W. Grabowski, J. Klewiec, A. Knothe, M.J. Radomska 1/
In the region of Olkusz a local type of sheep is known for high litter size (triplets and quadruplets). It has never been acknowledged as a breed but is known as the Olkuska sheep. At present the old type of Olkuska sheep is endangered as a result of crossing with rams of different breeds, e.g. Romney Marsh. Compared to 10 000 Olkuska sheep in 1960 the number of today is estimated at no more than 200. It can be found on small private farms, usually numbering from one to five. Ewe lambs are mated for the first time at the age of 10 months. Ram lambs as well as part of the ewe lambs from multiple litters are slaughtered for their skins in the autumn.
For several years studies have been conducted by the Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Agricultural University, Krakow, on the old type of Olkuska sheep in the "Domana" flock of about 50 ewes, owned by W. Grabowski, graduate of the Agricultural University. Obeservations show that the Olkuska ewes attain a body weight of about 60 kg, display high litter size (Table 1), good milking performance and mothering ability. It is exemplified by the ewe "Greta", which up to the age of 7 years gave birth to 28 lambs, including 26 weaned, and by the ews "Kaledonia" (Table 2). Studies are also carried out by the Institute of Animal Genetics and Animal Breeding, Polish Academy of Science, on inheritance of high litter size (Olkuska rams are crossed with Merino ewes). The F1 ewes aged one year have shown high fecundity, unusual in Merino (Table 3). We consider that the Olkuska sheep is suitable for developing synthetic fertility lines.
The need to preserve the genetic material of Olkuska sheep should be officially recognized otherwise it will be completely lost since it is a sheep typical of small private farms which with time is becoming less and less numerous.
Table 1 PEDIGREE OF SIRE KORLEONE FROM DOMANA FLOCK
Maximum number of lambs in a litter born by each ewe is evident.
Table 2 REPRODUCTIVE PERFORMANCE OF EWE KALEDONIA BORN IN 1982
|lambs Total||Litter weight (kg)||Body weight and sex of the smallest lamb (kg)|
In 1984 body weight of ewe Kaledonia was 63 kg.
Table 3 FECUNDITY OF EWES (F1) OBTAINED BY CROSSING OLKUSKA RAMS WITH MERINO EWES
|Ram||Daughters No.||Mean litter size
|Litters with triplets No.|
Notice: age at first lambing - 1 year.
E. Rossier 1/, B. Langlois 2/ and A. Audiot 3/
France as well as European countries have kept and still keep an outstanding wealth of equine genetics formed by centuries of service to man especially for traction or transportation. The progressive suppression of these uses since the beginning of the 20th century has a caused a decline in some of them, and an increase in others, and in all cases, it has caused deep mutations of the equine population, involving threats upon this wealth. What are the prospects for exploiting equine breeds as genetic reserves?
A close look at world stocks over the last 30 years shows a drop of about 17 percent in horse numbers (FAO, 1985). This downward movement is gradual compared to France over the same period: 85 percent (Rossier et al., 1984) In compensation, during the same period, an increase of about 14 percent of the number of small equidae (donkeys and mules, Table 1) can be observed, especially in developing countries. The main reason for these movements which have slowed down in recent years, is the intensive mechanization of agriculture and transportation.
Table 1 EVOLUTION OF THE NUMBER OF HORSES AND
EQUIDAE IN THE WORLD FROM 1950 TO 1984
(donkeys and mules)
|Evolution 1950-84 (%)||-19.8||+ 14.0|
Source: FAO, 1985.
In developed countries, the present large decrease in equine production must be analysed more accurately. In fact, two opposite trends are noticeable: a slow but steady increase of racing, sport and pleasure horses but not enough to compensate the rapid disappearance of draught horses, threatened with extinction. Therefore, husbandry is more orients toward pleasure activities than to food production (horse or small equine meat), and more rarely toward keeping some for draught purposes. This is verified in most of the western and northern European countries (Bjarnason 1973; Graaf; Hulsbergen, 1984; Jansson, 1984; Leuenberger, 1984; Rasmussen, 1974; Stelzer, 1973).
Of course, the situation varies with the country: United Kingdom or Germany have almost no draught horses left; in France, these breeds still form almost half of the population (Boue and Rossier, 1979; Bour and Rossier, 1982; Rossier, 1985). The number of small equidae is particularly high in southern Europe: Greece, Italy and Spain (Zafrakas, 1985; Gougaud, 1984); they are almost inexistent in northern countries. Can this be explained by the movements of both horses and donkeys throughout history? Horses would have touched northern Europe through Asia, while the donkey, probably from Nubia, had two routes, one to southern Europe, the other to northern Africa, spreading across the Middle East and the Mediterranean (Poplin, 1985).
We can therefore see a development of highly specialized racing breeds, strong consumers of feed and needing much equipment and various infrastructures, such as the Thoroughbred for flat racing or the trotting breeds for trotting races. In the same way some special lines of saddle horses for jumping, three-day events, dressage or driving have progressively been established. On the other hand, the old specialized draught breeds are changing, at least in France, Belgium and Netherlands, to produce meat. Finally, strong development of pony breeds has been observed.
Deep changes, both structural and geographic have occurred in the populations of these countries, in the composition of stocks and in their uses. With time these changes tend to make these species marginal, compared with the main objective of animal production (Rossier, 1985). This is, without any doubt, one of the difficulties in saving these breeds.
In developing countries, mechanization, even if well introduced, still leaves a large place to animal traction (Rossier, 1984b). This probably explains the increase of the world stock of donkeys and mules (Audiot, 1982). Rustic animals, with small maintenance needs, seem particularly well suited in this case. Thus, we note the use of local breeds, which can utilize profitably with low costs, local natural resources.
