Fortunately, these horses found another vocation, closer to their origin and potential. They have been reintroduced into Northern Europe, in large nature reserves, where they have joined other large herbivores, in order to manage these areas in a natural way.
In the Netherlands, a process of de-domestication is under-way, with free-roaming herds of hundreds of animals. This has enabled them to recover their traditional natural behaviour patterns.
Pour en savoir plus, télécharger la version intégrale ci-dessous
In France, the groups of Tarpans (mainly in the East of the country) are actually small and the areas where they are kept are of limited size. The Tarpan Project came into being to draw attention to, and do justice to, the immense potential of this animal.
Three main lines of approach were later developed :
- By resuming Tadeusz Vetulani's work in conserving this ancestral strain;
- By considering the Tarpan as a vital element among the large herbivores, which play an essential role in maintaining the natural balance of some ecosystems.
- By using the physical characteristics of this horse in habitat management in some areas of ecological or scenic value. They are kept roaming freely in the open throughout the year, without any anti-parasitic treatment (very toxic for the micro-fauna). In winter especially, these horses help control ligneous growth.
- By developing eco-tourism around the rewilding concept, and dedomesticating this unique representative of "man's noblest conquest".
The Tarpan Project was launched in 2004 in the Bugey region (near Lyon). Its long-term goal is to reintroduce the Tarpan, in a state of "controlled freedom", into vast natural areas.
Tadeusz VETULANI, a scientist aware of the unique value of this zoological heritage, undertook a retro-selection process, using animals which displayed the most characteristic features. The aim was to genetically stabilize their primitive features (natural resistance, phenotype).
The programme was interrupted during World War II and finally came to an end when Vetulani died. The result was that this descendant of the primitive horse went under the name of "little Polish horse" (Konik Polski), and basically joined the world of traditional horse breeders.
The primitive European horse (Equus ferus ferus) which appeared in the early Holocene period (after the Ice Age) became extinct in Europe during the Neolithic period. Probably cross-bred with the first domestic horses, their offspring were still living in different parts of Eastern Europe until comparatively recently.
A group of these "Tarpans" was captured in the Eastern part of Poland around 1780 and introduced into a game park. After a process of domestication, they were finally given to farmers of the Bilgoraj region and maintained in a rudimentary state. Despite new cross-breeding with the farmers' "koniks", this strain retained most of its genetic heritage. These horses were discovered by Polish horse specialists in the early 20th century.