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logoMURUNAasociacion“Spain is particularly suited to rewilding. The last Ice Age drove many native European species southward, and Spain retains high biodiversity with low human population density”. (See more: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/01/08/260777584/after-2-000-years-wild-horses-again-roam-western-spain?t=1534230109722).

The Retuerta horse is a rare equine breed indigenous to Spain (Andalusia region). Living in isolation from other horses for a long time has made it emerge as one of the popular feral breeds. By the 1980s, only about sixty of them were left. They are presently found in the Donana National Park, in the Huelva and Sevilla provinces of Spain. They also reside in “Campanarios de Azaba”, located in Espeja. In fact, by 2012 only 150 of them were left in Donana, increasing their risks of being wiped out completely by any calamity or disaster. Thus, wildlife experts made arrangement for bringing in about 120 such horses to the “Campanarios de Azaba” reserve.

It is not known how long the Doñana feral horses known as Retuertas have lived in an area covering approximately 300 km2 in the Doñana National Park in southern Spain, but oral and written accounts speculate that they have been in the Guadalquivir marshes since recorded history (Muñoz–Bort 2004).
However, it is widely accepted that ancient wild horse populations almost disappeared from the North Iberian Peninsula and Europe during the Mesolithic period and were not reintroduced to the North of Iberia until the 8th century BC as a domestic animal (Cañon et al. 2000).
There are no written records about the origin of the Retuertas and little is known from a scientific point of view about wild horse populations in southern Spain.

In the 1980s, a programme of conservation of this feral horse population in the Doñana National Park was started. They grazed in the Guadalquivir marshes among a semi-feral
horse population, known as Marismeños, which has traditionally been managed by local farmers who have systematically avoided crosses of feral Retuertas stallions with Marismeñ̃o mares.
It is not known if the horses that were rescued for conservation by scientists on the Donana Biological Reserve (RBD) look like those that grazed in southern Spain years ago.
The morphological and functional features of Retuertas (e.g. an average height of only 1.42 m and adaptability to hostile marsh environment) are
very different from Spanish Pure Breed, Arabian and other Iberian horses of Celtic origin, suggesting genetic isolation of the Retuertas horse population.

The Retuertas horse is a rare breed of horse indigenous to the Andalusia region of Spain.[1] It is said to closely resemble the ancient Iberian horses that populated Spain before being domesticated. It is now found only in the Doñana National Park in the provinces of Huelva and Sevilla, and in The Biological Reserve “Campanarios de Azaba” in Espeja (Salamanca province) a part of which is the research reserve of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, the Spanish National Research Council. According to a genetic study by the CSIC, the Retuertas horse is one of the oldest European breeds.,[2] dating to 3000 years BP, and the only one living in the wild and isolated from other populations.[3][4]

La Estación Biológica de Doñana ha mantenido una tropa de estos animales constituida actualmente por unos ochenta ejemplares que considera “puros”, además de otras sesenta hembras con diversa proporción de sangre de esta clase: hay yeguas que son 1/2, 3/4, 7/8 y 15/16 de las Retuertas, nacidas inicialemente de madres de raza Española (las 1/2 de las Retuertas) y luego de otras con distintas proporciones de esta sangre, siempre cruzadas con sementales puros de las Retuertas. (…) El Laboratorio de Genética Molecular del Servicio de Cría Caballar y Remonta, que ha sido el de referencia para las razas de caballos en España, tomó muestras de sangre de cada animal para obtener su perfil genético y calcular distancias genéticas frente a otras razas españolas y extranjeras. Cuando se iniciaron los análisis, no se esperaban resultados espectaculares. Desde el punto de vista de la EBD, lo único que procedía era seguir manteniendo un buen stock de estos animales, ya que eran de por sí interesantes debido a su origen. Por supuesto, nunca se pensó que pudieran ser genéticamente muy distintos de otras razas.

Pero no fue así. Los resultados obtenidos indican que, a pesar de que este caballo se encuadra dentro del grupo de las razas españolas, tiene unas peculiaridades muy marcadas, que lo hacen realmente único y extraordinariamente interesante.

En primer lugar, el cálculo de las distancias genéticas lleva a la conclusión de que se trata de un animal singular, que no forma grupo con ninguna de las diez razas consideradas en el estudio (Español, Purasangre Inglés, Árabe, Marismeño, Asturcón, Losino, Potoca, Mallorquín, Menorquín y Trotón), de todas las cuales se encuentra muy alejado genéticamente.(…) 31 de los ejemplares analizados de Caballo de las Retuertas o cruzados eran portadores de un alelo del gen de la esterasa (el alelo m) completamente desconocido para la ciencia.

(By Perote in: http://www.cuadernosdecampo.es/Website/Documentos/DetalleNoticia.aspx?keyIDDocumento=1038
Wild horse project Pottokas en Piornal Extremadura, Spain, a herd of feral pottokas is maintained solely for purposes of non-invasive study, particularly of natural horse behaviour. Native to the northern Iberian peninsula, Pottokas trace their origins to the Pleistocene and show little influence of domestication. The Piornal herd lives without management, supplementary feeding or veterinary treatment and consists of 4 natal bands and one of bachelors. Although untouched, they are used to close observation, thus providing a scientific and educational resource unique within Europe accessible both specialist students and the general public. The importance of such a resource is that it provides a yardstick by which to measure the behavioural welfare of domestic horses. Due to the project’s strict adherence to a non-interference policy and the ample terrain, the horses show the full range of maintenance and social behaviour found in other larger feral populations in less accessible parts of the world.
(By Lucy Rees in https://www.change.org/p/consejera-de-agricultura-desarrollo-rural-medio-ambiente-y-energ%C3%ADa-de-la-junta-de-extremadura-presidente-de-la-junta-de-extremadura-apoyo-a-los-caballos-salvajes-en-extremadura-lucy-rees

“There’s a lot of fiction written about wild horses” says ethologist Lucy Rees. By that, she means that many books and even scientific studies describe horse behaviour in terms of “dominance hierarchies” – something which has never been observed in horses living under truly natural conditions, but which nevertheless form the basis of many schools of horsemanship… even ones purporting to be “natural”.

Pottoka ponies of the Gredos mountains in Northern Extremadura in Spain. The ponies lead a natural life in over 1000 hectares. The purpose of the project is to study natural horse behaviour and also to keep the mountains clear of shrubs which can start forest fires.



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