Equine production in the world and in particular in Europe, is therefore tending to develop:
- in rich areas, toward an elaborate adaptation to pleasure activities, with a steady diversification; - and in poorer areas, towards rustic animals, able to utilize roughage and scarce feed, which would otherwise be unused.
The changes undergone by our societies which are mentioned above and which are sometimes extremely rapid, endanger many potentials (such as the genetic types of domestic animals) often heavily and sometimes irrevocably. In general it is not known if there will be a need for them in the future.
In fact the current difficulties in marketing some products, in particular in Europe and EEC with 12 members, and the new constraints they dictate in connection with world markets, cause the emergence of new production systems which may be more economical than during past decades. These systems are not yet very well known, and we should treat our animal genetic material with great care.
The evolution of animal product demand arising from new knowledge in dietetics, the increase in the standard of living, new fashions, more quality requirements, the need to reduce production costs and from environmental changes, strongly encourage the fight against the loss of genes (Maijala, 1970). We must try to conciliate the imperative needs of the present and the possible needs of the future, i.e. in operating and selecting the animal populations in the current economic context, we must preserve their genetic resources and their capacity for future evolution (Vissac, 1972).
In the equine breeds, we are becoming increasingly aware of these problems in relation to the very different uses of these breeds. Some preservation measures are created, such as museums, animals and documentation collections, natural reservations, national and regional parks. Numerous documentation coming from old manuals, local papers, postcards, interviews, calendars, fairs or travel reports, etc., enable the collection of traditional knowledge, but do not always ensure the preservation of the breeds themselves (Society of Ethnozootechny, 1982).
These preservation measures, in some breeds with populations from one to ten head, can even include the freezing of semen of remaining stallions (Bodó and Pataki, 1984), such as of the Dutch breeds, Groningen or Gelderland (Buis, 1984). In France, an "Office of Genetic Resources" has been created in the Department of Research, to coordinate action in this field.
As an illustration, the existence should be mentioned of Poitou donkeys in the zoo of the "Museum d'Histoire naturelle" as. well as the creation of a state "donkeyhouse" by the Regional Natural Park of the Marais Poitevin, to restore quality stock by continuous crossbreeding.
The difficulty of these actions is however more often in their mode of financing, in addition to the human factor. Our economies essentially aim at profitable investments and the long-range is never more than 5 years. It seems that the general increase of people's availability for activities other than directly productive (development of the tertiary sector involving state incentives, civilization generally qualified as a "leisure civilization" allowing the development of new activities) can bring solutions and help conservation. In the horse more than in other species, the preservation of the old and even current genetic types is closely dependent on maintaining their specific utilization and breeding techniques.
The horse is the domestic species showing the biggest polymorphism in development (adult weight ranging from 1 to more than 10), in capacity (draught horses, pack horses, gallopers, trotters, jumpers and walkers) (Langlois, 1973) and above all in adaptation to the most varying and difficult natural environments. This variability which man has used in different ways in various epochs, has been preserved almost undamaged until today by the multiplicity of uses for leisure of the horse. It enabled some breeds to escape the death threat which struck them all in the 1950s.
However, preservation problems arise from local breeds threatened by absorption by some higher performing genetic types, but essentially for specialized breeds whose traditional market has disappeared.
The disappearance of local breeds which were numerous during the 19th century (such as the pony of Corsica, France mentioned by Tertrais, 1982) is a classic feature. It is not specific to the horse and does not always correspond with a loss of potentiality. It is not possible to keep everything, and some choices are necessary.
Conservation or promotion of local varieties is most often only justified by their adaptation to particular and difficult breeding conditions. For instance:
- The French horse of Merens: found in the wild and isolated mountains of Ariège (Pyrenees), protected by people strongly attached to tradition. It has its homogeneity, which is a zootechnical curiosity, because mating occurs freely in the range (Prunet, 1956; Thevenin, 1982). - The Pottock: perpetuated by the maintenance of a very old method of environmental mangement, used in the wild hills of the Pays Basque and considered by the regional farmers as a standard part of their economic system, a product to be harvested (Lizet, 1976, 1983). The same situation occurs across the boder, in Aragon (Spain) and for the Asturian and Galician ponies. - The breeds of native horses and ponies in Greece; as for instance the ponies from Skyros, Pindos, Peneia, or from Kefalonia island (Menegatos, 1985a and b). - Some particularly rustic pony breeds from the United Kingdom: Exmoor, Dartmoor, New Forest, Highland, etc. (Boue and Rossier, 1979) or from other countries: Iceland, Norway (Fjord) and Germany (Dulmen).
In these conditions, even if submitted to crossbreeding with improved breeds, they are most often preserved by themselves. A good example is the Corsican horse through breeding traditions adapted to the hard and frugal environment (essentially based on two principles "freedom" and "no human intervention on the territory"), they survived by progressive and continued elimination of the so-called "improving" genes which were not compatible with breeding methods (Tertrais, 1982; Audiot and Flamant, 1982). The Corsican horses, submitted to a harvest system, must find their feed in winter in a vegetation where only the cellulose-rich parts remain.
The crossbred products, which are more demanding, must be bred more carefully otherwise they develop badly and are quickly eliminated. The conservation of local varieties depends much more on biotope preservation and breeding methods than on the conservation of the animals themselves (Audiot and Flamant, 1982). The breed of Camargue in southern France is also a good example of this situation: the homogeneity of the type is preserved by natural selection, despite the various choices made in every "manade" (herd) by the breeders (Langlois, 1977).
