The feral Konik (Equus caballos) is a “recovery” of the Tarpan (Equus ferus ferus) and also known as the Eurasian wild horse. This is an extinct subspecies of the wild horse and a prehistoric wild horse type that ranged from Southern France and Spain and eastwards to central Russia.
In Spain, France and Scandinavia there are cave drawings of horses that are considered to be Tarpans. Also in southern Russia there are artefacts fro mthese ancient horses. In Bulgaria palaeontologists have found Tarpan bones, which are proof that this wild horse once lived here as well.
Tarpans got extinct in wild nature between 1875 and 1890, when the last known wild mare was accidentally killed in Russia during an attempt to capture it. The last captive Tarpan died in 1909 in a Russian zoo. Tarpans inhabited Bulgaria in the past but were eredicated by people.
At first, in the 1930’s, several attempts were initiated to re-create aTarpan look-a-like through selective breeding with domestic races which allegedly retained much Tarpan DNA in their genomes. The look-a-like Tarpan that is reintroduced in Bulgaria is also known as Konik (Polish for ‘little horse’). This breed originates from Polish Tarpan re-breeding projects. In 1936 Tadeuzs Vetulani was fascinated by the exterior resemblance of some specific primitive farmer’s horses and the extinct Tarpan. He started a breeding program with 35 of such horses from an area where a century earlier the last Tarpans were captured in the wild and distributed to farmers. In some countries – like in the Netherlands – this Polish Konik has been reintroduced to nature parks very successfully some thirty years ago.
Tarpans are robust horses with very well developed social behaviour. A social herd of horses is a very strong opponent towards predators like wolves. Such horse group is perfectly capable of protecting their foals, according to the experts. Towards humans Tarpans expose their quiet, inquisitive and well-intentioned character. The total number of Tarpans in the world at this moment is around 4000, almost half of them are in the Netherlands. In 2010, 21 Dutch Tarpans were reintroduced to Latvian nature. In previous years Tarpans from Holland also recolonised English, French, Belgian and German nature areas.
In 2011, 12 koniks have been brought from the Netherlands to Bulgaria and reintroduced in the nature of the Eastern Rhodopes. A second group of koniks was transported two years later. Today more than 70 konisk live freely in the wilderness of the Eastern Rhodopes, near Boynik and the abandoned village of Sbor.
These horses deserve to receive the status wild officially, as they freely roam in the nature as real wild horses.
This is the mission of our Status Wild Initiative.
The decision has to be made by the Bulgarian authorities. It can put Bulgaria on the map of the world as the first country ever that has given the status “wild” to Konik horses.