Wild horses were a common part of European nature before farming was developed. Their height was 1,2-1,3 m up to the nape; wild horses were strong grey horses with a dark stripe across their back, dark zebra like stripes on the legs; dark mane and tail. In Baltic some animals still survived in the medieval period. Even at the beginning of 17-th century in some European cities, the archers were employed to hunt wild horses that used to damage cultivated areas. Last of them were distributed to peasants in Poland (1808). The last observed wild horse died in Russia (1887). Archaeologists and folk songs have proved existence of wild horses in Latvia.
Rebirth of Wild Horses
In 1936 Polish professor Vitelani started reflexive selection of domestic horses that were mostly like wild ones. As a result of domestic horse took a turn for a wild one through several generations. It was named “Konik Polski” – Polish horse. As to its appearance and capability to survive it is very like the wild horse in Netherlands and Poland wild horses are involved in nature protection. They help to restore and preserve wild meadows. WWF-Latvia started to stimulate the return of wild horses in 1999 in Latvia.
Wild Horses in nature
Horses are herbivorous animals: They feed on grass reeds, bushes and bark. They free the land from bushes and reeds stimulate the formation of forest fields. In such a way they make living areas for other grassland animals and plants.
Horses are flock animals. They live in harems, groups of young horses and stallions. Harem consists of stallion that is the guard of the group and several mares with their colts. The guard can win its position after severe fights against other stallions.
The pregnancy lasts for 11 months. The usual months of birth are April and May. Human interruption isn’t needed.
The group of young horses include mares, which are driven away from harem. This is a natural way to escape copulation among very close relatives. Stallions who have not got harems make groups of their own. Living together gives a possibility to survive cold, fight against insects, and escape predacious beasts. It is a good lesson for colts.
Before winter wild horses grow thick hair and under skin fat. In comparison with domestic horses they survive without human help all the year round.
Wild horses return to Latvia!
In 1999 WWF-Latvia (Pasaules Dabas Fonds) transported 18 “Konik Polski” wild horses. Their home is at the Lake Pape area in the district of Liepāja.
Every spring new foals are born at the Lake Pape natural grazing area. We can see great role of horses in nature protection. In the meadows of uneven grass one can meet wild geese and cranes, field birds make their nests in wet meadows, foxes hunt mice, disturbed by wild horses. We can enjoy bloomy flowers in former farming areas, bees gathering honey.
Pasaules Dabas Fonds is fully convinced that in future wild horses will help to create and maintain the great variety of nature diversity, as well as improve economical conditions of local inhabitants. Wild horses like elks or red deer are a inevitable part of the Latvian nature.