The Story About a Danish Jersey Bull

By Hans Nørgård

Bravo was imported to the Gårdbogård farm by Jørgen Larsen - titular Councillor of State and prime mover of the Danish Jersey Cattle Society - in 1896. This bulls had been born on Jersey on the 3rd of March 1895 and was assigned herd book no. 1 in the record of bulls. This makes Bravo the first pedigreed Danish Jersey animal.

In 1897 herd book no. 1 Bravo was painted by a man named Nortvig of whom nothing further is known. This
painting adorns the walls of Gårdbogård - or rather it once did. F. Lasse Christensen of Søllested (on the island of Lolland) has, however, put us on the right track so that we can now be certain that Nortvig's painting can today be found at Benzonsdal manor near Copenhagen. Lasse Christensen explains:
"We have to go back 40 years. I was a tenant farmer on the Hakkemosegård farm, which was owned by Vincent the Baron Lerche of Benzonsdal near Tåstrup (Sealand). The baron's son, Christian the Baron Lerche, was also a tenant on one of the old baron's farms, and he and I often saw each other. The old baron was the chairman of the Copenhagen Farmers' Association, and this chairmanship was later "handed down" to Christian Lerche.
At the very beginning of the 60s I bought a self-propelled combine harvester from a private contractor who gave up his business. We agreed that if any of his old customers were to phone they should ask me if there was any combine harvesting to be done. Among those who called was squire Steen Nymann of Gjeddesdal - he too lived near Tåstrup. Our dealings with each other continued until I moved to the island of Lolland in 1965. Some payment was due for the harvesting I had done, so I brought him my bill, he wrote me a cheque and we small talked for a while. The squire had sold his red dairy breed herd and leased the buildings to the emergency forces, and so we got to talking about herds. He had heard that I had Jerseys and was trying to establish a herd. I have a Jersey bull, he said. Where? I asked. Come with me! We then walked through the numerous rooms and hallways of the house to the guest rooms, and he finally showed me into a room with a double bed over which a painting of a Jersey bull was hung. I didn't take much notice, but some time later when I had a chat with Christian Lerche, I asked him casually about the picture at Gjeddesdal. Christian Lerche then told me a story, and I shall mention the protagonists by name: Christian Lerche (of course), Steen Nymann and Jørgen Vendelbo Larsen (son of the aforementioned Jørgen Larsen of Gårdbogård). They had agreed to go to England to see what would come of it in the way of learning. I am sure they went wenching too. Jørgen Vendelbo Larsen was often hard up for cash, and Steen Nymann rarely failed him and always advanced him the sum he asked for, but one day even his limit had been reached. "I have to have some security for my money", Steen Nymann demanded. "I don't have anything", came the answer from Jørgen Vendelbo Larsen. "Yes, you do", said Steen Nymann, "you have been travelling with a painting of a bull - you can give me that". Jørgen Vendelbo Larsen did not care much for that option. "That is the only heirloom I still possess from Gårdbogård after we had to leave", Vendelbo Larsen explained. But he needed the money, and he therefore insisted on the following condition: "I want to be allowed to buy it back from you", and Steen Nymann answered: "OK, if only you bring me the money". This never happened, and the painting ended up in the guest room at Gjeddesdal.
This story was stored away in my memory for many years. In 1972, during the great World Congress, I was elected to serve on the board of the Danish Jersey Cattle Society. I replaced Mr Thorkil Glad from the Koefoeds Skole institution, former cattle husbandry teacher at the agricultural school of Lyngby of which Niels Dyrbye was the principal. Dyrbye was also a former chairman of the Danish Jersey Cattle Society. In the afternoon of the last day there was a board meeting. We were to meet at the Society's premises on Gøteborg Alle, and it was my very first board meeting. Shortly after I had arrived, I met Mr Glad who kept me back. "Why?", I asked. "Well, you must be introduced to the board, and that is the job of the board member you replace", he told me. We were 21 board members then, as all our Jersey advisers came to the meetings. The Society hired, employed and paid its own advisers then, something that was to change a few years later. We entered the conference room where the chairman, Carl Nielsen, stood at the head of the table, and all the other members stood too. Mr Glad led me to the chair he had occupied at the meetings, asked me to sit down, thanked the board and left the room.
