Equus Gmelini - Tarpan

(Oriental Group)

Skull of a tarpan.

A bronze statue of a Greek school horse from the 5th century A.D. The form shows a similarity to a Lipizzaner.

A head of an antique "Selene horse"
(Parthenon acropolis)
 from the 5th century B.C. in Athens.

A head of a horse from an Assyrian
 relievo (around 650 B.C.)

        The depictions of horses were already discovered in glacial caves. These drawings show a horse with a much finer, slightly bent inward head, while also being taller, lighter and having thinner legs than Kertag. This "diluvium" horse existed in wild herds until the eighties of the 19th century and was widely spread around the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and further east to Aral Lake. In these areas he was called “tarpan”. The first time this horse was described  in the 18th century was by an explorer named S. G. Gmelin, who hunted and observed these horses. Other observers and explorers recorded that the tarpan stallions were leading the domestic horses onto their own herds. Often some mares were seen with pieces of harness still attached to them. This will explain why many of the explorers identified this horse with domestically bred and the wild horse. The existence of tarpan as an individual kind of wild horse was strongly doubted, despite the insistence of zoologist Chersky, who brought attention to the difference in the structure of tarpan’s skull and body.

       A professor of paleontology at the university of Vienna, O. Antonius, evaluated and criticized the Russian reports regarding these horses. He declared in 1911, that tarpan was a unique wild horse independent of Kertag and that it could be ancestor to the Eastern group of horses. He then appropriately and scientifically named this horse Equus Gmelini.

       According to reports by Falcfein, herds of tarpans were still freely grazing during the middle of the 19th century on the plains by the Caspian and Black Seas.

       It is fair to conclude that the domestication of tarpan occurred around 3500 and 4000 B.C. The Assyrians relievos in Nineveh in 8th century B.C. show similar horses depicted in chariots and under saddle. This old Assyrian horse was bred in two forms: the lighter one for saddle and the heavier for pulling. Similar testimonies can be seen in Persia where breeding of horses rose to higher levels. It is also believed that horse racing started in Persia, but this may be disputable. The Persians also invented royal mail delivery, where they set up many stations with horses across the country.

       The Arabs domesticated horses at a much later date. It is believed to be in Mohamed times in the 7th century A.D. In Egypt it showed itself around the beginning of the 2nd millennia B.C.

       The pure-blooded descendants of tarpan are considered to be the Arabian horses bred by Bedouins who strictly followed and recorded their horses from generation to generation. The Iranian horse is an older breed than the Arabian, but it already had the blood from the Mongolian horse and in modern days from the English Thoroughbred.

      The tarpan is considered the foundation horse of the Eastern (Oriental) group.

Edited by R.A. March 16, 2004

Translated by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a. Lee Stanek from the 1953 Special Zoo-Technique - Breeding of Horses
Published in 1953 by the Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Science and certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Written by: MVDr Ludvik Ambroz, Frabtisek Bilek, MVDr Karel Blazek, Ing. Jaromir Dusek, Ing. Karel Hartman, Hanus Keil, pro. MVDr Emanuel Kral, Karel Kloubek, Ing. Dr. Frantisek Lerche, Ing. Dr Vaclav Michal, Ing. Dr Zdenek Munki, Ing. Vladimir Mueller, MVDr Julius Penicka, pro. MVDr Emil Pribyl, MVDr Lev Richter, prof. Ing. Dr Josef Rechta, MVDr Karel Sejkora and Ing. Dr Jindrich Steinitz.