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Michael Aufhauser, the founder of Gut Aiderbichl

How Gut Aiderbichl Began

Michael Aufhauser and Irene Florence were searching for a place to house Michael’s horses and for animal shelters to keep rescued animals. When they started out, there were only 25 animals. Their friendship with a bank manager helped them purchase the beautiful estate above Lake Wallersee by the town of Henndorf. Building attractive stables and estate premises made plenty of people curious and visitors already showed up to view the estate under construction.

Gut Aiderbichl attracted an above-average level of interest for a regional property. Media interest was high. Animal rights campaigners made contact and in 2001 suggested holding an ecumenical religious service for animals. At that time, animals were in dire need, cattle especially. Millions were senselessly "culled" and the report on the religious service focused the spotlight on how and why these animals were treated that way.

Gut Aiderbichl emerged as a place to care for animals in a way that’s true to their nature, but it also became a popular place for everyone who wanted to help animals in need, but without knowing where they were to provide shelter for rescued animals. Very quickly, the existing stables had to be expanded. Irene Florence was still able to follow this development, though she sadly died in 2002.

Without his partner, Michael Aufhauser now had to come up with a concept to make an estate of this dimension economically viable over the longer term.

He established a GmbH with administrative offices and a non-profit trust found (foundation) with a strong team to lead Gut Aiderbichl into the future. Dieter Ehrengruber and Friederike Grünthal took over as managing directors.

The number of rescued animals at Gut Aiderbichl grew dramatically and the first external properties were established.

Michael Aufhauser’s keenest interest is to see that large animals such as horses and cattle, yet also pigs, goats and sheep are not left in good faith in shelters where maintenance and the cause of the sanctuary is different to Gut Aiderbichl. Michael Aufhauser’s approach was heavily influenced by Johanna Wothke, founder of "Pro Animale" (Pro Animals), and they have cooperated for many years. Johanna Wothke promises that all the animals she rescues will no longer live in fear and stress. That’s also an important principle for keeping animals at Gut Aiderbichl.

If horses and other large animals are to live at Gut Aiderbichl until the end of their natural lives, this involves huge resources for their welfare and maintenance. They are meant to feel at home – just like house pets with private owners who offer them ideal living conditions. All this requires plenty of support and is only possible with exceptional and brilliant employees who have outstanding training.

In 2006, Bernd Funda, Chairman of the Board of the Dr. Hatto Egerer – Stiftung in Deggendorf, turned to Michael Aufhauser. Together with his wife, he had long since admired the work of Gut Aiderbichl. When Dr. Hatto Egerer died, he left a legacy – 12 of his own horses living at his estate in Eichberg near Deggendorf. The board of the foundation determined that the budget offered insufficient liquid funds to keep these 12 horses at the estate until the end of their natural lives. The Dr. Hatto Egerer – Stiftung consequently leased the estate and horses to Gut Aiderbichl over the longer term. That’s how another place for humans and animals to come together was created in Bavaria and with the same philosophy – Gut Aiderbichl Bayern was born! Gut Aiderbichl substantially expanded the estate and more generous expansion is planned in future.

The Köglerhof property in Carinthia and Brandstätter estate in Kilb/Lower Austria are now also part of the Gut Aiderbichl non-profit trust fund. In total, Gut Aiderbichl has 25 sanctuaries in Austria and Germany, Switzerland and France giving the best of care to more than 5.600 saved animals. Both estates in Henndorf and Bavaria make huge efforts to generate the resources needed for keeping all the animals – visitors can meet the animals, they can enjoy light snacks in our restaurants or purchase gifts and annual membership tickets or animals sponsorships.

Our estates not open to visitors are maintained by donations and grants. That means on top of the responsibility towards our many animals, there’s a huge effort to ensure cost-effective operations. Gut Aiderbichl is a success, but it’s still not making a profit. No state funds are available to support the cause.

