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August 23, 2008 | | Comments 0

Tarpan Horses

Tarpan Horses

Tarpan Horses

Reconstructing the Tarpan Horse Breed

The Tarpan horse breed has quite an unusual history. Technically, the breed is an extinct one. Recently though, the characteristics of the breed have been reconstructed, paving the way for the modern Tarpan to emerge. How were breeders able to accomplish such a feat?

Before you examine the emergence of the modern Tarpan, it is important to first go back to the history of the original breed. The ancestors of the original Tarpan breed were ancient ones, having roamed Europe and Central Asia for thousands of years. They were typically steppe and forest dwellers. From the very beginning, this breed was distinctly a wild one. As opposed to feral horse breeds that once knew human domestication before being set out into the wild, true wild horses like the original Tarpan were never domesticated or controlled by breeders.

It was because of the uncontrolled freedom of the early Tarpans that the breed developed a hardy nature. They had to be strong and sturdy to survive harsh environments without human help. If the Tarpan horse breed only had the natural environment to contend with, they would never have gone extinct. As it were however, human movement and developments in human society proved to be more fatal to the Tarpan than any harsh environment.

As time passed, human settlements increased and technology improved. This meant that more and more space was needed to accommodate the growing human population. The natural homes of the Tarpans were therefore occupied by settlers and human structures. This left the Tarpan with no choice but to compete for space. Because there wasn’t much left for the Tarpan to live on, they began invading human properties, destroying crops and mating with farm horses. As a result, local farmers began killing Tarpans that were within their reach.

Unfortunately, the last of the breed eventually perished in the second half of the 1800s long before animal welfare and preservation became popular concepts. It was a good thing though that the Tarpans were primarily wild in nature. Since they roamed around freely, they were also able to influence a couple of different horse breeds. In the 1900s, the breeds that carried Tarpan blood were used to recreate the modern Tarpan.

The effort to rebuild the Tarpan breed began with the Polish government. Polish horses called Koniks that had descended from the Tarpan were gathered and kept in a reserve. Later on, German zoologists Lutz and Heinz Heck also contributed to the effort. Aside from the Konik, they also gathered other horses that had Tarpan influence such as the Swedish Gotland and paired these horses with the Przewalski. The Przewalski is a Mongolian breed that is the only recognized wild horse breed in modern times. Since the Mongolian wild horses shared the same kind of wild existence as the old Tarpan, they became natural choices for breeding.

Today, more and more of the offspring of the breeding pairs are exhibiting Tarpan traits. The modern Tarpan however is still far from becoming a safe and established breed. There are still very few of these modern Tarpan around.

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