A herd of primitive foundation horses, believed to have been extinct in the wild for hundreds of years, have been reintroduced at a ranch in America
They roamed the plains of Mongolia, allegedly carried Genghis Khan into battle and now they have emerged up again in the wilds of Oregon.
The discovery of a herd of Tarpan – one of the primitive foundation horses of the equine race – has set the world’s media off in a frenzy of excitement.
Hailed in some quarters as a scientific breakthrough, the herd is in fact a close replica of its ancient ancestor cleverly produced by enthusiast Harry Hegardt ,who began breeding the horses using American wild mustang lines in the 1960s.
When he died in 1990 fellow Tarpan devotees Lenette Stroebel and husband Gordon took the project on.
“Gordon had finally succeeded in the right lines producing animals of the right colour and the right size. He had even begun to breed horses with the distinctive stand up mane,” says Lenette Stroebel, who is now keen to promote the breed as a versatile riding pony, equally good for jumping and herding cattle.
Today, the Stroebels’ ranch, Genesis Equines,is home to a herd of short, stocky wild horses with thick mousy-coloured coats and a distinctive black stripe down their backs.
Renowned horse breeds expert Elwyn Hartley Edwards believes that the original Tarpan Equus caballus gmelini Antonius, “has been extinct in the wild state for 200 years or so”.
The Genesis Equine project is a throwback to a scheme started by two German brothers, Heinz and Lutz Heck, who used Scandinavian native ponies called Gotlands and Icelandic ponies to create a replica Tarpan colt born at Munich Zoo in 1933.
All of the Tarpans currently in the US are reputedly descended from German Tarpans imported the US in the 1950s. The breed is categorized as “rare” and there are currently just 80 listed as breeding stock.
“It all comes down to who can create the best lookalike,” says Lenette Stroebel. “We consider our herd to be an excellent representation of the original Tarpan, which is all that matters.”
The American Tarpan Studbook Association, which was formed to protect and promote the breed says: “The primary goal of the ATSA for the past 20 years has been to foster breeding efforts to increase the number of horses.
“No public sales of registered stock has occurred in more than a decade, but breeding may have reached a point where this situation could change.”
Read more about rare breeds: