Hippologic Museum in Slatinany
The person who inspired the birth of the State Hippologic Museum in Slatinany was professor PhDr et MUDr Frantisek Bilek, DrSc, the founder of Czech livestock breeding and a prominent geneticist.
His name appears a number of times in the history of Czech hippology. In 1921, he managed to purchase three Przewalski horses from Professor Julius Kühn in Halle for the University of Agriculture in Prague. Two of these horses later became the founders of the renowned breed of the last species of the wild horse, connected since 1932 with the Prague Zoological Garden. At the Experimental Stud Farm in Pruhonice near Prague, back in 1939, Professor Bilek attempted to save the Old-Kladruby black horse, the breeding of which had ceased after 1918. Not only did Professor Bilek work out a project to this effect and saw to its execution, but he also sought out and gathered together the scattered remnants of the black horse herd. He launched his own regeneration programme in 1941. However, very soon stabling and pastures were inadequate for the nascent breeding herd. After the end of World War Two the possibility arose of using one of the confiscated estates. It was no coincidence that Slatinany was chosen. The noble family of Auerspergs had had stables built in the Slatinany chateau park at the end of the previous century and these had no parallel in the Czech Republic for their modern and efficient design, and the layout of the buildings. In the world of horse racings, the stables had been known as Earlstall. The confiscated estate included large areas of meadows which could later be used as pastures. When, in August 1945, Old-Kladruby horses were transported to Slatinany, Professor Bilek spent a lot of time there supervising the regeneration process of the breed. It was then he started toying with the idea of making use of the chateau, too. He had already submitted a proposal on March 5, 1946 for the official establishment of a "State Hippological Museum in Slatinany". The proposal, in fact, saved the Slatinany chateau as a cultural monument, as most other confiscated chateaux and manors were later used in ways that led to their devastation and even resulted in the demolition of some of them. In his project, Professor Bilek was able to conjoin his great love for both horses and culture. In his reasoning in favour of a horse museum he stressed the immense services provided by the horse to man, the great sacrifices the horse had made on behalf of mankind, as well as the aesthetic values the horse has for man. When looking for a suitable place for the intended museum, Professor Bilek took into account the hippological tradition of Eastern Bohemia - the oldest preserved stud farm in Kladruby nad Labem, the formation of the first Czech Hunting Society in Pardubice, the Grand Pardubice Steeple Chase, a military training centre in Pardubice and the Chrudim horse markets. The idea of interlinking the breeding station and the museum was also very tempting - after walking through the horse museum, visitors could go on to see live horses! In the proposed project, the museum was to be divided into three sections - perhaps three rooms would remain as representative chambers, the scientific section would occupy 5 rooms and the rest would be an exhibition of the horse in the arts. He divided the scientific section into four parts: palaeontological, zoological, anatomical and a sector devoted to the domestication of the horse. The second section in stylised chateau rooms was to illustrate how, in the course of time, the horse had contributed to the development of human culture. In paintings dating from different epochs and coming from various countries, Professor Bilek intended to demonstrate the changing function and use of the horse in its relation to the human race. The project greatly attracted Dr Zdenek Wirth, who was then President of the National Cultural Commission, and who, right away in the following year 1947 had objects brought to Slatinany for the collection. The original exhibits included objects brought from 122 chateaux and castles in Bohemia and Moravia, and from universities and research institutes. Some articles were borrowed, others purchased. The ceremony of opening the State Hippological Museum in Slatinany took place on October 1, 1950. The section The Horse in Art was opened to the public and the very first day had 205 visitors. The scientific section was opened in 1952. By the end of 2001, a total of 1,190,000 visitors had seen the exhibits - and this is sound proof that Professor Bilek's idea was a correct and viable one.
