European Rewilding Network

Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse

Restoration of ecosystems of floodplain meadows

The Polesskaya horse is a hardy and independent breed which is is perfectly adapted to local conditions.
Valeria Korothevich
The project is conducting an inventory of the Polesskaya horse population by organizing expeditions to villages and farms.
Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse is capping out DNA identifications for the taxonomic verification of each individual to be registered and certified.
The project aims to encourage communication and practical cooperation between target groups and raise awareness of the population of the Polesie region and Belarus.
Valeria Korothevich

The Polesskaya horse is the oldest population in Europe bred in the Pripyat River basin, it is assumed to be descended from the forest tarpan. The Polesskaya aboriginal horse population has long been used in the southern regions of Belarus. The population is perfectly adapted to local conditions – very high humidity, an abundance of blood-sucking insects, and poor and poorly nutritious food. The horses are healthy, reproduce successfully and live a long life, while doing any kind of harness (draught) or horse-riding work in arduous conditions. Due to the active intensification, including mechanization, of agriculture and the drive for high production indicators in animal husbandry, some local breeds traditionally used by the population appeared to be on the verge of extinction. As a result, the Polesskaya horse population has now reached its critical status of “disappearing” due to a rapid decrease in its number. All these years, no targeted breeding work was carried out, but the horse population has survived to our times.

The main project goal is to return the Polesskaya horse population to the conditions of its free habitation with limited human interference and ensuring not only the breeding and conservation of the local breed, but also the restoration of ecosystems of floodplain meadows prone to overgrowing. The Polesskaya horse is unpretentious, capable of independent existence (in cases where feeding in winter time is provided), and this makes it a promising breed for resettlement with a view of restoring and maintaining such ecosystems ― a habitat of unique plant and endangered animal species. The Republican Biological Nature Reserve “Sporovsky” (Beryoza District, Brest Region) is considered to be the place for the Polesskaya horse introduction into natural areas.

Project: Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse
Region: Belarus
Type of project: Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: The main objective of the project is to return the Polesskaya horse population to the conditions of its existence with limited human interference to prevent overgrowing of ecosystems in floodplain meadows and ensure the conservation of biological diversity of the species inhabiting that area.
The initiative's vision is to maintain the ecosystems of floodplain meadows in the natural open state, which will allow increasing biodiversity in these areas. The restoration and maintenance of the natural ecosystems of floodplain meadows will also contribute to the interrelated changes in adjacent territories and ecosystems.
Uniqueness of the project: The project is unique for Belarus. The domesticated aboriginal animals are on the verge of extinction. There are no state programs aimed at the conservation of these animals for their restoration and sustainable use as the genetically and economically valuable gene pool, especially in a changing climate.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Research
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Encourage communication and practical cooperation between target groups and raise awareness of the population of the Polesie region and Belarus as a whole about the importance of the conservation of local horse populations and preservation of traditional knowledge associated with their use, as national heritage.
Realize the developed strategy for the operation of an initiative group on the conservation and sustainable use of local aboriginal animal populations in agricultural, nature conservation, ecological, cultural, educational and agritourism activities on constant base.
Results so far: The initiative group of stakeholders to study the current vital status of the aboriginal animals was established. The initiative group includes specialists that represent different sectors, institutions and associations, namely:
1. State Scientific Institution “Institute of Genetics and Cytology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus”, Minsk (city);
3. Republican Biological Nature Reserve “Sporovsky”, Brest Region;
4. Stud farm OJSC “Polesskaya Niva”, Brest Region;
5. Municipal Agricultural Unitary Enterprise "Gorodoksky", Brest Region.
6. Belarusian State Association for Livestock Breeding “BELPLEMZHIVOBEDINENIE” of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus;
7. Volunteers represent private horse owners and former horse breeders.
Inspirational value: The main objective of the initiative is to restore and maintain the floodplain meadows of the River Yaselda where rare and globally threatened bird species live (the aquatic warbler, the great snipe, the black-tailed godwit, and the common redshank). The restoration of floodplain meadows will help optimize the hydrological balance in adjacent territories. The initiative will become a pilot project, which is planned to be extended to other natural areas of Belarus both to support ecosystems and conserve the populations of animals on the verge of extinction and associated traditional knowledge.
Experience you would like to share: We can share experience gained during field expeditions aimed at seeking of horses that may be identified as Polesskaya horses based on their phenotypic and biometric characteristics, as well as gathering of biological material (hair with hair follicles taken from the mane of horses).
We would like to share our knowledge and experience of the use of the DNA barcoding technique to monitor the genetic diversity of wild species, as well as the importance of that technique for research into plant and animal diversity in a changing climate.
Experience you would like to gain: The initiative aims to obtain practical experience in rewilding, and on environmental policies and legislation that affect upscaling of rewilding, such as CAP and Biodiversity European policies, and legal status of certain species. We would like to gain research experience to understand action-impact links; improve risk assessment processes; improve predictions of the spatio-temporal variation of potential economic costs and associated benefits; improve identification and characterization of the potential social impacts of rewilding; and facilitate the emergence of a comprehensive and practical framework for monitoring and evaluation of rewilding projects.
Map
Country
Belarus
Start year
2020
Size (ha)
150
Area type
Wetlands
Flagship species
Feral horses
Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse
The Polesskaya horse is a hardy and independent breed which is is perfectly adapted to local conditions.
Valeria Korothevich
The project is conducting an inventory of the Polesskaya horse population by organizing expeditions to villages and farms.
Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse is capping out DNA identifications for the taxonomic verification of each individual to be registered and certified.
The project aims to encourage communication and practical cooperation between target groups and raise awareness of the population of the Polesie region and Belarus.
Valeria Korothevich