The initiation of horse husbandry in hilly areas, in often very simple maintenance conditions, should promote some genetic types well suited to this environment. The recent development of draught horse breeds of Breton-type or Comtois-type in the mountains of southern France is an outstanding example of the convergence between an animal production objective (contributing to the protection of a threatened patrimony by finding another end purpose and low cost breeding methods) and the utilization of difficult areas, which are becoming increasingly deserted and damaged. The horse appeared as a very good instrument to utilize and manage land areas (Coleou and Rossier, 1986). Otherwise, breeding methods must be improved; this is only possible if economic conditions exist. As for the pony breeds, the appearance of an interesting market, through youth riding, has led breeders to put more care in their husbandry. This enables them to use improved breeding stock and to increase the quality of their production. However, this trend does not lead to the disappearance of the rustic types, constituting the biggest part of these populations but permits more value to be obtained from more economical animals, with less obvious but more varied performances, well suited to the taste of the public as useful and durable products.
On the contrary although traditional markets have not completely disappeared for draught horses, they have decreased so strongly that the breeds concerned are threatened with disappearance (Bougler et al. , 1983). The classical symptoms of the dangers threatening the breed's with small populations are appearing: dissemination of the population, inbreeding, genetic drift, disappearance of coordination structures and advanced age of the remaining breeders. This is proved by recent studies made on some French breeds of draught horses: (Breton: Treguer, 1980; Comtois: Guillon-Dubeuf, 1981; Cob: Gorioux, 1982; Boulonnais: Rossier et al., 1983) or foreign breeds (Danish breed of draught horses from Jutland: Johansen, 1984):
The average number of mares per farm does not exceed two in each case.
According to the authors, the average coefficients of inbreeding, in general still low except for the Boulonnais (Table 2), have increased during recent years. This situation is especially disturbing as the highest coefficients are shown by the youngest animals. The situation is the same for the "Baudet du Poitou": Audiot (1977) computed an average inbreeding coefficient of 1.5 percent. The case of the Danish Jutland breed is still more serious with an average coefficient of 14.2 percent (Johansen, 1984) .
Table 2 AVERAGE COEFFICIENTS OF INBREEDING OF VARIOUS BREEDS OF FRENCH DRAUGHT HORSES
|Breed||% of inbreeding||Author|
Rossier et al., 1983
|Bandet du Poitou||1.5||Audiot, 1977|
The breeders are on average older than the breeders of any other animal species. In UK 85 percent of the breeders are more than 40 years old, the average being 50.2 years old; 77 percent of the Comtois horse breeders are more than 40 years old. Among the Boulonnais breeders, almost 80 percent are more than 45 years old. The succession of the oldest is not always ensured.
This could be stopped only by a strong increase in draught horse production for meat (see below), and/or by the appearance of a "leisure" husbandry, carried out by amateurs attracted by the originality and rarity of these animals. These are other ways of utilization. Some preservation associations, more or less regional, can be created, state or private funds can be collected, new activities can be promoted or old activities can be reorganized (driving, ploughing, breeding shows, draught horse races as in numerous foreign countries: USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, UK, etc.). Such races are now organized in France, on the Japanese racing model.
But often, the type of breeder is changed. In these new uses and in the production of milk, hormones or serum, the true problems come from the coexistence between traditional and amateur breeders. The conservation of the breeds does not have the same meaning for both.
3.1 The Consumption of Horse Meat - An Opportunity to Retain Tradition
The consumption of horse meat offers an additional market for the heavy breeds. Moreover it offers the opportunity to utilize rustic breeds as a part of territorial planning, and particularly in the planning of marginal areas (Langlois, 1980; Audiot and Flamant, 1982). The case of France is representative: it is a traditional horse meat consumer, and has therefore kept a large population of heavy horses. Thus, France will be taken as an example, although in the EEC, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Italy and Spain are also consumers, as well as some other European (Switzerland and Sweden) and eastern countries.
The high consumption of horse meat evolved in France at the end of the 19th century, among the lower classes, such as workers and employees. This meat was considered healthy, tender tonifying, low in fat, red and cheap. It was widely consumed in families with children. Most of these remarks are still true, except perhaps regarding price.
Today, the situation has slightly altered. Retail prices have considerably risen and tend to be equal or above the prices of beef meat. French production cannot supply red meat, except for slaughtered blood horses: production is orientated toward the production of young animals with white meat (6-8 months old) or especially pink to dark pink (foals of 10 to 24 months old) (Rossier, 1984a).
Horse meat still keeps a very good image, and its consumption progressed until around 1980, in part due to the better type and location of sales points; after that year, higher retail prices have discouraged buyers.
Horse meat consumption, under various forms (not only steaks or hamburgers, but also as a delicatessen), essentially depends on the efficiency of the delivery network. It is possible that some other countries might be encouraged by this trend, in particular if they want to better utilize their slaughtered blood horses.
Can this consumption really help to create a production system? This is a difficult question, but the description of the economic situation of this production in France can highlight some facts.
3.2 Economic Situation of Horse Meat Production in France
France consumes around 70 000 tonnes (carcasses) per annum of horse meat, but they produce only 20 percent and import 80 percent.
Production, which was sufficient to meet French consumption in 1955 has continually decreased since this period with disappearance of animal traction. Currently, the relative part of slaughtered blood horses is increasing: 48 percent of national production. Draught horses, whose breeding stocks are now stabilized and are even increasing again, supply the remainder, either through slaughtering, or by specific foal meat production.
The deficit in production was first filled by imports of living animals from eastern countries. As the deficit worsened frozen meat from the USA appeared on the market. In 1984, out of 100 kg of consumed horse meat, 20 kg came from French horses, 19 kg from horses imported alive and slaughtered in France, and 61 kg from frozen meat.
