;
  • G. Espersen [“Rampelauget”, a club of veterinarians connected to the Kopenhagen slaughterhouse]; J. Kristiansen [Veterinarians in Egtved (Jutland);
  • K.-E. Høgsbro [Søren Abildgaard, geologist, discoverer of antiquities and miniature painter]; Biographies of Danish veterinarians passed away in 1992 and 1993.

And of vol. 38:

  • V. Villadsen. [The diary of the veterinarian Sophus Petersen from 1864];
  • E. Greve. [Hans Roth, as I keep him in memory];
  • C.E. von Weigel. [Report of the journey to veterinary schools in Denmark and Germany in 1819];
  • In memoriam for the years 1994, 1995 and 1996;
  • Supplement to necrologies of the years 1934 and later;
  • I. Katic. A journey to Poland and Russia in 1796 (separately printed and added to the vol.)

Veterinary Museum

The Veterinary Museum at Kopenhagen (with 8000 items) is taking the necessary steps to expand. Before long the Museum will have at its disposal the upper floor of the University’s main building. This room will be used to exhibit the skeletons of famous animals of Danish breed, and also its collection of horse saddles and harnesses.

Weekly meetings at the Agricultural Museum

As of April 2000 weekly meetings will be arranged at the Agricultural Museum in Gl. Estrup in Jylland (to the North of Aarhus). The main purpose will be to save old veterinary instruments before they disappear from practice and to discuss their use and origin. The instruments will be kept by the museum together with the assembled documentation.

Similar activities (with lectures) have been arranged with great succes at the Danish Veterinary Museum in Copenhagen since the middle of the 1980’s. They were initiated by Ivan Katic, and are now continued by H.H. Smedegaard.

International Dictionary of Veterinary Biography

At Córdoba it was decided to start a working group in preparation of an international dictionary of veterinary biography. A ‘plan of operations’ was prepared which reads as follows:

The dictionary will include all deceased persons, veterinarians and non-veterinarians, who during their lifetime in one way or the other contributed to the development of veterinary medicine. People from all countries and from ancient times to date will be included.

The motto of the working group is: ‘better one person too much than one person missing’.

The objectives are:

  • to publish a book/CD ROM for reference and teaching purposes;
  • to include all relevant people as defined above;
  • to include pictures of the persons as far as available.

Co-ordinator of the project is Dr. Ivan Katic. Please direct all contributions and correspondence to him:

Dr. Ivan Katic
Søndergade 39
DK-4130
Viby, Sjælland, Denmark

In May 1988, an invitation was sent to National Veterinary Associations, National Societies for the History of Veterinary Medicine, Establishments of Veterinary Education, Veterinary Libraries and Veterinary Museums (all together 311 addresses) to compile a list with suggestions of deceased countrymen and -women who should be included in the dictionary and to present names of persons who could actively be involved in the composition of the dictionary. A questionnaire was enclosed in the mailing.