NATURAL TREASURES OF SARLÓSPUSZTA
Sarlóspuszta lies in the territory
between the Danube and the Theiss, in the Great Plain region.
Administratively it belongs to Pest County, and it's under
the competence of Kiskunság National Park because of its unique
climate, hydrography, flora and fauna.
A few words about the National
It was founded as the second after
Hungary's largest Hortobágy National Park in 1975. The population,
the county and the City of Kecskemét have given all the support
since the beginning so that this national park, scattered
by several smaller scale agricultural activities, be able
to give the necessary protection to its values. While in other
places the protection of nature meant limits and prohibitions
only, here it had been considered a common issue, a matter
of being proud. Beyond the protection of natural values -
the traditional pustan animal breeding and the protection
of small farms (so-called 'tanya'-s), scientific research
and education, giving information, tourism and support of
traditional equestrian sports have been given an important
The uniqueness of the park is that it hasn't been a single
one but consists of several separated, scattered units, various
distances from each other, a typical so-called 'mosaic'-park.
These parts of land once formed a joint natural unit then
the spreading of agriculture cut them from each other. However
its flora and fauna still show the relation between these
territories. The island-like treasures couldn't have been
protected without cooperation.
Under our steps...
If anyone hears about Kiskunság,
he can first of all recall sand dunes. This sand had been
carried here by the Ancient Danube river 4-5 million years
ago, however its bottom could have been found much more to
the East in those days. In the iceless periods between Ice
Ages sand had been blown out by the wind which later formed
into quick sand and loess that can be found everywhere under
the loose sand. As an effect of the ruling winds sand had
taken the shape of rows of North-West - South-East direction
sand dunes. Everywhere among the dunes there are shallow,
30-50 cm-deep ponds, which, in the dry summer season can simmer,
dry out, their contents of salt becomes denser.These are sodic
lakes, soils rich in soda give the unique population of plants
The thick layer of river-deposit of the Ancient Danube can
be found everywhere under the sand and loess, and under it
the layers of lake-deposit of Pannon inner lake, once waving
All of a sudden...
Sarlóspuszta lies in the hottest
part of the Carpathian Basin, so summer is sunny here. Those
however, who like the ice-frozen romantics of winter, can
find the coldest winter of the basin. (Winter may be even
colder in the Carpathians, in Transylvania). On the hottest
days it's over +35 degrees while on the coldest it's just
16 below zero. This means a 51 degrees difference! From the
first week of April until the end of October you won't find
There's little rain; the yearly average of 550 mms is considered
a semi-desert climate in more exotic parts of the world.
The two principal rivers of the
land are the Danube and the Theiss, which play the role of
watershed among the sand slopes.Before the regulation of rivers
there had been great many permanent and temporary water surfaces,
natural canals, moors, swamps, lakes formed. Since dams have
been built, the image of the land is formed by artificial
canals and the specific way of life, the so-called flooded
area cultivation of people living here has changed a lot.
There are more than 150 still waters, dead river branches,
moors, marshes, still reminding us of richness in waters of
the old times.
Where Sky meets Land
Along the two big rivers there lies
a monotonous landscape, here can be found the lowest point
of the country (near Szeged down the South, 76 meters above
sea-level) but it won't rise over 110 meters anywhere in this
region. The highest point of this sandy land lying between
the two rivers is 'Plumb-hill' with a height of 172 meters.
Surface is made various by the dunes, the small ponds, moors
hiding amond sand hills.
World of the Pustan?
If we could trace back 2-3 thousand
years in time, we would hardly find an untouched pusta thought
to be a kind of ancient natural phenomenon. In those days
among others, because of climatical change for cold, the Great
Plain had been occupied by forests varied with smaller pastures
and swamps. Actually this forest-steppe is the natural flora
of the Great Plain; treeless pustan is characteristic of historical
times. This is why the so-called Ribbon-Woods
of Kunpeszér was declared protected in 1998.
Our Mosaic - 'Turján'-land
The area surrounded by the following
four settlements: Kunadacs, Kunbaracs, Kunpeszér and Tatárszentgyörgy
became a part of the National Park in 1996. It lies along
the border of two -territories, the terrace of the Danube
and the quick sand area, where floods and underground waters
maintained a permanent wet marshland. This bordeline, rich
in water, is called by local people 'turjános'. Thanks to
traditional cultivation it could survive in its natural state
until these days. In the old times wolves living among the
reeds meant grave danger to shepherds, herdsmen having their
livestock grazing in these territories. Our famous novelist's,
Mór Jókai's novels mentioned such fierce fights with them.
Nowadays it's famous only for its nesting and passaging birds.
The most interesting and most famous
flowers of its flora are orchids. In the tropical areas there
live about 25000 species of orchids, here only 20-30, but
all of them are protected. These unique flowers can blossom
only in areas where all necessary conditions are fulfilled.
They insist on properly wet soil, a few species of fungi and
a special kind of wild-bee for pollinate them. Its uniqueness
lies in that its shape and color puts up the shape and produces
scents characteristic of a female bee. If these conditions
are not fulfilled, the flower can get extinct even in one
or two years.