Therefore, since 1972, and especially since 1979, action has been taken to reorient draught horse husbandry toward meat production: incentives to breed young mares, market clarification and organization, production organization by producer groups, increase of prices at production, development of research and application of results in the field, especially in reproduction (control of cycles, better mare management, echography, pasture exposure, artificial insemination, etc.) But there was no desire of conservation in these measures: they only arose from the economic situation.
The most worrying problem remains the small number of our breeding stock, with the low fertility rate of this species which is the main restrictive factor for the organization of effective production.
Consumption of 70 000 tonnes represents 21 000 slaughtered horses with an average carcass weight of more than 330 kg. This corresponds to the production of around 420 000 mares or to the slaughter of 2 million horses approximately, used on average, for 7 to 8 years. This is much over the present capacity of France's equine stock and the need to import is clear. These compulsory imports do not encourage the progress of national production and had until a few years ago even caused a decline. However, this type of production has some valuable resources and it must develop them: nine breeds, which are a genetic patrimony unique in the world; some additional income possibilities if associated with another type of production utilization i.e. cattle; of misused or no longer used ranges and of unfavourable areas; important productivity gains; a possible export market for breeding stock; a potential power supply; and also a consumption market based on organoleptic and dietetic qualities of this meat.
It is evident that national production which supplies a white or light pink meat, must be clearly differentiated from the imported product (red meat from slaughtered animals). With a particular "label", promotion of the product, based on a policy of quality, becomes possible.
Two types of production can be distinguished:
- the traditional areas, so-called "berceaux de race" (cradle of the breed); all of them are located in northern France, in a relatively intensive farming environment; - the so-called "production or multiplication areas", relatively recent, located in southern France and especially in the Massif Central, Pyrenees, the Alps and Jura mountains.
The first case includes the residue of draught husbandry; its evolution toward meat production requirements is necessarily slow. The costs are high and productivity is still low: draught stallions traditionally breed the mares in stations or in "breeding trucks"; land Prices are high and horse production is in competition with other more profitable ventures. There is therefore little or no production payback, which implies reducing stock. This is only stopped by subsidies and by traditional selection means, such as breeding shows, considered as rural animation. In 1984, draught mare stock bred in these conditions was only about 18 000 head; the total registered breeding mares are around 40 000 head. Draught breeding, which still has a small market, especially for export, is supported by the Government and by a kind of leisure activity breeding shows; these have a place in the more general policy of rural animation. This type of production can be encouraged, if economic conditions are suitable, only by the development of intensive or semi-intensive fattening units for heavy foals.
On the other hand, in the mountainous areas of central or southern France, there has been a tendency in recent years to settle horses on little productive and increasingly deserted agricultural areas. In these conditions, the use of ranges together with cattle, leads to greatly reduced production costs. The herds are bigger and pasture lands can be better utilized. Animal size is, in general, smaller than in the "berceaux de race", and in some valleys of the Pyrenees, it can even be of pony size. the stallions used are of a semi-heavy type: they are almost exclusively Bretons, Comtois, or Ardennais. The attempts to introduce larger-sized breeds such as Percheron or Boulonnais, do not seem to be successful. Breeding conditions, often very primitive, are without any doubt at the origin of this failure.
3.3 Future Prospects and Possibilities of Action
As can be seen, the existence of an important market for horse meat, that could justify the production of around 300 000 horses a year (current total horse population in France), will delay, but cannot stop the progressive disappearance of draught breeds.
However, the combination of draught horse breeding with mountain agriculture, has, without doubt, been a wise choice; this is proved by the sometimes explosive increase in this type of husbandry in some areas. But this development cannot balance the loss registered in the "berceaux de race" .
If this deficit is to be stabilized, either we have to decrease consumption, which could risk destabilizing the whole sector, or we have to increase all breeds of breeding stock.
Whatever the proportion between blood mares and draught mares, a way must be found to produce these 60 000 horses per year, if only to maintain the current production level. In 1984, there were approximately 50 000 blood mares and 40 000 draught mares, or a total of 90 000 breeding mares. They will produce only 43 000 to 48 000 foals. In these conditions, our meat deficit can only increase. Therefore, our objective is to stabilize at an annual production of 45 000 foals, or around 15 000 tons of meat, and a self-sufficiency rate of 20 percent. Every breeding mare, whatever the breed, will have to be kept.
The racing sector does not show a visible increase in breeding mare numbers. The momentary increase of trotter mares balances the decrease of Thoroughbred mares, and their production, for the main part, is flowing into the pleasure sector. This field has, for some years, increased considerably. Will this expansion balance the regularly registered losses of the draught mare breeding stock in the "bercaux de race"? Will the rise of draught horse production in the production areas continue? The achievement of the previous objective will depend on this factor.
3. 4 Possible Action
The conservation of draught horse stocks starts with a market organization which protects the producers from uncontrolled fluctuations in production price. Otherwise, the draught breeds will disappear from France, as well as from other European countries with only residual populations, in general less than 5 percent of the total.
If this economic plan continues and strengthens meat production could be considered from draught breeds in both existing breeding situations: "berceaux de race" and production areas.
a. In the "berceaux de race" two types of action are taken: to conserve and to promote.
As a conservation activity the continuance of the breeding shows can be mentioned and traditional breeders are strongly attached to them. This social and historical aspect is very important and should not be forgotten. Servicing in "breeding trucks" has been developed and financed to breed mares which are becoming increasingly scattered in country areas. Less and less mares are bred per stallion, but the latter are kept in service to avoid reducing the remaining mares, by their disappearance. Stallions are changed frequently enough, giving this type of production an additional market for its stallions. Traditional husbandry structures are maintained through this commerical stallion channel.
In about 1961, some attempts were made to stimulate horse traction; they resulted in new equipment (AVTRAC) which was more competitive than the old type and was sometimes fitted with auxiliary motors. At this time, however, these attempts failed. Today, with energy savings, the concept or the horse as a supplier of energy is not completely Utopian: the use of horse traction is expanding again in some farms and for some functions.
