Walking around in Budapest, you will most likely come across flocks of pigeons, a few dogs, maybe a hedgehog or a squirrel from time to time – but the more attentive among you might spot a bear, a dragonfly or even a penguin or two. We take a tour of the city’s animal sculptures.
Arguably the most beautiful park in the city centre, Károlyi-kert features various sculptures, including a bunny. And not just any bunny, but the Belgian black giant rabbit called Károly, who lived in the park in a cage, and was sometimes let outside to the greatest delight of children. Károly sadly left us in 2015, but is still remembered thanks to this memorial in the park.
This gigantic sculpture almost two metres tall can be found on the playground named after it in Vérmező, a city park near Déli station. It was inaugurated in 1979, and caused diverse reactions. Some see bizarre mosquitoes when they look at it but it is otherwise well-liked by parkgoers.
District XI cow
The cow licking its hind leg was installed in the park on Irinyi József utca, District XI, in 1964. Created in aluminium by Farkas Sándor Boldogfai, it stands on a 60-centimetre platform, and is more than a metre long. Although it is surrounded by trees and bushes without a real pathway leading to it, locals – especially children and the elderly – are still very fond of this work of art.
Horses around town
There are various representations of horses in Budapest, even if we ignore the ones where horses are just a part of statues carrying famous figures. One solitary horse – or more accurately, Pegasus – sculpture embellishes the northern side of the Westend shopping mall. Created by Kálmán Veres, it was originally intended for the Hungarian pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover. One of the cutest representations of horses in the city can be found on Gellért Hill in Jubileum Park. The three shapes are only vaguely reminiscent of horses, but are nevertheless great additions to the park.
Bikás Park cattle
A popular recreational area in District XI, Bikás Park, contains playgrounds, benches and a running track, topped with a small hill crowned by an emblematic statue representing ‘Bull Park’. Unfortunately, the sun, moon and star ornaments from the horns of these animals have been stolen by unknown perpetrators several times, so you’ll just have to imagine them being there.
Perhaps most surprising is that there are not one but two penguin statues in the city, both on the Pest side. One can be found at the Szárnyas utca housing complex in District X, where a figure of a foal already stands. Across in the Lakatos út housing complex near the airport, a whole family of penguins has greeted visitors since 1967.
Kálvin tér cat
In a previous article, we looked at statues that are said to bring good fortune to those who touch them. Among these is a lovely cat named Mici, inspired by the beloved pet of her creator, Gyula Illés. Behind her, in the Kálvin tér underpass at the gateway to the city centre, is a red marble monument made in the 1980s, Város születése (‘The Birth of the City’), meant to symbolise Budapest’s unstoppable expansion. Although the relation between this and the cat is unknown, urban legend has it that petting the cat’s tail will bring good luck.
You’ll find no few dogs in Pest: the most unusual stands by the platforms of Kossuth tér metro station, and is named Vak jós (The Blind Fortune Teller), depicting a half-naked man seeming to point forward to his dog. However, there is one key item missing from the piece created by László Mátyás Oláh: the white stick that the man was holding, unfortunately stolen many times and not replaced after the last. The statue was inspired by a BKV pictogram, which assigned specific seats to be free for the visually impaired and their guide dogs. A statue of a dog and girl has adorned central Vigadó tér since 2007. Sculpted by Dávid Raffay, it symbolises the ever-growing number of pet owners in the city, by picturing the moment when the furry playfellow returns its ball to the owner to be thrown away again and again. A solitary dog figure by Gyula Maugsch can be found on Izabella utca in District VII, although its first location was near Szent János hospital in Buda. The Great Dane isn’t just a figment of imagination, but the companion of a former ministerial adviser, Károly Némethy, and named Dr Fool.
Bear statues are quite easy to be stumbled upon in Budapest, as there are plenty all over the city. A fairy-tale bear and fox duo created by Gyula Maugsch have stood on Európa Liget in District I since 1970. In front of a school on Németvölgyi út, a bookworm bear can be admired. Another symbolic one sits quietly by Feneketlen-tó, Buda’s Bottomless Lake, while the funniest one is to be found on the Pest side, on Honvéd utca. A bear on a scooter has been delighting visitors at this location since 1959. Tree-climbing bear statues can be seen in Zugló, at a playground on Torontál utca.
We’ve saved the best for last, as there is no better place for finding animal-themed statues than Budapest Zoo. The main ones form part of the Art Nouveau central gate designed by Kornél Neuschloss: two giant artificial stone elephant sculptures facing each other, created by Gyula Maugsch. Inside the institution are various other animal statues, crocodiles, snakes, seagulls and even an elephant deity, while our favourite is sadly extinct and perhaps a warning: the dodo.