Translated in the breed’s native Poland, Konik means “diminutive horse”. Averaging 12 to 13 hands at maximum height that is an apt description, but the breed’s significance is anything but small.
The semi-feral Koniks are believed to be descendants of the the wild Tarpan horses that roamed European forests for centuries before being hunted to extinction. When Germany invaded Poland at the onset of World War II, Nazi-sponsored scientists attempted to recreate the Tarpan breed and subjected the Koniks to a number of genetic experiments. At war’s end, they were largely abandoned and teetered on the edge of extinction. Fortunately, Polish scientists were able to secure several herds and preserve the breed.
Today, Koniks can be found at many of Europe’s National Parks, where they have been installed in wetland areas for conservational grazing.