However, the genetic situation of French draught horse husbandry in these areas is still alarming, even though a small increase of breeding mare stocks is noted. Programmes for genetic management should be set up as soon as possible for some breeds at least to limit the effects of inbreeding and genetic drift. Stud books need to be reorganized and their structures and rules renovated to equip them with the necessary means for a successful genetic policy. The most important step has been the setting up of a unique identification procedure for all animals and a unique production information channel (Bougler et al., 1983). This unique identification procedure is not operational in France.
As a promotional activity, the incentive of setting up intensive or semi-intensive fattening units and the development of better techniques in meat production can be mentioned. Some experiments are undertaken to improve stock productivity: artificial insemination, protocol of compensatory breeding for the mares found not pregnant (by echography) at the end of July, and experiments for growth and sexual control of draught stallions (in testing stations). Some advertising is made in foreign countries to export these breeding horses.
b. In the production areas, it has been recommended to settle the horse again in some underused grazing areas. As a complement to cattle, this action is justified in pasture utilization and in breeder income, independent of its own return.
In these conditions, the horse does not rival cattle. On the contrary, it enables the recovery with low costs, of some deserted pastures. Maintenance costs during winter seem the only constraint to its development. In this system, when the horse does not cost, it pays back; but then, it must be able to resist rigid environmental conditions. If the animals are not well suited to regional production conditions, there is a great risk that bad foals for meat and bad horses for riding will be produced. The development of local breeds which have disappeared since the 19th century can constitute an important organizational factor in this type of husbandry from the technical as well as the commercial aspects. In addition, the definition of various regional policies would be useful, because of the uncertainty of future production. Several ways are possible depending on the areas and the evolution of the economic situation follows:
Perhaps in this paper, we have given more emphasis to the draught production for meat. However it is a good illustration of utilizing a small horse population.
The extraordinary diversity of existing breeds has been noted as well as the large variety of possible uses, for agriculture, meat production or leisure activities. Without doubt, this wide variety, in addition to an excellent adaptation to hard environments, has enabled the continuance of all these horse breeds up to the present time.
Today, choices need to be made and perhaps we are better armed to make them. However, the human factor might be the most difficult problem to solve.
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|1985||Zafrakas A.N. The situtation of equine breeding in Greece. In: Proc. 36 ème réunion FEZ. Grèce. 30 sept.-3 oct. 1985. 11 p.|
Tadeusz Jezierski 1/
The Polish Primitive Horse (Konik) derives from the Tarman wild horses which inhabited Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages. In the 18th century the wild horses in Poland were already becoming rare and valuable animals and received special protection in zoological gardens belonging to wealthy people. At that time the Tarpans were considered unsuitable for any kind of work because of their inherited wildness. Due to their wildness and courage the Tarpans were sometimes used in show-fights with predators. Some of the wild Tarpans were brought into a private zoological garden near Bilgoraj belonging to the Count Zamojski. At the beginning of the 19th century the horses, which had so far lived free in that garden, were captured and distributed among the peasants of the neighbouring villages and were tamed and crossbred with the local mouse-grey peasant ponies, though a considerable number of them retained the pure blood of their wild ancestors. The Bilgoraj region was poor and backward, isolated from other parts of the country, thus the type of primitive horse originating from the old wild horse survived until the 20th century. They were 110-130 cm tall, mouse-coloured with a dark dorsal streak, highly resistant to severe environmental conditions and able to find their feed in forests, wasteland and marshes.
For a long time no interest had been given to these small and primitive horses - descendants of the wild Tarpans. In 1914 Grabowski and Schuch described primitive horses from the Bilgoraj environs. Since then many horse breeders under the guidance of Prof. Vetulani began to take interest in primitive horses and to rescue them from extinction. In the inter-war period Prof. Vetulani bought from the peasants in the Bilgoraj environs most of the typical primitive horses and placed them in a forest reserve at Bialowieza in order to breed them back to their wild state. In addition, some studs of Polish Primitive horses, which Vetulani named "Konik", were established.
At present there are five state farms which breed the on the Konik (Table 1). The population of the Konik in state farms has increased during the last few years, but the situtation in private breeds is less optimistic. Although there are about 100 breeding mares in private hands, the breeding material is dispersed and practically out of control.
The measurements of the Konik are given in Table 2. According to Kownacki (1963) the height of the Konik has not changed much since. 1920. On the other hand, the forechest girth, cannon girth as well as the body weight have considerably increased mostly due to better feeding. The Konik are characterized by an excellent ability to adapt themselves to local environmental conditions, utilize cheap feeds very well and resist difficult weather conditions. Young Konik horses are able to compensate for slow growth caused by insufficient feeding in some periods. In the subsequent more favourable period their growth is accelerated. Having small feed requirements, the Konik do not tolerate intensive concentrate feeding. They display behavioural traits such as distinctly marked social hierarchy, vitality and cleverness which are characteristic of primitive breeds of animals. Excellent physiological characters of the Konik strong constitution, good health, fertility, long life cycle and hardiness make them especially suitable for keeping outdoors.
