Folk knowledge of non-domestic mammals among ethnic Hungarians in North-Western Romania

  • Ulicsni V
  • Svanberg I
  • Molnár Z
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Abstract

Most ethnobiological research on mammals has focused on the domesticated species and largely ignored the wild taxa. We carried out a research among the ethnic Hungarians in Nuşfalǎu, Romania, to document the local ecological knowledge on mammals. We studied which kinds of local wild mammals the villagers know, which folk taxa they can identify, the names they use for these taxa, and what do they know about the morphological, behavioural and ecological characteristics, as well as the economical impact of these mammals. Twenty persons were interviewed with the aid of colour photographs of 62 mammal species. Five hundred and twenty three individual data on the various folk taxa were thus gathered. The majority of the interviewees were still possessed surprisingly detailed and precise knowledge on the wild species living in their surroundings. They classified the 62 mammal species into 42 folk taxa and grouped them into 11 larger sets. The groupings were almost similar to the scientific classification except for one group which mainly contained mice and voles. The eastern hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus) had a unique taxonomy with two highly distinct folk taxa. The characteristics of the known folk taxa were described according to their morphological, ethological-ecological, and cultural salience. In the case of physical appearance, naming of a prototype and comparing to it was typical. In terms of ecological salience of feeding habit, characteristics of movement, habitat, breeding habit, bashfulness, voice, annual and daily pattern of behaviour, and observability were the most important characteristics. The comparison to humans was particularly important when describing behaviour. In terms of cultural salience, the characterization of harm caused and benefit gained was unequivocally dominant. The overwhelming majority of the species were known through personal experience. The effect of books and media was negligible. Local knowledge of wild animals is part of our common European cultural heritage. This knowledge is fading rapidly, and most of it may be lost in the next decades. © NwjZ, Oradea, Romania, 2013.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Classification
  • Cultural heritage
  • Ethnozoology
  • Folk taxonomy
  • Salience

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  • ISSN: 18435629
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-84890044900
  • PUI: 370455583
  • SGR: 84890044900

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