Thursday, February 21, 2013

Origins of Today's Wild Horses, Are Some Perhaps Ancient?

This week on the Mustang a Day Challenge I am painting and telling the stories of the Alberta Provence Wild Horses in Canada. Since I became ill with some sort of cold  right in the middle of it I thought I would take a break from painting today and share with you all some interesting natural history. 

The first thing I came across was this wonderful video of the Reconstruction of an Ice Age Yukon Wild Horse, Pretty inters testing. (please read further after you watch.)  There is some very interesting discussion on the page under the video. I don’t necessarily agree with everything written there; however, it is informative and thought provoking.

Then I thought well why not do a bit of a comparison between the Restoration Tarpan and the  reconstructed  Yukon Wild horse. And I thought to throw in the finer boned version of the Alberta Wild horses. I want to say that unless some significant DNA  testing is done on both the living and the dead all thoughts are conjecture. However, I think anything is possible regarding these horses until proven otherwise.
The Restoration Tarpan here in Virginia seems to have a build much like the
Ice Age Yukon Wild Horse. The photo on the right was taken  in 2011.

Lastly is a video of the Konik horses.  These wild horses, like the Restoration Tarpan are the descendants of the last living Tarpan in captivity. The horses in the wild were long ago hunted to extinction as pests to crops and livestock and for food. Some however were captured  and used as beasts of burden and transportation. These were also bred privately in captivity.  I managed to find online in Wikipedia a copy of the only known image of a living Tarpan.
I accidentally forgot to turn off the gray scale feature before I inserted
Ken's image just taken in the past year of an Alberta wild horse. I was
quite astonished as to how similar the facical features of the Alberta horse is
compared to the actual Tarpan. Both horses are stallions. Click on the image to see it larger.
This horse was kept captive in Russia. It was a blue dun, 18 years old when the photo was taken.  Oddly enough the lighter boned wild horses of Alberta look very much like the Tarpan photo graphed in the Russian Zoo.
Here is the photo Ken took with the color turned on. In reading some of
the research materials I learned that  Blue dun is also a form of
black, red dun and bay.

 Some say the last remaining wild Tarpan died in 1906 in a zoo.  Yet there is documentation by the Smithsonian that the true resurrection of the Tarpan came about as a result of Nazi genetic experiments. The desire to resurrect the Tarpan gave the Nazi scientists the justification for raiding zoos across Europe and confiscating 500 acres of pristine ancient old growth oak forests in Poland. The project while very politically motivate allowed for the preservation of many of Poland’s ancient and rare species in a protected island amid the destruction of WW2.( To read the article : Galloping Ghosts :

Today some of the characteristics of the ancient horses are not only showing up in Canada old growth forests but also In the high desert horses of the USA. The American Mustang, according to one article I saw said   that any wild horse in North America that has the characteristics of the Tarpan or even the Yukon Wild Horse should be tested for links and gene markers of the ancient horses and preserved not as feral, but as truly wild and native to the land.

Even if nothing else. North American Wild horses need to be preserved  not only for their historic significance in building our countries but also  the herds’ ability to help replenish the land, and its potential connection to its ancient ancestors.

Konik  are still currently being used in reforestation projects and to restore and maintain wetlands and tributary health in countries like France, Netherlands and Scotland.
One interesting thing about the Konik is that they tend to resemble the Preswiski’s and Mongolian horses in build and head shape. The restoration Tarpan tends to be closer to the reconstructed Yukon Wild horse  while the images of the Tarpan that existed favor many of the Alberta horses.

I don’t come to any conclusions about whether the horses of North America are distinctly and continuously living descendents of the original horses. But I do think that more study is due these amazing horses to investigate those possibilities. Even without the  study into the genetic origins all the wild horses make significant contributions to be considered precious enough to maintain and protect in both Canada and the USA as Heritage Herds.