Did you know that the raven is one of the most intelligent creatures living on the planet? In our opinion it mirrors many characteristics of human social behavior.
Whoever is lucky enough to gain experience with such a creature will certainly never forget it. There are many books based on this very subject. The fascinating experiences that are written about are all very similar and are echoed within our story.
In the Myths of the old Germanic tribes there were two raven companions of the father god Odin. The one was called Hugin (thought) and the other Munin (memory) and the two of them flew through the worlds by day and returned at night to report on what they had witnessed. Nothing remained secret or hidden from the two birds and Odin was therefore kept informed of all that was occurring in the world.
The adoration of these birds in many Indian cultures goes even further. In many Indian cultures ravens are adored as the highest of godly creatures, responsible for creating the world.
The birds always seem to be good for a joke and have a certain wickedness that is teamed with a malicious joy. This is best explained here in this short Indian story:
When the raven created the world each river flowed in both directions. The raven found this to be too simple for the humans and so, to annoy them, it forced the rivers to flow in only one direction, as they do today. To crown off this new achievement the raven created mosquitoes to constantly bite them.
Ravens have immense flying agility, curiosity and cleverness. They have a huge capacity for adaptation; they eat seemingly everything, surpass even the great birds of prey in their survival skills and have distributed themselves worldwide.
They have even been known to snatch the prey from beneath the noses, so to speak, of birds of prey, sometimes working in teams. Whilst one pulls on the tail of the bird, the other waits for the bird of prey to turn around to defend itself. This is the niche moment when the waiting raven captures the prey.
When one plans to muscle in between the greater competition and capture various market areas with pure cleverness, speed and agility, what could be a more suitable company logo than this bird?
So much for theory! At this point in the story, the company founders have only learned about the bird through books and zoo visits. The company logo came to life in 1994 when an apprentice at Rohloff AG brought in a raven that had fallen out of its nest, giving us the responsibility of rearing the young bird. First step: we christened it “Rohloff”. We started to experience aspects of the stories we’d read and had a great deal of fun with the young bird. So much so that since then, we have regularly accepted young ravens from around Kassel who have suffered similar bad luck.
These birds only seem to fall from their nests around mid May and only stay with us until approximately October/November. They then leave to join the other young birds with which they fly around with for 1-3 years. In this group they find their life-partner with whom they then learn synchronized flight. In this regard ravens are more intelligent than humans. Only once the synchronized flight is perfected will they start to look for a home territory and begin building a nest.
Ravens remain with just one partner for their whole lives and are everything that we would not necessarily expect from a parent bird. They endure a long and intense brooding care. The young stay with their parents until about mid fall or early winter because they are not born with the master skills. These skills are learned and developed through hours of play and imitation.
They even walk in front of the young, showing them air maneuvers on the ground before taking to the skies in order to teach them the art of flying. This just goes to show what important roles the raven parents take on.
Anyway, let’s get back to the story of OUR first raven.
Rohloff matured in the chain production facility in an idyllic back yard at Mönchebergstraße 30 in Kassel. He slept at night in an aviary in the yard and would sit during the day (before he could fly) on the handle of the radio cassette recorder that stood on the chain-measuring table. With this closeness, Rohloff was an integrated part of the company.
In many stories (e.g. Diebische Elster) the raven is accused of stealing all shiny things such as jewelry and money. Our experience does not support such stories. The raven notices the high importance of items intuitively and quickly. It is much more the things that are important to people. His curiosity led him to study and investigate everything that occurred under his beak. We found that the things he wanted to keep for himself were things that were of value to anyone of us - a human quality? The things our raven took were letters, cigarettes, matches, tobacco papers and the complexly assembled chain machine spares. Other shiny things such as the chain link plates, which were readily available, didn't seem to interest the young raven at all. Anything that was of interest to our raven, Rohloff, however, had to be stored somewhere thief-proof. Rohloff's desire to open the letters and see what was inside was so great that his curiosity led him to stealing these directly out of the postman's hand! His love for cigarettes also regularly caused alarm as he flew off with a glowing cigarette in his mouth that he had stolen from the ashtray.