I had many good years on the board of the Danish Jersey Cattle Society, the last 8 of them I served as vicechairman.
I was also the chairman of "Østlige Øers Jerseyforeninger" (local branch), and in this capacity I was asked to participate in the 4 annual meetings of the Sealand Farmers' Associations, which were held in the conference rooms of the Agricultural Council at Axelborg.
At these meetings I always met Christian the Baron Lerche, who was by now chairman of the Copenhagen Farmers' Association and sat on the board of the Sealand Farmers' Associations. At lunch we would talk about the old days at Tåstrup. And at one such lunch he told me that he had bought Gårdbogård near Ålbæk in Vendsyssel (Northern Jutland). I turned that one over in my mind, as this was the farm where the story of the Danish Jerseys began. He told me they had asked for 12 mill., but when he offered to pay 8 mill. in cash the deal was done. Some of the money he had managed to scrape together came from the sale of Hakkemosegård. On this farm there were some large lakes covering an area of approx. 40 acres. These lakes were the result of the activities of a tileworks established around the turn of the century (1900). At that time Hakkemosegård was owned by Morten Korch (wellknown Danish author of popular romance novels), and some of his books describe the tileworks and the tile makers working there. The lakes were sold to the municipal authorities of Tåstrup at a price of 2 mill. and subsequently turned into a recreational area.
I saw a chance of organising a visit to Gårdbogård and asked the board of the Danish Jersey Cattle Society about it - they agreed. I asked Erik Christensen (editor) along so that he could take photos and write about the farm in the "Jerseybladet". It must have been some time in the mid-70s. We "inspected" the fields and the extensive drained marshes. Lerche grew barley and rape on his land, and at our meeting at Axelborg he would never cease to tell me about the fine harvest results he had achieved. We took great interest in the buildings as they were the very same ones that Jørgen Larsen, the titular Councillor of State, had erected - they stood with their "backs" to the manor house, which he also built. On the right the old dairy and the old smithy, a great lawn in the middle and on the left the old cowhouse. We were struck by the strange stalls that sloped down towards the dung channel in such a way that the cows must have been constantly sliding off, but this was not explained to us. At the furthest end of the cowhouse a two-part door opened on a barn. "This is where the picture I have been telling you about was painted", said Christian the Baron Lerche. We entered the manor house and climbed a huge staircase to a high-ceilinged room with wooden colums painted to look like marble. At the top of the staircase on the left was the old steward's office, which was the only room that had furniture in it. In this connection I have to mention that Gårdbogård had been acquired for the Baron's son, Vincent - so named after his paternal grandfather. At the time of the purchase he was far away in Australia or South Africa, but now he had returned and lived as a bachelor on the farm.
In the living room there was just a few chairs plus a sofa and a writing desk. "Here is something that will interest you," said the Baron Lerche, and from a drawer he unearthed some labels which had "Gårdbogård Jersey Cream" printed on them. I was given a few. The walls were covered in hard-wearing leather tapestry, and above the sofa one could see that there had once been a picture as the tapestry had a conspicuous square mark in that place.
I later met Christian Lerche when he came to the town of Maribo to make a speech to the Lolland branch of the employers' association. Lerche was the chairman of the Agricultural Employers' Association of Denmark. I must have been the first well-known face he recognized in the crowd, because he headed straight for me. Something important seemed to have happened, something that would interest me. He was very eager to tell me: "On Vincent's 25th birthday, when we had a party at Benzonsdal, a caller came - Steen Nymann of Gjeddesdal - and he brought the painting of Bravo, the first pedigreed Danish Jersey bull. It has now been returned to Gårdbogård, and I remember that you told me about the square mark on the tapestry above the sofa. That is where the painting of the
bull was placed, and it fits perfectly".
Vincent the Baron Lerche later sold Gårdbogård and went to live at Benzonsdal. I have no idea where the painting is now".
So far Lasse Christensen.
When I had read Lasse Christensen's story I phoned Benzonsdal, and they confirmed that the painting of Bravo is kept at Benzonsdal today.


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