Marsvinfangst-Middelfart-Lillebælt

Porpoise hunts on the Little Belt

Photo: Middelfart Museum

For hundreds of years, hunters sailed out from Middelfart to catch porpoises on the Little Belt. The porpoise is the world's smallest whale and the Little Belt is home to a whole bunch of them. 

Porpoise hunts back in the day

For centuries, Middelfart was the centre of organised porpoise hunts on the Little Belt. The porpoiose is the world's smallest whale. No one knows exactly how far back the porpoise hunts go, but it can be traced back to the 16th century, where old records show a delivery of porpoise flesh from Middelfart. It is known that in 1520, the lord of Hindsgavl Castle was the King's supplier of porpoise. 

At times, there were about 30 men in the hunters guild. Today, porpoise hunts are a thing of the past, but since 1959, the guild is dedicated to preserving the unique history of the porpoise hunts. 

The hunters would set out from Middelfart, in ten small boats. On the Little Belt, they would sail to coordinated positions in the southern parts of the Belt by Fæno and the Gamborg Fjord. As small groups of porpoises swam up through the Belt, the boats would signal each other. 
The hunters used sticks to disturb the water, causing the porpoises to change course. Then some of the boats would push the whales to swim into shallow waters by Svinø, where hunters awaited them with large nets and dragged them to shore. Once captured and killed, the porpoises were loaded onto the boats and sailed back to Middelfart. Here, oil was obtained from the blubber of the whales. The oil was used for lamps. 

Today, the porpoises are still a part of Middelfart and the Little Belt's identity. In fact, the Little Belt has one of the world's densest populations of porpoises, and they are often seen in the waters between Fredericia and Strib and near the two Little Belt Bridges.

Porpoise Day 

Porpoise Day is an annual recurring event focusing on the history of the porpoise and the hunts. It takes place in May - so come by Middelfart and hear the stories, watch the parade and see the beautiful porpoise well in the old town.

Whale Watching

Experience the cute little whales up close on a Whale Watching trip. On this 3-hour trip you will sail out on the Little Belt and enjoy the exciting tales, the beautiful nature and of course the porpoises, which you are sure to see. Try the onboard echo location and hear the special clicking noises the porpoises use to communicate. 
Our whale watching tours depart from both Fredericia and Middelfart all throughout the summer season.