The Konik (Polish: konik polski or konik biłgorajski) or Polish primitive horse is a smallhorse, a kind of semi-feral horse, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (pluralkoniki) is the diminutive of koń, 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 markings including a dun coat and dorsal stripe.
In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznań University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from theBiłgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Białowieża 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 Białowieża Forest.
Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse.
As it is phenotypically very close to the extinct Tarpan, the original European wild horse, it has been introduced into many nature reserves in theNetherlands such as the Oostvaardersplassen.
In Maastricht, the Netherlands, a herd was released in 1995, in 'de Kleine Weerd', a 12hectare 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. Following the success of this program, Koniks were also brought toLatvia and the United Kingdom, where they were placed in Wicken Fen near Cambridgeby the National Trust. Due to the efforts of the Wildwood Trust, a charity which operates the Wildwood Discovery Park, and the Kent Wildlife Trust, Koniks also now live on several more reserves, including the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, Ham Fen National Nature Reserve, Whitehall Meadow,Sandwich Bay and Park Gate Down. In addition, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust introduced Polish Koniks for grazing as part of a broad restoration project of the Redgrave and Lopham Fen.
- Height at the withers: 134 centimetres (53 in) (13.1 hands)
- Chest circumference: 168 centimetres (66 in)
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 blue dun though often colloquially called "mouse-gray."
Prevalence in Poland
- Private breeders: 310 females, 90 males
- State studs: 120 females, 50 malesfashioninn4us.blogspot.com
- Nature reserves: Popielno, Roztocze National Park, Stobnica Research Station of theUniversity of Life Sciences in Poznań
- Stud conditions: Popielno, Sieraków
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