Table 1 POLISH PRIMITIVE HORSE (KONIK) AT STATE STUDS AND FARMS (1985)
|Stud or Farm||Number of Stallions||Number of Mares|
|Polish Academy of Sciences|
|Experimental Station (reserve)||3||14|
|Popielno (Suwalki province) (stable)||6||12|
|Racot (Leszno province)||4||34|
|Sierakow (Poznan province)||4||26|
|Dobrzyniewo (Pila province)||3||15|
|Roztoczanski National Park|
|Zwierzyniec (Zamosc province)||3||5|
|Bialowieski National Park|
|Bialowieza (Bialystok province)||1||4|
Total breeding material
Table 2 BIOMETRIC MEASUREMENTS OF THE KONIK (according to Kownacki, 1984)
|Height at withers||136.3||(134-140)||134.2||(127-144)|
|Height at sacrum||140.3||(135-144)||137.1||(131-146)|
|Width of hips||50.0||(46-54)||49.3||(44-52)|
|Length of head||56.2||(52-61)||53.5||(50-59)|
|Body weight (kg)||420.0||450.0|
The ability of the Konik as a working horse should however be supported by systematic performance tests and selection. Unfortunately, so far, performance of the Konik horses, especially those from state farms, has tended to decrease in recent years. At state farms the horses are first of all selected for body conformation and not for working ability. It is an undesirable tendency because the Konik can lose its remarkable hardiness and endurance as an economic working horse.
Table 3 RESULTS OF VARIOUS PERFORMANCE TESTS OF THE KONIK
|Long-distance draught trials|
Author and year
|Mean distance per 1 day
|Maximal distance per 1 day
|Weight of carriage
Draught per format tests
|Maximal draught power in % of body weight||Mean time for 1 km
(in min and sec)
|Mean length of steps (cm)|
Kownacki, 1962 a)
Kownacki, 1962 b)
Kapron and Soltys, 1983
a) Popielno Stud
b) Stubno Stud
During the last two years an attempt has been made to establish systematic training and draught performance tests for young stallions breeding mares should undergo in future a proper performance test before they are included into the stud. In 1982 and 1983 experimental saddle horse training of Konik stallions was conducted. The Konik have never been selected or intensively used for riding. Their body conformation i.e. poorly marked withers, short and straight shoulders as well as a' short gait, strong social instinct and sometimes stubbornness are not desirable in riding. Saddle-horse training has revealed however, that the riding ability of the Konik can be improved. Some riding performances of the Konik are given in Table 4.
Table 4 SOME RIDING PERFORMANCES OF THE KONIK
|One-hour distance in walk||6 496 m|
|One-hour distance in alternate gaits:||
|5 x (8 min walk + 3 min trot + min canter)||12 200 m|
|5 x (9 min walk + 3 min trot)||8 000 m|
|Maximal speed in canter||666 m/min|
|Mean speed on a distance of 20 km||8.2 km/h|
|Mean time for 10 km||1 hr 2 0 min|
|Mean time for 30 km||4 hr 20 min|
|Free jump||130-140 cm|
|Jump with ballast 13-15% of body weight||115 cm|
|Ballast allowed for cross-country riding
(in % of body weight of horse)
At present the state farms have no difficulty in selling young Konik horses. According to an enquiry published in agricultural periodicals, 191 private breeders, 18 agricultural schools and 14 riding clubs are interested in buying the Konik. The demand for the Konik was estimated at approximately 506 animals. Since not all potential buyers have responded to the enquiry, this figure seems to be underestimated. The state farms can offer for sale about 30 mares and 30 geldings a year, i.e. far below the demand. Most of the buyers intend to use the Konik for two or three purposes (Table 5).
Table 5 PLANNED USE
OF THE KONIK BY BUYERS
(according to Sasimowski et al. 1984)
|Work in the field||108||81.2||19||90.5|
|Experimental||Work in the field||5||55.6||2||20.0|
So far the Konik has not been intensively used for crossing with other breeds to transmit their outstanding qualities. Some crosses were made with pure-bred Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses. Crosses with Anglo-Arabian are good saddle horses for recreation. Crosses of the Konik with heavy draught breeds, suitable for harder work, are needed by the farmers.
The Konik stallions were also exported to countries of Western Europe. Among others, some Konik stallions were bought by Herzog von Croy for his herd of primitively-kept wild horses in Dulmen (Federal Republic of Germany).
In conclusion it can be stated that the Konik is a native breed of small-sized working horses suitable for small farms. It can be also used for carriage, sport, recreation and distance riding.
Grabowski J., Schuch S. Badania nad koniem miejscowym. Gazeta Rolnicza, LXI, 35-37.
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Erazm Brzeski, Maciej Jackowski 1/
The Hucul horse holds a special place in Poland. In April 1979 a resolution was passed by the Horse Husbandry Team of the Research and Technical Council, supervised by the Minister of Agriculture, on preserving the Hucul horse together with its valuable genetic traits which have been handed down over many generations and are typical of this breed.
The Hucul horse of today is characterized, among others, by its relatively large head, low-set neck of middle length, long, wide and deep thorax as well as short and strong legs. It has a remarkable uniformity in build, is highly active, of extreme docility and longevity, has a perfect feed utilization, is easy to house and resists diseases.
The Hucul horses are by no means big animals. Their dimensions are within the following range:
Table 1 MEASUREMENTS OF HUCUL HORSES
|Height at withers||137.5||133||142||137.0||130||145|
The Hucul horse originated in the Carpathian mountains. The rigid mountain conditions often forced the horses to cover long distances and the harsh environment with scarce feed has toughened them over many generations. Their descent is not fully elucidated in spite of great interest shown by many investigators.
According to Prawochenski, "as early as 1603 K. Dorohostajski, the author of "Horse-riding" knew the Hucul horse and considered it perfectly adapted to its existence as a mountain horse".
The first Polish scientist who emphasized the need to give particular attention to the Hucul breed, as being economically valuable, was Prof. Karol Malsburg (1895).
Since this breed has a long history, only some names of the most Prominent Polish hippologists can be mentioned, such as S. Bojanowski, E. Hackl, M. Herrmann, M. Hollander, Z. Sosnowski, T. Starzewski and K. Ostaszewski .