Rohloff soon became both a specially loved and hated resident of the Mönchebergstraße. As soon as his aviary was opened in the morning he proceeded to do a collection of overestimated, carefree flying maneuvers that landed on a street lantern outside. Much to the disappointment of a long-sleeping unemployed couple, whose bedroom was situated right opposite this lantern, Rohloff would sing a chorus or two until the window of our apartment opened on the fourth floor and he was let inside. As of this moment - nothing was safe. According to him, everything had to be inspected, everything that was packed had to be unpacked – there could be something important inside! From here, he would proceed into the back yard to visit the chain production. At approximately 9:00am, grandma would call from across the yard to announce that breakfast was ready. Rohloff sat on the arm of grandmas chair and behaved himself as she ate breakfast and so that he would receive his morning treat, thereafter he would retreat to the nearby kindergarten. He loved to play chase with the children and scrounge for sweets. At around midday he went to join the guests of the Italian restaurant across the street. He received many treats there too and managed to annoy their service staff by stealing their tools whilst they carried out their repairs. Daily at 4 o’clock on the dot he would return to the company yard to join the employees for their ‘after-work’ beer and at the end of each exhausting day he would finally retreat into his ferret-proof aviary for the night.
Our little Rohloff loved to go for drives in the car and was with us on numerous occasions at our booths during shows in Cologne and Friedrichshafen. If we decided not take him with us, he would spend the time that we were away playing with friends or the pets next door and patrolling the backyard as if he were a guard dog. Every stranger to his territory would be attacked. Anyone who showed signs of fear would subsequently be badgered further. Thus, it was rare for a postman to leave the yard at a normal pace without screaming!
A certain level of wickedness, vengefulness, furtiveness paired with a little spitefulness gives these creatures their human-like attributes. As we have said, there is enough material here to write books on and we simply cannot tell all the stories.
We do have room for one small anecdote, however:
A resident in our backyard suffers from Rhypophobia (a dirt phobia). One day Rohloff landed on the washing line that she had setup on her balcony. She promptly scared him away with a broom, however, as of this day, Rohloff paid regular visits to the woman, terrifying her with his dirty feet on her clean washing. For some reason the other residents’ washing didn’t interest him in the slightest. Eventually the woman stormed into our yard, crying and shouting in complaint about the situation. Rohloff followed her, perched on the gutter of garage roof and watched the whole spectacle unfold with a curious sense of achievement.
In the following years, we have raised a number of young ravens and in doing so have learned that each and every one develops their own special character. We have experienced the intelligent ones and the stupid, the clever and the clumsy as well as the brave and the cowardly.
When observing larger groups, it is easy to quickly identify their human reactions. A few ravens from every group are generally slightly braver and, after just a small amount of consideration, they would have no problems in sourcing food from a new feeding ground. Most of the ravens in the group remain in regular formation and would never trust themselves to simply take some food. However, if one of the braver birds is carrying a large morsel, it may well occur that the cowardly ravens team up against him and chase after him to capture the food.
If we have piqued your curiosity and you wish to learn more about ravens, we have included a short reference list (this is how everything started with us too). Should you meet a raven when on one of your tours you are more than welcome to call it “Rohloff” – it could, quite possibly, be one of the 30 ravens that have to date been raised by us and have adopted this name.
Die Seele der Raben, Bernd Heinrich, Listverlag; ISBN 3471-77887-X
Rabenschwarze Intelligenz, Josef H. Reichholf, Herbigverlag; ISBN 978-3-7766-2600-1
Mein Freund der große schwarze Vogel, Hans-J.Pauli, Verlag Börner PR; ISBN 3-930675-05-6
Der Kolkrabe, Gertrude Drack, Verlag Admiral; ISBN 80-900697-0-3
Die fidelen Rabentaler, Gertrude Drack, Verlag Admiral; ISBN 80-900697-3-8
Rabenbande, Gertrude Drack, Verlag Denkmayr; ISBN 3-902488-30-1
Der Rabe, Bodo W. Klös, Galerie und Edition Noir; ISBN 3-9805890-0-5
Der Rabe Kork, Otto Boris, Martin Kettler Verlag 1974
Hans Huckebein, Wilhelm Busch, Unipartverlag GmbH; ISBN 3-8122-7901-1