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Konik horses
Country of origin: Poland
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Konik () 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 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 features, for example some breeds have the 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 the Biłgoraj 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.


Nature reserves

As it is genetically very close to the extinct tarpan,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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

  • Height at the shoulder: 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 grullo, or "mouse-gray."

Prevalence in Poland

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

Breeding centres

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

External links


  • Maas, P.H.J. 2006. Selective breeding. The Extinction Website. Downloaded at 27 August 2006.
  • Markerink, M., 2002. Koniks, wilde paarden in Nederland. Stichting Ark, Hoog Keppel.
  • Volf, J. 1979. "Tarpanoidni kun ("konik") a jeho chov v Popielne (Polsko)"/ "The tarpanoid horse ("konik") and its breeding in Popielno (Poland)". Gazella 2:67-73.


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