The Tarpan which is the name in Turkish language meaning “Wild Horse” is a now extinct subspecies of wild horse that was found throughout Poland and Russia. The photograph included in this article is the only known photo of a live Tarpan. The photo was published in 1884, 15 years before the last Tarpan held in captivity passed away making the Tarpan officially extinct. The last specimen was being held in Russia at the time of its death in 1909.
Since the 1930’s scientists and breeders have been trying to “back breed” the Tarpan from descendants of the species such as the Polish horse. Over the years, although so far unsuccessful, these attempts at back breeding have given us a number of similar species such as the Heck Horse and Stroebel’s Horse. Although neither of the breeds are the same as the original Tarpan they do share some characteristics such as the distinct grullo color.
Although the Trapan species was kept alive in captivity until 1909 wild Tarpan actually became extinct much earlier in 1890. In is believed that the population of wild Tarpan was dying out from 1875 onward and in 1890 the last known wild Tarpan mare was accidentally killed when trying to capture the animal, its from here onwards that the species in generally considered extinct.
Known primarily throughout Central Russia and Poland the Tarpan is believed to have had , at one point, a much broader range, possibly covering France and Spain. There is little evidence of this however what evidence there is does point to the existence of the wild Tarpan through Spain and France such as cave paintings and artifacts depicting the Tarpan.
“Polish primitive horses” today are considered a direct descendant of the Tarpan as these horses are the product of the the preservation act set up by the Polish government in Bialowieza forest lands specifically to protect the descendants of the Tarpan.
It is possible that the Iberian Sorraia horse is a surviving tarpan. But like all these primitive horses it does have some domestic blood.