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Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science

Breeds of Livestock - Pyrenean Tarpan Horse

Breeds of Livestock - Pyrenean Tarpan Horse

Pyrenean Tarpan

The Pyrenean Tarpans are known by various names depending on the country, in France they were called Navarre Pony, in the Basque region as Pottok, in Poland they are the Konink breed type, in Spain, Asturian; Portugal they are known as Garrano.  Each these breeds is highly regional but genetically they are extremely similar.  The Pyrenean Tarpan are the result of a focused attempt to preserve the purest remaining animals of this type.

It is believed that these horses are the direct descendants of the Magdalenien Tarpans shown on the walls of the caves of Lascaux, Combarelles, Isturitz or Altamira.

After the last ice age, the warmer weather and higher rainfall caused deep forest to replace the moors in a relatively short time (about 2000 years).  As a result in this change in environment the horses became brown and black to avoid predators and to keep the photons in this biotype very dark so they were drying faster when they were wet. The young horses retain their original Tarpan coloration for the first 3 months of life.

As the human population increased in the region the wild ponies were forced into the poorer areas and the high hills and mountains.  This is the reason why, before 1950, it was possible to find these wild horses living free in the mountains from Basque-Country to Asturies and Galice.  But since 1970, people have them with Welsh, Arabians, Spanish, Shetland, heavy horses as Bretons and Comtois, and the original wild subspecies of Pyrenean Tarpan was about to disappear by 1990.

The specific blood antigens of the original Pyrenean Tarpans is know from veterinary studies done in 1976.  Using this criterion animals designated as Pyrenean Tarpans must have these specific antigens as well as pass a 56 point morphological exam.

Since 1990, an organization is working to study, find, and conserve the few last Pyrenean Tarpans. 20 mares and only 4 stallions (the oldest is now 30 years old) have been saved and this little group has been put into a reserve in the middle of a 8.500 ha of wild mountain. Since 1990, nine other groups of sometime 2 mares and a stallion have been introduce back in different wild mountains to avoid inbreeding.

Reference:

Michel LAFORET / CONSERVATOIRE DES RACES PRIMITIVES, Ruserve Naturelle du Pottok, La Maison du Pottok, 64780, Bidarray, France.  Tel: 33 559 52 21 14   Tel and Fax office: 33 559 24 63 05    e-mail: laforet3@club-internet.fr
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Added May 11, 1999

 

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