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The Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the Polish-Belarusian border, is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain. It is home to the wisent (pictured), elk, wild boars, konik horses, and other animals. Its name, Puszcza Białowieska in Polish and Belavezhskaya Pushcha in Belarusian, comes from the village of Białowieża located in the forest. Historically it belonged to Polish kings and, later, Russian emperors who used it as royal hunting grounds or food reserve for the army. It has been protected since 1538 when King Sigismund I instituted death penalty for poaching the wisent. Today parts of the forest on both sides of the border are protected as national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.
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