Konik Horse (Equus caballus)
The Konik or Polish primitive horse is a small, semi-feral horse, originating in Poland.
The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of koń, the Polish word for “horse”(sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning “pony”). However, the name “konik” or
“Polish konik” is used to refer tocertain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive markings,
including a dun coat and dorsal stripe.
The breed has a strong and stocky build, small head with a straight profile, and a neck set low out of the chest. The Konik has a deep chest, a thick mane, and the hair coat is blue dun, often colloquially called “mouse-gray”.
During World War I, these horses were important transport animals for Russian and German troops and were called Panje horses. In 1923, Tadeusz Vetulani, an agriculturalist from Kraków, started to get interested in the Panje horses, a landrace of Biłgoraj and coined the name “Konik” (Polish for “small horse”), which is now established as the common name for the breed. During the 1920s, several public and private
studs were created in order to conserve this animal. In 1936 Vetulani opened a Konik reserve in the Białowieża Forest. He was convinced that if horses were exposed to natural conditions, they would redevelop their original phenotype. While Vetulani’s experiments are well-known and widely publicized, Vetulani’s stock actually had only a minor influence on the modern Konik population.
However, World War II marked the end of Vetulani’s “breeding back” project. His stock was moved to Popielno, where they continued to live in semi-feral conditions. Popielno became the breed’s main stud during the 1950s, but the herd was also preserved by buying animals from Germany.