Wildmannlisloch - Höhle am Selunerruck

Useful Information

Location: At the northern slopes of Mt Seluns, one of the seven Churfirsten. From Starkenbach take the Selunbahn (cable car), then 10 minutes walk to the cave. Ascend by foot 2.5 h.
Open: No restrictions. Concerning snow summer and autumn are recommended. [2007]
Fee: free [2007]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=192.1 m, VR=2.4 m, A=1,628 m asl.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1703 first written account by the priest Johann Heinrich Scherrer.
1819 first use of the name Wildenmannlisloch.
15-JUL-1906 first exploration by Emil Bächler.
01-OCT-1923 start of extensive excavations by Emil Bächler and Alfred Ziegler.
1927 excavations completed, a total of 218 excavation days.


The Wildenmannlisloch (Hole of the Wild Man) is a very easy small cave on the mountain range called the Churfirsten. Located on the northern slopes of Mt Seluns, it is reached from the Selns Alpe. The cave is not very impressive from the speleological view, but it is an important excavation site.

The cave is known for a very long time. It was used by ancient man for millennia, it was often visited or at least known during history. It became an important part of local legends which exaggerated the size of the cave. One legend tells it was home to the two feet high wilde Männlein (wild men), a sort of legendary dwarfs which were friendly to people. They helped people and sometimes came into the valley to do some work. But after a shepard gave them some food and another one some clothes, they were never seen again. This is obviously the origin of the cave name. Stories about passages high enough to drive a wagon inside and several hours walk long reveal that many people talked about the cave but few really visited it.

The first written mention was made by the priest Pfarrer Johann Heinrich Scherrer from Alt St. Johann in 1703. In his book Beschreibung der Toggenburgischen Gebirge (Description of the Mountains of Toggenburg) he tells about the sixth of the Churfirsten, the Luner- or Selunerruck, which has a hole below its peak. But he did not mention a name, the name Wildenmannlisloch appeared first in the booklet Zwinglis Geburtsort (Zwinglis Birthplace) by the priest Pfarrer J. Fr. Franz.

The history of the Wildenmannlisloch is connected with Emil Bächler, a famous local archaeologist and naturalist. The first exploration on the 15-JUL-1906 revealed teeth and bones of cave bears (Ursus spelaeus). But it took more than twenty years, until 01-OCT-1923, to start extensive excavations at the cave. Emil Bächler and Alfred Ziegler excavated the cave during five years, always in the autumn. During 218 excavation days they discovered the remains of 50 one to eight years old cave bears. But unlike other bear cave they discovered a skull very far inside the cave, which they interpreted as human influence, probably cultic actions. They also discovered the bones of other mammals like cave lion, chamois, marmot, snow rabbit (Lepus timidus), wolf, and fox, but only in much lesser numbers. They also found an artifact, a stone tool made of green, oily quartzite which is not found in this area. Ancient man must have brought this tool from far away. However, no human bones were found, which is interpreted that the cave was used as a hunter station, but not for burials. Findings from the cave are exhibited in the Toggenburger Museum in Lichtensteig.