Grazing animals of the Puszta
Pasture farming has been the key mean of livelihood and the key of the economy in Hortobagy and its surrounding area for Debrecen’s and the other rural towns’ population for hundred years. There had been tens of thousands of animals on the grasslands, which number has reduced nowadays, but their role in keeping the characteristic face of the fields is undeniable.
The history of the Nonius breed dates back to the 19th century.
The Austrian imperior army cought the french nonius senior stallion as spoils of war during the Napoleonic wars. It was brought to Mezohegyes in 1816. Here the breed developed quickly and fulfilled the expectations for the then usage. According to the documents of its day the breed had got to Hortobagy in the middle of the 19th century. The determined breeding works started that time under the controll of Ferenc Kozma, who was the biggest name amongst the horse breeding experts of the country. Thanks to his strict professionalism the stock became homogenous and the hortobagyian type started to emerge – this was smaller and leaner compairing to the mezőhegyesian type and typified by chestnut colour. Mata became the main breeding centre and also the centre of Debrecen’s grazing management. Military use of the breed terminated after the II. World War and they were used for agriculture until the 1970s.
Typical features of the breed is the half ram or ram shape head which is proportionate to its body size. The Nonius has an outstanding capability for work, very calm temperament and durable performance. As well as using them as draught horse they also take part successfully in cart competitions.
Hungarian grey cattle
Hungarian grey cattle – with its force of nature, prestigious and imposing appearance – is the symbol of hungarians. Its origin is still unclear, there are many theories in this regarding. It is accepted that there were so many of them living in the Carpathian basin for a couple of hundred years that they could became one of the main export products of the Hungarian Kingdom. As the grey cattle is very durable and has a strong constitution they could be driven on foot to distant fairs such the German, Italian and Austrian ones. Many noble families – Nadasdy, Zrínyi, Thököly – took part in cattle bussinness. Animals and their shepherds lifes strictly attached to one anonther as these people spent most of their times with the stock. The culture of shepherds still alive which is an important part of the hungarian cultural history. The breed was very popular until the 20th century, but then due to the mechanisation of the agriculture and the spread of other, better milk and meat producer varieties in the country, the grey cattle was basically doomed. A few brave and committed professionals collected the remaining animals saved grey cattle from disappiarence. The lowest point was in the 1960s. Since then there has been strong growth in the number of the breed, there are almost 400 breeders now. The biggest stock is in Hortobagy. Grey cattle spends most of the year on natural pastures, consumes natural feed and those herbs can be found in the Puszta, that provides the excellent and reliable quality and the unique flavour of its meat. Dishes from gray cattle meat can be found in restaurants but very rare at the supermarkets.
Racka sheep manages extensive rearing very well and looks unique with its proud poise and twisted horns, these features makes it incomperable amidst the worlds’ sheep versions. As the owner of the biggest lifestock in Hungary a very important task for Hortobagyi Nonprofit Ltd. is to keep the genetic diversity of the thousand year old hungarian variety.
One of our oldest domestic animals in the Carpathian basin is the buffalo. It arrived from Far-Asia with the avar herd. As they do not grow thick winter fur they must be kept in properly closed barns during wintertime. The opposite happens at summertime: they tend to spend a lot of time in water or mud to cool their body down and protect themselves from parasites. They can run faster than a horse in short distance in case they smell danger. The meat contains a lot of iron, very dark red, delicious meat. They were used to be kept as yokes in agriculture as they are very strong and massive animals until the mechanisation. The milk is also very good quality, the main ingredient of the real mozzarella cheese. Their number dropped only to 2 herds by the millennium one of them was in Hortobagy. Their number is slowly emerging nowadays.