(AP) — A reserve about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Germany’s industrial heartland is home to a herd of wild horses, which are left to their own devices all year — except when wranglers come in late May to catch the young stallions.
The Merfelder Bruch reserve at Duelmen in western Germany, north of the densely populated Ruhr industrial region, is the last of what were once many areas where wild horses could roam. Documents mention wild horses there as far back as 1316, and the dukes of Croy set aside the reserve for them in the mid-19th century. According to local authorities, it is the only one on the European continent.
Today, around 400 horses live in a roughly 3.5-square kilometer (1.35-square mile) area. They’re left to fend for themselves with only trees and bushes for shelter, living conditions that have made the Duelmen horses particularly robust. Only when there’s heavy frost or snow is hay provided for them.
As a rule, humans intervene only once a year: when wranglers come to catch the young stallions by hand on the last Saturday in May, a sight that drew about 15,000 spectators this year to the arena where the event is held. The one-year-old stallions are rounded up and separated from the herd.
The aim is to preserve the herd for the future by keeping it to a sustainable size and warding off the danger of inbreeding and territorial fighting. Once they’re rounded up, the young stallions are auctioned off. They’re known as good-natured horses that, with good training, quickly adapt to human ownership.
On Saturday, 36 young stallions were caught.