The book begins in Mongolia on the border with China, where the welder Nyamsuren remembers spotting a horse as a child with his grandfather in the middle of a herd of wild asses. “Tachi!”, The old man marveled and whispered to the grandson that these steppe dwellers were hardly to be found. Later, however, Nyamsuren was present when an “Antonov” plane landed. Stefan Schomann’s new book In search of the wild horses shows on the endpaper how horses get out of the boxes that have been unloaded from this plane and take possession of their ancestral homeland. The picture on the follow-up paper is even more astonishing: Przewalski’s horses graze in front of the sarcophagus of the Chernobyl reactor. With many other animals – bears, lynxes, wolves – they were settled in the “zone”. “A moose wades in the Kühlsee”, writes Schomann, whose “search for the wild horses” also led him there.
A disaster site as a biotope? This book is a journey into the unknown, a narrative of adventures, gripping and fed by the author’s own experience. Reading takes you to places that hardly anyone in this country has heard of: Biidsch, Prypjat, Saissan, Baty, Chowd. At the shepherds’ shepherds in the Gobi steppe desert in Central Asia, we experience a folk festival where people wet the earth with mare’s milk and send a greeting to heaven: “Kumys to cosmos. Cosmos to kumys. Oil, flower petals, incense and biscuits should also please the spirits. ”The interior of Asia: Schomann, born in Munich in 1962, wants to overcome borders – including those that we have in our heads. With Russians, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Chinese we live on one plate: Eurasia. We are only a small part of it, even if we think we are the center. In the endless expanse of the Gobi, the writer feels how the earth “hums” (which can even be measured). “It always sounds and vibrates, it is only overlaid by all sorts of everyday noises, the sound of the media, internal tensions and the background noise of civilization.” The entrance to the Lascaux cave in the Dordogne, which is 17,000 years into the When the time goes deep, he experiences like an initiation. There are over 350 rock carvings of horses there.
To our distant ancestors, animals were no more than prey. They have not given any thought to their extermination. Whereby humans admired the horse from the beginning. Because it exudes masculinity and femininity, as a French researcher puts it: strength and superiority as well as grace and sensitivity? In any case, something seems to connect man and horse. The oldest depictions of ungulates are 35,000 years old, the earliest references to domestication are at most 6,000. “Horse history is human history,” said Schomann.
He is noticeably enjoying his “cultural-historical hussar ride from prehistory to our days”. How he combines his research with what he has learned himself, how he lets himself be carried away by his own language skills, is what defines his art as an author. In a gripping way, he follows the Stone Age nomads as well as the cavalry armies of Genghis Khan, following in the footsteps of various explorers such as Alfred Brehm, who declared the Asian donkey to be the progenitor of domestic horses because he did not see the real wild horses. This is how Nikolai Michailowitsch Przewalski (1839 – 1888) discovered it. The Russian military and naturalist took the reports that were brought to him seriously and in 1878 sent the skin and skull of a wild horse that had been killed by Kyrgyz hunters to St. Petersburg. On later trips he saw whole herds with his own eyes.
Usually they are escape animals, but at the book premiere in the Berlin zoo they meet you curiously: With amber-colored fur, mohawk mane, the characteristic eel line on their back, they stretch their white mouths towards you and look at you with slanted eyes. Five mares – they do not know that all living Tachi descend from 13 parents, that there are 850 of them in Mongolia, 600 in China, a herd also in Ukraine, so to speak as a substitute for the eradicated European wild horses.
Zoo visitors sometimes think that everything is only there for them. But the main task of zoos is now breeding in order to preserve the world’s biodiversity. So far 17 Berlin Przewalski horses have traveled to their ancestral home. However, as one learns, releasing the animals into the wild is a lengthy procedure. First the horses have to herd, which usually happens in Prague. And at the destination, life in freedom has to be learned first. While one ponders how many species have become extinct, the horses lose interest. They turn away. As if to say, “Leave us alone.”
In search of the wild horses Stefan Schomann Galiani Berlin, 464 S., 25 €