In the Oostvaardersplassen, a wildlife preserve in the Netherlands, the Pleistocene lives again. Herds of wild horses and cattle roam the region, just as they might have - along with woolly mammoths - 20 thousand years ago.

What's interesting about the Oostvaardersplassen is what it reveals about how herds of wild herbivores can change a biosphere. While many "wild" regions in Europe are forested today, that's probably not how they would have looked during the Pleistocene when herds of wild horses, bison, and megafauna roamed the lands. These creatures range over many miles, chomping on the vegetation, which results in a landscape like the one you see in these images - full of grassy regions, punctuated by copses of trees.

According to Ark In Space:

The large herbivores that used to exist in this part of Europe included the tarpan a wild horse that has been replace here by the konik horses that you see here. The European bison and elk are also extinct but are represented here by Heck cattle. It is hoped that the wisent or European bison can be reintroduced here too. The Oostvaardersplassen is an isolated area in many ways. There are, at the moment, no corridors to other nature reserves. Plans exist, however to form a corridor between it and the Horsterwold, a young forest near Zeewolde. Ultimately this should allow deer and other animals to move all the way to France and Germany. It is a bold plan but one which should, if it works, increase the biodiversity of Europe significantly.


The park is just outside Amsterdam, and you can take a train through it. If you want to travel back to prehistory, all you have to do is take a short ride outside Amsterdam.

Images via Wikimedia, except image of three horses and foal by Fred Vloo.


via Ark In Space

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