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Horse Breeds
First Posted: July 14, 2009
Sep 24, 2010

Konik or Polish Konik Horse

Polish Konik or Konic Horse

Country of Origin: Poland

Pyrenean Tarpan part of the Konik Breed Type: In Poland-Pottok; In France-Navarre Pony; In Spain-Asturian; In Portugal-Garrano.

The Konik (Polish: konik polski) or Polish primitive horse is a small horse, a kind of semi-wild pony, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of kon, the Polish word for "horse" (sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning "pony"). However, the name "konik" or "Polish konik" is used to refer to certain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive features, for example, some breeds have the dun coat and dorsal stripe.

In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznan University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from the Bilgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Bialowieza Forest and kept until 1808 in Zamoyski zoo. These had later been given to local peasants and crossbred with domestic horses. The Polish government commandeered all the koniks that displayed tarpan-like features. The result of this selective breeding program is that semi-wild herds of koniks can be seen today in many nature reserves and parks, and can also be seen in the last refugium in Bialowieza Forest.

Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse.

Nature Reserves

As it is genetically very close to the extinct tarpan, the original European wild horse, it has been introduced into many nature reserves in the Netherlands such as the Oostvaardersplassen.

Along with the wisent and the Heck Cattle, the konik are big grazers. They keep the landscape open, and when kept without supplemental winter feeding, they alter the landscape to produce more parklike forest.

In Maastricht, the Netherlands, a herd was released in 1995, in 'de Kleine Weerd,' a 12 hectare strip of land (roughly 100 m by 1 km) along the river Meuse. The area is open to the public, but people are advised not to go near the horses because their reaction is unpredictable. Koniks have also been introduced in Latvia and the United Kingdom because of the success of such programs. Koniks have been introduced into Wicken Fen near Cambridge by the National Trust. Koniks have also been introduced to a number of Nature Reserves in Kent, England by Wildwood Trust (the charity which runs the Wildwood Discovery Park) and Kent Wildlife Trust. These include Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, Ham Fen National Nature Reserve, Whitehall Meadow, Sandwich Bay and Park Gate Down.

Physical Characteristics

The Konik Horse is 13.1 hands at the shoulder, their chest circumference is 66 inches, the breed is short, with a strong and stocky build, light head with a straight profile, the neck emerges low out of the chest, the chest is deep, the mane and tail are thick and the coat color is grullo or "mouse-gray." The breed is short in height, with a strong and stocky build, light head with a straight profile, the neck emerges low out of the chest. The Konik has a deep chest, a thick mane, the hair coat is grullo, or "mouse-gray."

Prevalence in Poland

Private breeders: 310 females, 90 males, State studs: 120 females, 50 males

Breeding Centers

Nature reserves: Popielno, Roztocze National Park, Stobnica Research Station of the University of Life Sciences in Poznan
Stud conditions: Popielno, Sieraków

For More Information:

Rare Horse Breed Proves Crucial To England's Wetlands
The Extinction Website - Excellent
Rare horse breed proves crucial to delicate ecosystem

Horse Breeds