Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) has the distinction of being the only remaining wild horse in the world. Thought to be extinct, these horses were recently reintroduced in the wilderness of Mongolia after serious preservation efforts. Here are some interesting facts about this horse.
Did You Know?
Przewalski's stallions are known to breed all year round, unlike their mares who mainly breed during spring and summer seasons.
Although its origin and history is still under debate, Przewalski's horse, also known as the Tarpan, the Mongolian Tarpan, or the Mongolian Wild Horse, hasn't undergone any major physical changes.
This horse has never been domesticated, and was discovered and identified in 1881 by Colonel Nikolay Przhevalsky, a Russian geographer and explorer. Most wild horses found today are actually feral horses, that have descended from domesticated animals that escaped in the wild.
However, Przewalski's horse was never tamed in the first place, and hence remains the original 'Wild Horse'.
Another significant aspect of Przewalski's horse is that it is one of three known subspecies of the wild horse Equus ferus. The other two include the average domesticated horse Equus ferus caballus, and the extinct Eurasian wild horse Equus ferus ferus.
Classification of Przewalski's Horse
Kingdom :- Animalia Phylum :-Chordata Class :-Mammalia Order :-Perissodactyla Family :-Equidae Genus :-Equus Species :-E. ferus
Being wild in nature, Przewalski's horses roamed in wide numbers in Central Asia and Western Europe during prehistoric times. They were also found in Western Mongolia, Northern China, and Eastern Kazakhstan.
However, the present population is found in protected wild areas of Mongolia, France, Germany, Ukraine, China, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Poland.
Przewalski's horses are smaller in comparison to domestic horses. An average adult weighs 200 to 340 pounds, and stands almost 48 to 56 inches tall. Their body is short and muscular, with a large head, and coat colors ranging from brown to dun.
They are known to grow warm and thick coats, with long beards and neck hair to keep them warm during harsh winters. Their underbelly and muzzle have pale white markings. The tail of these horses is dark, and the shape of their mane resembles a Mohawk.
Przewalski's horses have 66 chromosomes, two more than a domestic horse, and their lifespan is 20 to 25 years.
Behavior and Diet
This horse is known to spend almost 70% of its day grazing, and often covers distances of several miles in a day. Like all horses, Przewalski's horses are grazers and prefer eating wild grass.
They are most active during dusk, and are always looking for food. They live in groups which comprise a dominant stallion, his mares, and young.
The stallion exercises strict control, often biting and kicking the members to keep them in line. He keeps an eye on all the females and foals to prevent them from straying, and also sets the course whenever the herd moves.
The stallion also fights off intruders, predators, and other stallions by baring his teeth, and threatening with his sharp hooves. Different herds rarely mix, but do share territories as the stallions are more protective about their mares than their territories.
During winter and desert storms, the animal turns its rump towards the storm to protect its eyes and nostrils from the dust, and tucks its tail tightly between its legs to shield its reproductive organs from the cold.
The breeding period occurs in April or May, and a single foal is born after a year. Males reach sexual maturity at around five years, and females around four.
The stallion estimates the mare's readiness to mate by sniffing her dung and urine. When she is about to give birth, the female seeks a secluded place within the herd's territory. The newborn foal can weigh between 50 to 70 pounds.
After giving birth, the mother returns to the herd with the foal, and will nurse the newborn for several months. Foals are born at night, and by morning, are able to travel with the herd. Juvenile horses are driven away by the stallion after two years. They sometimes join other groups, and remain there until they are mature enough to build their own herd.
Reason of Extinction and Current Status
For centuries, Przewalski's horses were hunted in large numbers for their meat by the Chinese and Mongols. Their natural predators were wolves and other carnivores, and these horses lost much of their habitat due to other domestic grazing animals.
At present, the IUCN lists the Przewalski's horse as an 'Endangered' species. Various wildlife bodies are doing everything they can to increase its population, and due to their extraordinary efforts there are more than 1,000 horses in captive and wild facilities today.
Due to the efforts of various wildlife conservatory institutions, the status of this animal was changed from 'Extinct in the Wild' to 'Endangered'. The Przewalski's horse is an important part of Mongolian culture, and due to the various preservation efforts, this horse will again roam in its natural habitat like before.