Friday, 16 August 2013

The Liebenthaler horse

Another horse breed, besides the Heck horse, which is actually the result of a breeding-back attempt is the Liebenthaler horse, also from Germany. I haven’t mentioned this breed before yet because I considered it just another dilution of the Konik like the Dülmen Pony (nope, the Dülmen Pony is not a remnant of the wild horse). But seemingly this doesn’t appreciate it enough.

The breed originated in 1960, when Jürgen Zutz wanted to rebreed the European wild horse. For this purpose, he crossed Fjord horses with Koniks and a Heck horse mare. Today there is a herd of more than 100 individuals living freely all year round in a zoo in Liebenthal, Brandenburg.

Apparently the Konik left its strongest mark in the breed. The Liebenthaler is no sensation, it is yet another Tarpan-like breed with the usual appearance, size, behaviour and probably also ecologic capacities. But what I find interesting is the combination Fjord x Konik, because it results in a population of black and bay dun horses (apparently there are also some Sorrel and isabelline horses in the herd). The animals look nice overall, add some Exmoor and perhaps a bit of Przewalski and you get a decently Tarpan-like horse herd.


  1. This is interesting, and it is very nice to see a herd of heterogeneously coloured primitive horses, like wild horse herds would have been. I get tired of seeing herds of only grulla koniks. I also like the przewalski/konik horses at Lippeaue you posted, I just wish they would cross them with the exmoors they also have and you'd have some very nice horses.

    Fjord horses can be beautiful, and very primitive looking, but very often have the cream gene, which I think should be carefully avoided in any back-breeding attempt. Given that the homozygous presentation of the cream gene is so evolutionarily maladaptive it is very likely to be a domestic mutation. Luckily, being incompletely dominant it is relatively easy to select out.

    Another gene I find interesting is the 'sooty' gene that you see in a lot of exmoors. As the gene hasn't been identified there is no eveidence of it in wild horses, but it does such a good job of countershading, and works so well together with pangare colouring to further break up the shape of the horse, especially with its dappling effect, it seems very possible to me that it might be a primitive modifier gene.

    Thank you so much for your blog, I find it so incredibly interesting. I have been interested in breeding-back since I was a teenager, but until very recently it was hard to find much information online about the various attempts - and I couldn't see for myself since I live in New Zealand! I have also read through all 75 pages of the aurochs thread on the 'carnivora' forum (phew) and found your contributions to be very valuable and interesting. It is interesting to see on there how your opinions have changed over time. To begin with you seemed very anti-heck cattle, but seemed to become more open minded about all the various breeding-back projects and their different merits and ideologies. So thank you again, for all your hard work in putting this information out there for all the world to see : )

    1. Hi, thanks for your encouraging words! I completely agree regarding your thoughts on the wild horse colours and cross ideas; I know some photos of Exmoor x Konik crosses (all slaughtered, unfortunately). They had a very wild horse-like appearance; unfortunately I can't post the photos here because they are owned by Henri Kerkdijk-Otten and I quit all contact with him. But crosses like these certainly are a good idea, they bring in virtually all features that are desired.

    2. Hi, I would be incredibly interested to see the result of an exmoor x konik cross, is there any chance if I gave you my email address you could email them to me?

    3. I uploaded it on imageshack (if he does object he can email me): Their version of bay dun looks reminiscent of a Przewalski's. Their phenotype is perfectly what I imagine a European wild horse to look like (bay dun, stocky body, very short mane, dark legs, robust head), and interestingly one third of them happened to have a semi-erect mane. Unfortunately, they culled them because of their anti-Konik dogmatism. Another case of the left hand not knowing what the right one is doing, however, such crosses can be repeated anytime. Looks like a very good combination for nature areas, it brings all phenotypic wild horse features needed.