Keywords: horse breeding, conservation of biodiversity, Polesye horses, measurements, exterior, genetic resources


Introduction. The world is actively in the process of improving the productive qualities of livestock, including horses to meet the needs of society. At the same time, less competitive aboriginal breeds and populations are being displaced, which are characterized by slightly lower productivity, but are well adapted to environmental conditions. In 2002–2019, breeding herds of agricultural animals of many breeds disappeared in Ukraine, including such genetically “valuable” ones as brown Carpathian cattle, Myrhorod pig breed, Ukrainian meat-wool (Kharkiv type)sheep breed and others [1, 2]. In terms of intensive progress in agriculture, given the great anthropogenic and man-made shocks of the twentieth century (wars, Chernobyl accident), the flora and fauna of Ukraine were threatened by significant reductions, especially forest and swamp ecosystems of Ukrainian Polissya, which formed with large wild and domesticated ungulates. Among them is the Polesye horse, which has been in this area for more than 4.000 years, but is now almost extinct [3, 4, 5]. It is necessary to restore and expand the population of Polesye horses as a basis for biodiversity of Ukrainian Polissya and as part of the cultural heritage of the region.

Materials and methods of research. The materials for the research were archival data, literary and scientific sources that contain information about the origin of the Polesye horse, as well as the results of an expeditionary survey of the horse population of private rural estates of the Polesye horse. The main measurements of the horse's body were determined: height at the withers, oblique length of the body, chest girth, cannon girth. A comparative analysis of measurements of modern horses of Ukrainian Polissya with those bred in this area in the 50s of the last century, as well as with the animal population of the Belarusian part of the region (Western and Eastern Polissya) was conducted.

Research results. According to researchers, the Polesye horse originates from wild ancestors – forest tarpans, who lived in Polissya until the 18th century. For a long time, the Polissya horse was bred "in itself" in the conditions of unsatisfactory feeding and excessive use at work. This has led to a reduction in size, the appearance of exterior-constitutional features (stepping of the hind limbs, low heels of the hooves, the proximity of the hocks). But on the other hand, there are high adaptive qualities, unpretentiousness to the conditions of detention and high efficiency. The main place of distribution of horses is determined by Ukrainian and Belarusian Polissya [5, 7, 8, 9].

In the 40's and 50's of the last century, Polesye horses were actively improved. For this purpose, local mares were crossed with stallions of Russian Heavy Draft and Orlov Trotter [6]. During the 50–60s of the last century, scientists of the Belarusian Research Institute of Animal Husbandry studied and examined more than 1.000 horses of the Polesye population [9]. It is worth paying attention to the experience of Belarusian scientists who, within the framework of the state program of revival and development of Polissya, conduct research and work on the restoration of horses of the Polesye breed. A comprehensive analysis was carried out: basic measurements were taken and the exterior of the horses was assessed, materials on breeding use and productivity were collected. This became the basis for the development of the main directions of selection and breeding work with the population [3, 4, 10, 11].

Until 2019, no work was carried out in Ukraine to assess and restore the population of Polesye horses. In 2019, the first survey of horses in Ukrainian Polissya was conducted in independent Ukraine in order to find typical representatives of the Polesye population. Comparing the exterior of the horses described in the source [6] with those encountered during the expedition, we selected typical representatives of Polesye horses and brought them to the stable "ShcherbatyTsugli" in the Prybirsk village, Ivankiv district, Kyiv region, where the climate and fodder the base is favorable and "native" to these animals. Currently, the herd of horses of the Polesye population consists of 9 mares and 1 stallion. To compare the horses of the modern population with those bred in Belarus, as well as the typical representatives that were described in the last century, we determined the body measurements of selected horses. According to the results of the analysis, the mares of the modern "Ukrainian" population were 2.7 cm taller than the representatives of the Polesye population in 1952, but 2.3 cm inferior to the Polesye horses of Belarus. The oblique length of the mares' torso and the girth of the breasts had the same tendency as the height at the withers. That is, the horses of the Polesye population of Ukraine insignificantly outnumbered the typical representatives of the individuals described in the last century and were similar to the Belarusian population. Given this, we can conclude that despite the use of the method of crossbreeding in the past, the horses of Ukrainian Polissya in general have preserved the exterior-constitutional type of their ancestors. The same opinion is shared by other researchers, who believe that only those horses that had the appropriate size and features of the exterior could adapt to the conditions of Polissya [3, 11].

Ethnographers and historians-reconstructors also take part in studying the population of "Polesye" horses. After all, in addition to biological significance, the Polesye horse, which has long been used in agriculture, has acquired a deep ethnographic significance. Ethnographers have recorded the facts of the use of the horse in rituals, in particular actively in wedding rituals. Thus, the historical and cultural component of the study is an essential complement to this program and provides a comprehensive study of the history of the Polesye horse. Polesye horses can be used for the development of green, ecological, rural andequestrian tourism.

Conclusions. The population of Polesye horses is one of the oldest in Europe and has been on the territory of Ukrainian Polissya for more than 4.000 years, but has now almost disappeared. Expeditionary surveys of Ukrainian Polissya allowed to select typical representatives of Polesye horses and to create a basic herd in the conditions of the farm "ShcherbatyZugli" in the Prybirskvillage, Ivankiv district, Kyiv region. Modern horses of the Polesye breed, which are similar in appearance and size to those described in the 1950s, can serve as a basis for the restoration of the Polesye population. It is important to develop a selection program for the restoration (reconstruction) of the Polesye horse population in order to preserve not only biodiversity, but also the cultural heritage and national heritage of Ukrainian Polissya.


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How to Cite
Ilnytska, T. Y., Sydorenko, O. V., Yagusevich, Y. S., & Leshchenko, N. M. (2020). POLESYE HORSE: HISTORY OF ORIGIN AND CURRENT SITUATION. Animal Breeding and Genetics, 59, 136-141. https://doi.org/10.31073/abg.59.15
Conservation of Animal Biodiversity