Konik, Tarpan, European wild horse: An origin story with conservation implications

Lovasz, Lilla and Fages, Antoine and Amrhein, Valentin. (2021) Konik, Tarpan, European wild horse: An origin story with conservation implications. Global Ecology and Conservation, 32. e01911.

Full text not available from this repository.

Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/87533/

Downloads: Statistics Overview


Horses are gaining importance in European nature conservation management , for which usually so-called primitive breeds are favored due to their claimed robustness. An increasingly popular breed, the Konik horse, is often said to be the direct descendent of the alleged European wild horse, the Tarpan. However, both the direct descent of the Konik from European wild horses and the existence of the Tarpan as a wild species are highly debated. In this review, we scrutinized both contemporary research and historical sources and suggest that the Tarpan and the Konik as its direct descendent are manmade myths that hinder effective conservation management. We did not find evidence that the Tarpan was a wild horse rather than a feral horse. We did not find any evidence either for a closer connection between the Konik and any extinct wild horse than between other domestic breeds and wild horses. We discuss three perspectives on why the myth has become widely accepted and survived to this day: a historical-political, a biological-ecological, and an emotional perspective. It seems that the origin story of the Konik and its connection to the Tarpan was shaped by personal and political interests, including nationalistic ideas. These as well as general human emotions towards horses have influenced researchers and laypeople to keep the myth alive, which has been possibly negatively impacting contemporary nature conservation. Indeed, today's Koniks originated from a small founder population of only six male lines that were selected according to their phenotypic traits, with the aim to rebreed the 'wild Tarpan'. Strict breeding practices have led to high inbreeding levels in recent Konik populations, which may undermine nature conservation purposes. Therefore, we suggest that mythologized origin stories should not be an argument for selecting breeds of grazers for nature conservation.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Behavioural Ecology (Amrhein)
UniBasel Contributors:Amrhein, Valentin
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Related URLs:
Identification Number:
Last Modified:10 Feb 2022 08:04
Deposited On:10 Feb 2022 08:04

Repository Staff Only: item control page