The Hortobágy National Park – The Puszta has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List on the 1st of December in 1999 in the category of cultural landscapes. According to its brief description ‘the Hortobágy is a vast area of plains and wetlands that have been used by humans for grazing their domestic animals for more than two millennia’.
Hortobágy is an 800 km² national park in Eastern Hungary, rich in folklore and cultural history, moreover the largest natural grassland in Central Europe with cattle, sheep, oxen, horses, tended by herdsmen, and it provides habitat for various different species. In the puszta of Hortoágy 342 bird species have been registered to appear. The red-footed falcon, stone curlew, great bustard and aquatic warbler are represented by breeding populations. The area is an important stopover site for migrating of common cranes, dotterels and lesser white-fronted geese, which makes the place a favored birthwatching post.
The regular flooding of the river Tisza for centuries provided local farmers with fertile pastures for their herds and allowed for Hungarian Grey Cattle to be exported to Western-Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. For this activity important trade roads were established through the puszta. These roads later became known as the “salt-roads” on which salt was transported from the salt mines of Transylvania. Along the main roads wayside inns called “csárda” were built at the end of the 17th century, and at least forty of them were still in existence within the last century. However, only about 5 of these inns currently exist.
In the years of large-scale flooding, bridges offered the only means of crossing the land. The famous Nine-Arch bridge was built for that purpose. The landscape of the puszta is dotted by traditional T-shaped sweepwells as well, as the occasional mirage of trees shimmering in the reflected heat of the puszta. Part of the Hortobágy National Park is a dark sky preserve.
The name of the Hungarian cowboys responsible for the kettles is „Csikós” . To be swain of a mob was also an envThe name ied and honoured job,, but being „csikós” needed more strength and skill, first of all exellent rider abilities. The cattle sometimes were hugh, more, than 1000 cows, bulls and calfs, and was not easy to keep them together and keep eye on the stray animals. „Csikós” were responsible also for the studs in Hortobágy. Most of their life they spent on the „puszta”, and their lifestyle totally adapted the given life conditions. Sometimes they slept under the sky, eated simple, stodgy one-course dishes, as „slambuc” or „gulyás”, prepared above open fire in a cauldron. „Csikós” best friend was always his horse. And they were always excellent in riding and riding tricks. Cantering, inrush of young horses, bare-back riding, riding on hands, toring across the plain standing astride of the back two horses, to hide on a wide open plain by lying down flat in the reeds – all those stunts (earnest of survival once-upon-a-time) are part of the legendary horsehows of the „puszta” today.