The opening of the museum, however, was not the end of its development. Its collections are being supplemented and enriched, the exhibition is being kept up-to-date, and new forms of presentation sought. The building up of the museum and its very existence are a true reflection of the relationship between the horse and man. We cannot be sure where and when man met the horse for the first time. What we do know is that at first the horse meant food for man. In prehistoric times horse hide was used for clothing or to cover people's shelters, tendons and bones were useful for tool-making. As time went on and they got to know each other better, they became friends. Nevertheless, as is the custom with people, man tended rather to misuse his partner, i.e. the horse. The use of the horse was at its peak in the Middle Ages. The horse was worshipped and became a symbol of grandeur and power. The numbers of horses continued to increase until the mid 20th century when a turn came. Nowadays people do not need horses for meat, hide, tendons or bones, they do not even require their traction power, tenacity or velocity - all of which have been replaced by machines. However, man still needs the horse...
The Przewalski Horse
The Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii) is now the sole living species of the wild horse. It used to inhabit the extensive steppe areas of central Asia, although, from cave engravings made by prehistoric man, it can be assumed that this type of horses lived in Europe, too. The Przewalski horse was still living on the east bank of the Volga by the end of the Middle Ages. However, in the mid 19th century it could only be found on the steppes of Jungaria on the border between today's Mongolia and China. It was discovered there in 1879 by a Russian explorer, N.M. Przevalskiy. Based on the skull and hide sent to the zoological museum in Petersburg, zoologist I.S. Poliakov made a scientific description of the horse and named it in honour of the explorer, the Przewalski horse.
In the period 1889 to 1903, 54 Przewalski horses were captured, however only 13 of these survived and they became the foundation of today's population amounting to over 1500 horses.
Most likely, the Przewalski horse has become extinct in the wild. The last wild horses were seen in Mongolia in the spring of 1968 and there has been no reliable news of their existence since. The Przewalski horse has been preserved especially thanks to breeding in zoological gardens. The result of international efforts of more than 90 years was over 1000 Przewalski horses in 1990 and so it was then possible to start thinking about its reintroduction into the wild. So far, there are three stations in Mongolia and China where horses coming from different zoological gardens are being gradually acclimatized to the severe steppe conditions. Only when they do well will they be set free.
The Przewalski horse came to Czechoslovakia thanks to Professor Frantisek Bilek who was aable in 1921 to purchase three pure Przewalski horses from Professor Julius Kühn in Halle for the University of Agriculture in Prague. The Stallion Ali and mare Minka later became the founders of the renowned breed of the last species of the wild horse in the Prague Zoological Garden, where they were taken in 1932, when the Zoo opened.
Prague Zoological Garden has contributed significantly to saving the Przewalski horse and for many years it was the biggest and most significant breeder of the species in the world. Since 1933, over 180 foals have been born. For its success, Prague Zoo was requested in 1959 to keep the international stud book of the Przewalski horse - it is published annually and records all the changes in the breed world-wide.
The Przewalski Horse in Slatinany
In the scientific section, visitors can see the stuffed bodies of the stallion Ali, the mare Minka and their first offspring, born at the university farm in Netluky. A new addition to the collection is the head of Simon, the stallion that had most offspring of all the Przewalski horses (64 !). On June 8, 1993 a small herd of the Przewalski horses was brought to the Slatinany park.
The Stallion Simon was born in Munich in Hellabrunn ZOO on May 2, 1969 and was registered in the stud book under entry No. 411, Hellabrunn 64. His father was Sidor and mother Sira. He was in the Munich breed until 1984 and was then exchanged for another horse with Prague Zoo. He retired to Slatinany.
The colt Xeron was born in Prague on May 17, 1992 and was recorded under No. 2324 Prague 173. His father was Simon and mother Nora. He had three offspring in Slatinany: Chrudimka, Dar and Erb. On October 22, 1998 he was moved to the acclimatisation station of Prague Zoo in Dobrejov.
The filly Xendy was born in Prague on May 8, 1992 and was recorded under No. 2307 Prague 170. Her father was Nick and mother Rea. In Slatinany she and Xeron had three offspring: in 1997, the filly Chrudimka, in 1998, a colt Dar and in 1999, a colt Erb.
It is a 6-8 hour round trip.
We recommend to combine it with seeing the Kladruby stud that is the oldest European stud.
It is 1,5 hours to drive from Prague to East.
1)Slatinany stud and hippologic museum C EE6 - 6-8 hour round trip
2)Slatinany stud and hippologic museum C EE6 + Kladruby Stud C EE5 - 8-10 hour round trip