'Con game' fools the Baron who thought he shot trophy stag

For Baron Eberhard von Gemmingen-Hornberg, it was a trophy hunter's dream come true: deep in the Bulgarian countryside last year a single shot from the German aristocrat's rifle brought a giant stag of unprecedented proportions toppling stone dead to the forest floor.

The magnificent beast weighed more than 300kg and bore a huge crown of tree-like antlers on its head made up of no less than 37 branches. The trophy was enough to enable the Baron to claim that he had achieved a new world hunting record.

The Baron's exploits were feted in the German and international hunting press, who vied with each other to document the extraordinary features of the slain stag. Never, it seemed, had any hunter managed to bag such a creature.

Yesterday, however, it emerged that Baron Gemmingen-Hornberg's trophy was no roaring wild stag of the Bulgarian beech forests but rather a tame, chocolate-loving red deer raised in an Austrian game reserve. The animal had been deliberately fed calcium tablets to enhance the growth of its antlers.

"The stag's name was Burlei, he was completely tame and children liked to feed him chocolate," the animal's former owner, Rudolf Pöttinger, told Spiegel television.

The series of events that led the Baron to be duped started in the summer of last year. Mr Pöttinger, the owner of a 53-acre game reserve in southern Austria, received an offer of €20,000 (£13,500) for Burlei and promptly sold the animal to two game dealers.

Within a month the stag was roaming hunting estate forests run by a Bulgarian organisation called Elen Hunting, which has its headquarters near the town of Etropole. Anxious to find a wealthy marksman with a yen for huge stags, the company began to spread news of Burlei's whereabouts.

The Baron heard of the stag from a Serbian wildlife documentary film-maker and, after paying a total of €65,000 for the privilege, he flew to Sofia in late August last year with his gun and a team of cameramen.

Accompanied by a game keeper and two film-makers, the Baron caught up with Burlei as the animal was grazing in a clearing. Undaunted by the fact that the supposedly wild stag failed to run away as the team approached, he raised his rifle and shot it dead.

In the months that followed, the Baron was pictured in hunting magazines worldwide with his trophy of antlers. "I had never seen anything so magnificent and, of course, I never remotely dreamed that I would have the chance of bagging such a stag," he was quoted as saying.

His triumph was shattered after photographs of Burlei grazing in his former home appeared on the internet. An Austrian police investigation established that the animal was indeed the tame red deer and that it had been fed calcium to enhance the growth of its antlers.

Baron Gemmingen-Hornberg's attempts to sue the culprits for fraud proved fruitless as police were unable to identify the Bulgarian middle men who supplied the hunting estate with the stag. The Baron, who insists that he wishes to forget the affair, was not available for comment yesterday. His world hunting record has been annulled.

Spiegel television said he had instructed his domestic staff to put Burlei's antlers in the cellar of his country house.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor