HORMETCI, Turkey (AP) — Horses lift clouds of dust on the foothills of Mount Erciyes, a former volcano that is one of Turkey’s highest peaks, as Ali Kemer herds the animals at sunset.
Kemer is a third-generation horse breeder in Hormetci, a village where the residents have a special affinity with the “yilki,” as the untamed horses are called. He cares for about 350 of them and charges visitors 50 Turkish lira ($9) to photograph the horses, money he says he uses for their upkeep, including hay and veterinary care.
Thousands of other wild horses roam free on the mountains and plains of Turkey’s Anatolia region, the descendants of horses that were abandoned by farmers. The name “yilki” is derived from the Turkish term that means “left to the wild.”
Farmers once used the horses to plow and harvest during three seasons of the year and left them to fend for themselves during the winter. Come spring, they would be captured and put to work again.
With the arrival of modern farming equipment in the 1970s, the horses were replaced by tractors and other machines. No longer of use to the villagers who struggled to feed them, they were let go for good.
The horses eventually grew feral, but kept reproducing. These days, they can be spotted roaming in herds in several Turkish provinces, including Manisa, Mus, Kayseri and Karaman.