Susauna, Willem Jan Holsboer and silver fox breeding
12 August 2023
Susauna (Oberengadin, Canton Graubünden) is part of the municipality of S-chanf. S-chanf was first mentioned in 1139. The diocese of Chur bought sovereign rights and land in the Oberengadin from the counts of Gamertingen.
The hamlet of Susauna is located at the entrance to Val Susauna on the Vallember stream. Today, Susauna has about 20 inhabitants and is no longer of great economic importance. It used to be a different situation, however.
The old Säumerweg in the Susaunatal (Susauna Valley)
Besides the Flüelepass, the Scalettapass was of great economic importance for the movement of goods and the mule trade (Säumerweg) until the 19th century. A Säumerweg ran through the valley from Tirano (Veltlin, Italy) to Gargellen (Vorarlberg, Austria) and the Lake Constance region (Germany).
Towards the end of the 19th century, the route across the Scaletta became less and less used due to the improvement of other road links and the construction of railways.
At the end of the 19th century, a railway was planned through the valley, the Scaletta Railway. Dutch entrepreneur Willem Jan Holsboer (1834-1898) had already initiated the Landquart-Davos railway (1888). In 1890, the Scaletta railway would be opened and run from Bergell to Chiavenna.
Willem-Jan Holsboer (1834-1898), Heimatmuseum Davos. Photo: Wikipedia
On 2 April 1890, Holsboer also submitted a concession application for a railway line from Cinuos-chel to Martinsbruck, which, as a continuation of the Scaletta line, was to ensure a connection to the Austrian network.
The plans fell through, and the Engadine became accessible by the Albula railway (1903-1904). The route over the Scaletta Pass and the Val Susauna had previously been reduced by the construction of the Flüela Pass (1867).
The Bernina silver fox farm
The innovative power of Graubünden entrepreneurs, not just confectioners, hoteliers and other tourism operators, was also present in Susauna. On 30 December 1928, the “Bernina” silver fox breeding farm bought the land of Chesa cotschna (red house) in the hamlet of Susauna for breeding silver foxes. By December 1929, the complex was completed.
The old farm „Bernina and the Veduta Susauna Pop-up
De Bernina Zilvervosfokkerij
There were 31 fox enclosures and a free range. Besides silver foxes, Karakul (thick-tailed sheep from Bukhara) were also bred there. In 1930, the sheep flock comprised 24 ewes with lambs and one full-blooded Karakul ram.
Due to a massive drop in the price of silver fox fur, many silver fox farms in Switzerland had to close down. It was also the case with the silver fox farm in Susauna in 1934.
The Val Susauna is still a beautiful hiking area with the old Säumerweg, the reformed church (1696) and the old silver fox farm (today’s Veduta Susauna Pop-up as landmarks and a reminder of the ‘good old days’.