Horse No. 45
“At the entrance to a stretch of forest located in the Masuria region of northern Poland, there is a large, yellow sign warning visitors that the terrain from that point is unsafe: “Uwaga (Caution) – Dangerous Horses. Do Not Enter”. We are talking about the Tarpan which one should encounter here, once the dominant breed of wild horses in Europe until they were wiped out in the nineteenth century. Today’s Tarpan is a back-breeding of the Konik, a Polish landrace.
The ride along the bumpy, 6-mile road proceeded fairly uneventfully, no horses as far as the eye could see. The operator of the drinks kiosk in the village at the end of the forest explained that we just needed to be patient, because the animals would eventually show their faces. In fact, half-way back, a small herd majestically crossed the road and disappeared into the thicket, without taking much notice of us at all. We were ready to continue when a straggler showed up among the trees, planted itself in front of our vehicle and flared its nostrils at us in a threatening gesture.
It then took a few steps, rubbed itself against a young tree, and started playing with the branches, charging back and forth. The spectacle turned into something magical as the Tarpan paused for a moment with the foliage twisting around its hooves, neck, and head resembling a petrified mythical creature. Only later did I discover on the photo a brand on its back: the number 45.” – Robert Rutöd