And this cause forms Michael Aufhauser’s life’s work. On the one hand, this is all about preserving and developing what’s here, and on the other hand it’s a case of supporting young people who will manage and take care of Gut Aiderbichl by embracing the philosophy and ensuring it continues to be a success for years to come.

Michael’s most important message remains to communicate to everyone: "Animals are not objects, but empathetic fellow creatures. They are capable of feeling pain – just as we are." Michael Aufhauser believes it is irresponsible to force them to suffer the dreadful living conditions of mass breeding and animal transports over vast distances in stifling heat or freezing cold, in overloaded trucks, relentlessly for days and nights and often without food or drink, and finally only to end up at the slaughterhouse.

Michael Aufhauser lives in Salzburg. Of course, he is surrounded by animals. Every day, his time is taken up with meeting the needs of this ambitious project. He gives his time purely on a voluntary basis for Gut Aiderbichl and does not receive any profits – neither from book, film or other royalties. Everything that he does is exclusively for the benefit of the Gut Aiderbichl project.

About Gut Aiderbichl Henndorf:
An even number and a safe bet: In 2000, the first Gut Aiderbichl estate was under construction. Michael Aufhauser worked closely with architect Michael Ferch, to create a truly special place for animals. In 2005, the estate was substantially expanded together with construction company Wolf, Austria.

Michael set high standards: he wanted to find a place surrounded by pristine nature, set in its own estate premises and bordering other rural properties in the rolling countryside near Salzburg. Assisted by a bank manager at RAIKA, Michael Aufhauser finally found the dream and purchased the Aiderbichl estate.

Gut Aiderbichl is a Celtic name. “Ayd” means “fire” in Celtic and “Bichl” stems from the Old High German word for “hill”. Research showed that in the 8th century, the Bavarian Überacker family lived on this undulating terrain by Salzburg. In those days, they made sure their estate stood on ground with special natural forces. Gut Aiderbichl is situated on this energized land.

Natural materials were deliberately used for today’s buildings. Larch timber, for example, was felled during a particular moon phase. A building envelope of natural timber, without chemical treatment, forms the estate’s main structure. Many old and traditional building methods were used to construct Gut Aiderbichl. These styles harmoniously integrate into the idyllic natural environment.

On the one hand, Gut Aiderbichl needs to be elegant, while on the other hand communicating a sense of humility for Creation. Michael Aufhauser invited some of his famous friends to campaign for the estate in the media. He knew many of our celebrity supporters from his days as an actor or through social contacts such as his close friendship with Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of many celebrities, the estates quickly became popular. Journalists and other media representatives continually produce glowing reports about their experiences at Gut Aiderbichl.


Today Gut Aiderbichl is an international name. And that’s no surprise! The happy stories about our animals, initiatives and caring attitude towards those less powerful and the passionate plea on behalf of humanity at all life-stages coincides with mankind’s deepest instinct to pursue dreams. Meetings between humans and animals can be healing and truly work wonders! Visitors, readers and viewers get involved, help out and stay alert for animals in distress in their neighborhood.

Michael Aufhauser and Gut Aiderbichl not only support animals, but also people in dire need of assistance and whose cause may be forgotten by the world. Hospice patients receive especially  strong support from Gut Aiderbichl. Projects for children, adults seeking to learn values and minority groups have already assisted countless people to find a meaningful and life-enhancing path.

Now, only four years later we’ve achieved so much. But Gut Aiderbichl is still growing – and winning a place in the hearts of everyone who feels moved to get personally involved. The day when humanity is really back in fashion is the moment when establishing Gut Aiderbichl will be more than worthwhile. This place is a symbol of humanity!

Gut Aiderbichl is mainly self-financing thanks to visitor admissions, merchandising and tourism. Thousands of Friends of Gut Aiderbichl support our Gut Aiderbichl estate with the “Aiderbichl Good-Card”, with memberships in the Förderkreis für Tierrechte or animal sponsorships and as corporate sponsors and promoters of the Gut Aiderbichl Trust Fund.

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