Białowieża Forest is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain. The forest is home to 800 European bison, Europe’s heaviest land animal.
The entire area of northeastern Europe was originally covered by ancient woodland similar to that of the Białowieża Forest. Until about the 14th century, travel through the woodland was limited to river routes; roads and bridges appeared much later. Limited hunting rights were granted throughout the forest in the 14th century.
The first recorded piece of legislation on the protection of the forest dates to 1538, when a document issued by King Sigismund I instituted the death penalty for poaching a bison.
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