In the inter-war period much consideration was given to Hucul horse deeding. In 1925 the Association of Hucul Horse Breeders was established with E. Bohosiewicz, a noted breeder of the Malopolska district, as chairman.
At that time the Hucul breeding stock was purchased in Poland by Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxemburg, Germany and Hungary.
Following World War II Hucul horses were scarce due to heavy losses suffered during the war. And it is only thanks to the unselfish work of many people that the breeding of Hucul horses is now steadily developing Mention should be made here of: Zdzislaw Hroboni, former chief of the Department at the Ministry of Agriculture; Eugeniusz Skucinski, former Inspector of the Polish Horse Breeders Association; and Kazimierz Gajewski, animal scientist in the Union of Animal Breeding and Trade.
At present the breeding of Hucul horses is located at:
Pedigree horses are derived from 7 male and 11 female lines. Mean inbred index for mares is 0.014 (in the range 0.000-0.250) and for stallions 0.0127 (in the range 0.000-0.127). Mean inbred index for state mares and stallions is 0.1111.
In 1962 Miss Elisabeth Broad purchased 9 Hucul horses in Poland, which were then transported to the United Kingdom. They became acclimatized very easily and were then successfully crossed with English Thoroughbreds and purebred Arab horses. In the 1970s 3 stallions and 3 mares were sold to Finland.
Despite their low height, the ways of utilizing Hucul horses are manifold: as pack horses, saddle horses and draught horses. For long they have been used as pack horses displaying an ability to move ;n very rough field conditions. They are noted as being able to overcome carefully and quietly precipices or rapid streams as well as perfectly jumping over natural obstacles with innate agility.
Holländer found them useful as draught horses. Sasimowski et al. have shown in their studies an easy adaptability of the Hucul horse to supplement mechanical traction in field work. They established the normal pulling force for the mare to be 50.14 kg and for the stallion 56.84 kg. Studies on working ability and suitability of the Hucul horse to field work in the region of the Carpathian mountains in Poland were conducted by Krzysztof Bilil. His estimates of normal pulling force for horses were higher and amounted to 57.54 kg for mares and 61.6 kg for stallions. For many years horses were selected among others for their suitability as draught horses. An inquiry among horse breeders and individual users has revealed that the horses are greatly appreciated, being used for light work as a supplementary force to that of a tractor or being kept in large industrial farms of an advanced standard.
As early as 1874 Czapski reported that the Hucul horse was excellent for riding. Gregorowicz (1898) pointed out its ability to overcome obstacles with a rider on horseback. At present they are being kept as riding horses in the Siary stud, and frequently used by holiday makers or scouts during summer holidays.
Wherever the Hucul horse is used, it displays three very positive characters: intelligence, obedience and productivity. Mention should also be made of an important economic aspect - small feed requirements and very low maintenance costs compared to other breeds.
Under the project R-II-8, coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Agricultural University at Krakow has elaborated a long-term plan (by the year 2000) to preserve the Hucul breed. All Polish experts in horse breeding were involved in preparing the plan which was partly presented at the 4th International Symposium in Leipzig and as a whole was discussed at the following International Symposium in Lublin.
The plan provides, among others, the development of breeding work aimed at the preservation of the Hucul horse in the state sector involving 70 mares (dams) and 15 stallions. This sector will be supplemented by the individual breeder sector involving 30 mares and 15 stallions. Basic aims are pure breeding with much consideration to male and female lines. A preliminary mating plan has been worked out for the next 49 years aimed at preventing an undesirable increase in inbreeding and too close relationships. It was suggested to use a selection method of independent culling levels, and to keep the present biometric standard.
Regulations concerning performance tests, peculiar characteristics of the breed and utilization of Hucul horses in field work and recreation are under elaboration.
The Hucul horse should preserve the valuable traits which have been accumulated as a result of many years' breeding work and coded genetically. We do believe it will perfectly supplement mechanical traction as well as serving the purpose of recreation.
New prospects are open of cooperation with Czechoslovkia, Romania and the Soviet Union in the field of Hucul horse breeding.
In a long-term breeding plan aimed at preserving this breed much consideration is given to the staff working with the animals. Great successes can be expected only when all breeding work is conducted according to the principle of "The right man in the right place".
E. Sasimowski 1/ and J. Slomiany 2/
The breeding of Polish Koniks in the Roztocze National Park (RNP) in Zwierzynice (Figure 1) was started in 1982 at the initiative of Professor Miroslow Kownacki. Four mares and one stallion which had been kept in stables and bought from the National Stud in Racot composed the initial material. Their names showing relationship and inbreeding are given in Table 1.
Figure 1. Location of Zwierzyiec and Janów Lubelski.
Table 1 THE INITIAL STUD OF KONIKS - COEFFICIENTS OF RELATIONSHIP (Rxy) AND INBRED (Fx)
|Horse - sex||Mohacz||Husaria||Moda||Tuba||Hanual|
|1. Mohacz - sire||_||5.93||19.87||7.58||11.49||6.250|
|2. Husaria - dam||5.93||_||12.37||11.30||12.68||7.81|
|3. Moda - dam||19.87||12.37||28.86||30.73||2.15|
|4. Tuba - dam||7.58||11.30||28.86||_||29.16||5.76|
|5. Hanula - dam||11.22||12.68||30.73||29.16||_||5.66|
At present the stud consists of one sire, five dams (one three-year- old dam of own breeding with foal) and 14 foals and young of different ages; four-year classes of foals have been obtained so far. The stud is under the care of mgr ing. Jan Slomiany of the RNP and co-author of the present article. Research is supervised by the Zootechnical Science Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences and directed by Professor E. Sasimowski (co-author).