The Polesskaya horse is the oldest population in Europe bred in the Pripyat River basin, it is assumed to be descended from the forest tarpan. The Polesskaya aboriginal horse population has long been used in the southern regions of Belarus. The population is perfectly adapted to local conditions – very high humidity, an abundance of blood-sucking insects, and poor and poorly nutritious food. The horses are healthy, reproduce successfully and live a long life, while doing any kind of harness (draught) or horse-riding work in arduous conditions. Due to the active intensification, including mechanization, of agriculture and the drive for high production indicators in animal husbandry, some local breeds traditionally used by the population appeared to be on the verge of extinction. As a result, the Polesskaya horse population has now reached its critical status of “disappearing” due to a rapid decrease in its number. All these years, no targeted breeding work was carried out, but the horse population has survived to our times.

The main project goal is to return the Polesskaya horse population to the conditions of its free habitation with limited human interference and ensuring not only the breeding and conservation of the local breed, but also the restoration of ecosystems of floodplain meadows prone to overgrowing. The Polesskaya horse is unpretentious, capable of independent existence (in cases where feeding in winter time is provided), and this makes it a promising breed for resettlement with a view of restoring and maintaining such ecosystems ― a habitat of unique plant and endangered animal species. The Republican Biological Nature Reserve “Sporovsky” (Beryoza District, Brest Region) is considered to be the place for the Polesskaya horse introduction into natural areas.

Map
Country
Belarus
Start year
2020
Size (ha)
150
Area type
Wetlands
Flagship species
Feral horses
Specification
Project: Reintroducing the Polesskaya horse
Region: Belarus
Description
Type of project: Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: The main objective of the project is to return the Polesskaya horse population to the conditions of its existence with limited human interference to prevent overgrowing of ecosystems in floodplain meadows and ensure the conservation of biological diversity of the species inhabiting that area.
The initiative's vision is to maintain the ecosystems of floodplain meadows in the natural open state, which will allow increasing biodiversity in these areas. The restoration and maintenance of the natural ecosystems of floodplain meadows will also contribute to the interrelated changes in adjacent territories and ecosystems.
Uniqueness of the project: The project is unique for Belarus. The domesticated aboriginal animals are on the verge of extinction. There are no state programs aimed at the conservation of these animals for their restoration and sustainable use as the genetically and economically valuable gene pool, especially in a changing climate.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Research
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Encourage communication and practical cooperation between target groups and raise awareness of the population of the Polesie region and Belarus as a whole about the importance of the conservation of local horse populations and preservation of traditional knowledge associated with their use, as national heritage.
Realize the developed strategy for the operation of an initiative group on the conservation and sustainable use of local aboriginal animal populations in agricultural, nature conservation, ecological, cultural, educational and agritourism activities on constant base.
Results so far: The initiative group of stakeholders to study the current vital status of the aboriginal animals was established. The initiative group includes specialists that represent different sectors, institutions and associations, namely:
1. State Scientific Institution “Institute of Genetics and Cytology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus”, Minsk (city);
3. Republican Biological Nature Reserve “Sporovsky”, Brest Region;
4. Stud farm OJSC “Polesskaya Niva”, Brest Region;
5. Municipal Agricultural Unitary Enterprise "Gorodoksky", Brest Region.
6. Belarusian State Association for Livestock Breeding “BELPLEMZHIVOBEDINENIE” of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus;
7. Volunteers represent private horse owners and former horse breeders.
Exchange
Inspirational value: The main objective of the initiative is to restore and maintain the floodplain meadows of the River Yaselda where rare and globally threatened bird species live (the aquatic warbler, the great snipe, the black-tailed godwit, and the common redshank). The restoration of floodplain meadows will help optimize the hydrological balance in adjacent territories. The initiative will become a pilot project, which is planned to be extended to other natural areas of Belarus both to support ecosystems and conserve the populations of animals on the verge of extinction and associated traditional knowledge.
Experience you would like to share: We can share experience gained during field expeditions aimed at seeking of horses that may be identified as Polesskaya horses based on their phenotypic and biometric characteristics, as well as gathering of biological material (hair with hair follicles taken from the mane of horses). <br /> We would like to share our knowledge and experience of the use of the DNA barcoding technique to monitor the genetic diversity of wild species, as well as the importance of that technique for research into plant and animal diversity in a changing climate.
Experience you would like to gain: The initiative aims to obtain practical experience in rewilding, and on environmental policies and legislation that affect upscaling of rewilding, such as CAP and Biodiversity European policies, and legal status of certain species. We would like to gain research experience to understand action-impact links; improve risk assessment processes; improve predictions of the spatio-temporal variation of potential economic costs and associated benefits; improve identification and characterization of the potential social impacts of rewilding; and facilitate the emergence of a comprehensive and practical framework for monitoring and evaluation of rewilding projects.
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