The history of Ouwehands Zoo

On 18 June 1932, Ouwehands Zoo Rhenen opened its gates to the public for the first time. Well before that moment, the founder of the park, Mr C.W. Ouwehand, had moved from Rotterdam to Rhenen to establish a cigar factory, together with his brother.

After a while however, he decided to discontinue that activity and instead established a chicken farm on a 10 ha piece of land on Grebbeberg in 1919. The chicken farm thrived and boasted some of the most beautiful chicken species as its inhabitants. Coachloads of farmers visited the farm, but it turned out that they were more interested in the few exotic animals that Ouwehand kept, such as raccoons, peacocks and pheasants, than in even the prettiest of chicken species.

From chicken farm to zoo

During the economic crisis of the 1930s, the chicken farm's fortunes turned. Still, the animals on the fringes of the chicken farm remained popular, which caused Ouwehand to think that it might not be a bad idea to turn the chicken farm into a zoo.

War and post-war reconstruction

Ouwehands Zoo was a success right from the start, drawing large numbers of visitors. However, the war years devastated not just buildings, but also livestock and reconstruction was only slow to start. Nevertheless, through the hard work of the Ouwehand family and their staff, the zoo was restored to its former glory and a new golden age dawned.

Ouwehands Zoo today

In the past decades, the grounds have been extended to 22 ha and many modernisations were introduced. Since 2000, when the current owner took over the zoo, substantial investments were made in new projects, such as ‘Umkhosi’, with the rare white lions, ‘Apes on Stilts’, ‘Face-to-face’ with the polar bears, ‘Gorilla Adventure’, and Bear Forest Expedition, the latest project. Partly because of these initiatives, Ouwehands Zoo has experienced meteoric growth.

Today, Ouwehands Zoo is a zoo functioning in accordance with the latest views on environmental and nature education, and it is fully aware of its role in the conservation of endangered animal species.