The number of wild horses in the Czech Republic has exceeded 100 record scientists after counting this year’s newborns

2019 - 07 - 03
The number of wild horses in the Czech Republic has exceeded 100 record scientists after counting this year’s newborns

Herds of wild horses from England’s Exmoor are growing in the Czech Republic. Scientists counted a total of 111 wild horses (including this year’s foals) in five reserves. The largest herds live in the former military area of Milovice, located close to Prague, where there are 71 horses in two pastures, and in the Podyji national park in South Moravia, which is home to 20 horses in two pastures.

“Wild horses procreate really well in the Czech Republic. It is clear that they have found great conditions for life here,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife conservation organization. The dynamics of the horse herd growth is obvious when compared to another large ungulate: European bison. The first purebred European bison was brought to the Czech Republic in 1948. However, their population only exceeded one hundred 70 years later in 2017. The first wild horses were brought to the Milovice reserve by conservationists in January 2015, and the population of the animals rose above one hundred in 2019, after as little as five years. In the whole world, though, wild Exmoor horses are less numerous than European bison. So while there are nearly 8,000 European bison in the world nowadays, there are only about 2,000 Exmoor horses, which means that their population is similar to that of the giant panda.

Rather than the total number of horses, the number and origin of the animals which started the population is important. Only a great number of unrelated founders can create a genetically varied and self-sufficient local population. “The Czech population of Exmoor horses is unique because it was founded by 40 unrelated members. If we consider the fact that only 45 Exmoor horses survived World War II, this number is really high. It is possible that no other population has such a high number of founders,” noted Miloslav Jirku from the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The Czech population has thus become crucial for the preservation of these rare ungulates.

The numbers should not be final, though. The Czech population does not include some rare lines of wild horses from remote areas of Exmoor. Therefore, it will be necessary to bring in other animals from England in the future, so that the maximum genetic variety of herds in the Czech Republic is achieved.

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