The habitation of the Koniks embraces an area of about 100 ha forest and pasture which is enclosed by a wooden-poled fence. A stream and ponds on the grounds provide a watering-place all the year round.
This area is almost exactly on the spot where at the turn of the 19th century the last heir of the Zamoysky family had his reserve of wild hunting animals - among others Tarpans. When the reserve was disbanded the Tarpans were distributed to neighbouring farms and up to the present horses with some characteristics of Tarpans - e.g. mouse colour - are seen in this region. It seems reasonable that the breeding of Knoniks in the RNP should aim at creating a population which is well accustomed to the natural environment of the nature reserve which is also useful in improving the stock of this breed kept under stable conditions mainly in the neighbourhood.
In this instance the improvement of the Koniks in the reserve could be compared to that of Thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians in breeding and producing half-bred horses. Thoroughbreds and Arabians are selected by races which test their vigour and physical efficiency; the Knoniks in the RNP are similarly tested - a good adaptation to severe conditions without stabling and concentrates is the basic test of desirable properties. It can be acknowledged as a sufficient selection factor for dams - with attending maternal care - but it appears insufficient for selecting stallions among others because movement is less intensive.
Observation continued day and night (Table 2). Both the gallop and trot portions were relatively small. The distance covered in these gaits and walk jointly averaged 5.6 +2.5 km. Moreover, in this movement there is a lack of such elements as jumps which play a significant role in the case of walk saddle horses and as surmounting resistance which is of main importance in harness.
In this connection in the previous year three two-and-half-year-old stallions were excluded from the stud and trained under saddle and in harness. This year when training was completed a performance test was carried out. It enabled us to determine many significant indices (Table 3).
Table 2 FRACTIONS (IN MIN) OF PARTICULAR GAITS IN THE OVERALL MOVEMENT OF KNONIKS AND THE DISTANCE COVERED DURING DAY AND NIGHT (IN KM)
(born in 1983)
(born in 1983)
(born in 1984)
(born in 1984)
(born in 1985)
Table 3 RESULTS OF PERFORMANCE TESTS OF STALLIONS (MIN-MAX)
|Efficiency of movement during one hour under saddle:|
- 5 x (8' walk + 3' trot + 1' gallop) - 8320 m - 9072 m
|Efficiency of movement during one hour in harness with a resistance of 8 percent body weight:|
- 5 x (9' walk + 3' trot) = 6558 m - 6666 m
|Maximum pulling power:|
|248 - 252 kg (2433 - 2472 N) - 73% - 89%|
|Speed at a distance of 1 km,||in walk:||11.21'-12.53'|
|Size of obstacles passed at liberty:||95-115 cm|
|Size of obstacles passed under rider||80- 90 cm|
|Length of jumps:||250-300 cm|
|Length of step in walk||- in hand:||143-166 cm|
|- under rider:||141-155 cm|
|- in harness:||121-151 cm|
|Length of step in trot||- in hand:||210-240 cm|
|- under rider:||200-210 cm|
|- in harness:||180-224 cm|
|Length of foulée in gallop||- in hand:||224-272 cm|
|- under rider:||310-330 cm|
All these indices make it possible to compare the stallions observed among themeselves and with the results of experimental training and performance tests carried out on three-year groups of Koniks by Dr. S. Siudzinski at the Agricultural Academy in Poznan and Assistant-Professor R. Tomczynski at the Agricultural-Technical Academy in Olsztyn. The tested stallions can also be compared to the whole population of Polish Koniks.
This year one of the three-year-old tested stallions will become a new sire of the stud.
These tests are also useful as the stallions which cannot be included in the stud or those eliminated from the main herd are immediately used for saddle or harness. In winter during their stay in the reservation, they are even used for transporting hay which is indispensable as additional feed for the stud. They can be used for transport in the area of the RNP and can also be tried as saddle horses for the tourists resting in Zwierzyniec and in teaching local children to ride.
Observations so far demonstrate that rearing the Koniks in liberty in the pasture-forest reservation assures optimal health. Even during the recent very frosty winters when the temperature often dropped under 30° C no symptoms of cold appeared either in adults or in foals. There were also no disorders of the alimentary canal, except for worms which require" systematic treatment (deworming) twice a year - in spring and autumn.
Simultaneously, the hooves must also be trimmed as they do not wear sufficiently on the relatively soft ground and due to not very intensive movement.
Reproduction and rearing are not disturbed and are interesting to observe. Research results of behaviour, stud hierarchy, growth and development of foals controlled by weighing, biometric measurements and haematological tests are also interesting. The latter and the examination of coat and hoof horn structure also include adults.
The results of environmental research - phytosociological, hydrobiological and animal health are important in breeding. Some of them have already been reported and are now being published. The rest are now being prepared and completed by a greater number of new observations.
It is worth mentioning that the authors are actually cooperating with breeders in another herd of Polish Koniks in Janów Lubelski placed about 50 km from Zwierzyiec and 80 km from Lublin, in the Partisans' Park of National Memory. The initial material consists of local mares, i.e. the Bilgorajski horses which have the Polish Konik blood. The results arising from this research are also of interest.
1/ Warsaw Agricultural University, Warsaw, Poland.
1/ CEREOPA, Département des Sciences Animales, INA, Paris-Grignon;
2/ Station de génétique Quantitative et Appliquée, INRA-CNRZ, 78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France;
3/ Station d' Amélioration Génétique des Animaux, INRA, BP 12, 31320 Castanet-Tolosan, France.
1/ Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding, Jastrzebiec, 05'551 Mroków, Poland.
1/ Agricultural Academy, Institute of Animal Husbandry, 30-059 Krakow, Al. Mickiewicza 24/28.
1/ Breeding Horse Plant, Agricultural Academy in Lubin.
2/ Roztocze National Park in Zwierzyniec.