Animals in Sarlóspuszta Mini
Found in the greatest part of Europe
but here, in Hungary it's more seldom seen than the other
breed, the red deer. Adaptable, prefers forests with dense
underwood, scattered by glades, eats different sorts of grass,
forest fruits, but may also damage agricultural areas. Its
mating season, the so-called 'barcogás' is in October when
the males make all trials to gather around as many felmales
as just possible. Then embittered fights take place between
the bulls. After eight months one or two spotted calves are
born, standing up after two days and following their mother.
They live a social life, it's only the old bulls that linger
alone. Average lifespan is 20 years.
The ancestor of domesticated sheep.
After the Ice Age it was pushed down to the South and survived
in the islands of Sicily and Corse. In Hungary 2-2 pairs had
been set free in 1868 and all the present population is originated
from those. It feels good in mountain forests, stony slopes.
Eating plants, needless, but in wintertime when there may
be high snow in some parts, it should need human help. Rams
wander together, and in October, their mating season ('berregés')
they join the females. Rams crash each other with their huge
and strong horns but won't cause heavy damages to each other.
Lambs are born in the end of March and are able to follow
their mother within 1-2 hours. An interesting thing about
them is that in their stomach a so-called besoirstone is often
being formed to which popular superstition devoted a magic
A species of pig spread all over
Europe. Likes wet places with dense underwood. For the wintertime
it makes a hide for himself, in summer it moves only on limited
territory. Omnivorous, eating plants, snails, insects, practically
everthing that comes in its way. In winter they may lose 1/3rd
of their weight. Their mating season ('búgás') takes place
during the winter months and is more hidden than e.g. that
of the stag deer. Piglets are born in March, young females
give birth to 3-5, elder ones to 6-8 piglets. Little ones
follow their mother in about a week. They normally live in
a herd, only the older males linger alone. The hierarchy within
the herd is a consequence of fierce fitghts. They communicate
with complicated 'tunes', sound-scales.
Free domesticated animals
For several centuries in the endless
pusta there used to graze the ancient and indigenous species
of by now domesticated animals of Europe-wide fame like horse,
gray cattle, racka sheep, pig, goat, goose and several smaller
animals in flocks, herds, cattle-herds.
The fiery Gray Cattle
'In Bazsgér (Hungary/The Land of
Magyars) there lives a huge 'beast', like an elephant, its
skin is as heavy as two strong cows. Head in itself has the
size of a calf. Its horns are as big and long as the trunk
of an elephant. It is hunted and is called 'Attakda'. It's
a miraculous animal!' This is how Abu Hamid, an Arab merchant
saw and described the ancient Hungarian Gray Cattle 1000 years
ago. Keeping and trading of this huge-bodied, peaceful but
still strong and wild animal added a lot to that in the time
of King Matthias Hungary reached a higher than the average
European level in her standard of living and culture. It is
a fact however that the Treasury supplied expenses of chasing
out the Turks from the country of a proportion of customs,
the so-called one-thirtieth obtained by cattle-trading. The
Hungarian fiery Gray Cattle was a treasure more valuable than
gold. Abroad it was its superb quality not its cheapness that
made it very tradable. This animal could survive everywhere,
ate almost everything like grass, reed, sedge, bent-grass,
and even in winter it found its food from under the snow.
The fattened animals which got their weight from the rich
pastures fed by small waters, were driven on their own feet,
straight from the pusta to the markets of Vienna, Munich,
Strasbourg and Venice. Sometimes they were made swim across
the Danube by the thousand - with almost no loss.
The butchers of Western cities bought Hungarian Gray Cattle
as it was well known that it was resistant to almost all the
diseases. This is shown in a record from Nuremberg in which
it was said: In the summer of 1713 the town had bought 300
cattles from us and inspite that in Austria and Germany there
had been a plague among cattle, the herd arrived by fall almost
without loss or being infected.
The cattle-herds nowadays graze in pastures without dung and
fertilizers. Thus the contents of Ferrum is high in the meat
of these animals brought up among natural circumstances and
its aroma is unique of the herbs consumed by them.
Hungarian Racka Sheep
Hungarian Racka Sheep is a characteristic
breed of sheep, bred by the Magyars. It can survive on fields
where another animal would definitely die, it is needless,
massive, tough. In the Carpathian Basin two subraces of Hungarian
Racka had been bred; the so-called plain or Hortobágy-type
(this is the true Racka) and the Transylvanian which is called
'cigája'. The special spiral formation of the horn of Racka
sheep is very likely to be a consequence of a mutation which
had taken place around the end of Middle Age. This unique
V-shaped sprial-like horn is characteristic of the breed.
Sheep, just like cattle, used to be a living meat-can and
a milk-producing animal. Surplus meat was dried by our ancestors
for storage. Their tents, the so-called Yurtas were made of
felt and the latter of the hair of Racka sheep. Leather of
the sheep was used in various ways for clothing: they made
furcoat, sheepskin-coat, waistcoat, blankets of it. The great
change in the breed can be dated back to the 18th century
when Merino flocks were carried in to the country as the main
point of view then was producing cotton.
Changing of the breed was not without complications and it's
not by chance that the breeding of Racka sheep could be maintained
for the longest time in the Great Plain or more specifically,
in Hortobágy and in the Big Kunság.
Zoltán Rakonczay: From the Kiskunság to Bácsalmás, Mezőgazda
Pannon Encyclopaedia, Flora of Hungary, Dunakanyar Publishing
2000, Budapest, 1995