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 Park
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 role.
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 and animals.
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 here.
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 any freezing.
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 ZOO
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 curing force.
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 Publishing, 2001
Pannon Encyclopaedia, Flora of Hungary, Dunakanyar Publishing 2000, Budapest, 1995