Steeped in legend and cultural heritage, the Hortobágy is part of the Alföld Great Plain, the largest semi-natural grassland in all of Europe. This place combines an almost eerie stillness with vast open space, and big skies which conjure up America’s wild west. At 800 km2 , the Hortobágy is not only the oldest national park in Hungary, but also the largest. Research indicates that the alkalinazation of this area began about 10,000 years ago. Grazing wild horses and pastoral herds completed the eventual deforestation.
Historically the Great Hungarian Plain was utilized as pasture land for horses and the Hungarian Grey Cattle, or Szürke Marha. This ancient bovine breed were led to market on foot as far away as Italy. Today you’ll still find the Hungarian cowboys tending to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While their herds now serve more as a tourist attraction, the traditionally dressed Csikós herdsmen still maintain a working stock of cattle, horses, Racka sheep and Mangalica pigs. A haven for birdwatchers, the plain is also home to 342 species including migrating cranes. The Hortobágy embodies the Hungarian spirit: proud, tough, resourceful and close to the land. One only has to imagine the mustachioed herdsmen sitting around a campfire, drinking Pálinka and stirring their cauldron of gulyás . A classic scene that’s pure Hungary.