Przewalski’s horse, pronounced “shu-val-skee”, is a sub-species of horse found in central Asia, especially Mongolia, Kazakhstan and northern China. They are considered the last surviving true wild horse and have not been domesticated. They were declared extinct in the wild in the 1960s, with the last wild horses spotted in 1966. However, there were some horses kept in captivity and because of extensive conservation measures they have been reintroduced to Mongolia in 3 national parks. In these areas they live in the wild, in steppes, shrub-lands, and grasslands.
These horses are smaller than most domesticated horses, standing at a little less than 5 feet tall and up to 750 pounds. Przewalski’s horse has reddish fur that grows longer in the winter, a white muzzle, stripes behind their knees, and a dark zebra-like mane. Their hooves, which are unusually sharp, are used to dig to search for water. They mostly eat grass, plants, fruit, tree bark, leaves, and buds.
Przewalski’s horses usually travel in groups. There are two types of these groups. In one, the herd will be made up of one dominant male, up to 15 females, and their offspring, with the male guarding the territory from other males. Otherwise the group will be solely made up of young bachelor males. To communicate, Przewalski’s horses use neighing calls, which mostly signal submission or frustration, or are used as an alarm bell for predators.
After a long 12 month pregnancy, Przewalski mares give birth to one foal. They may live up to 36 years of age.
Image courtesy of IAEA Imagebank
Przewalski’s horses were declared extinct in the wild in the 1960s. This for many reasons, including continuous hunting, conflict with humans, and loss of habitat. Another reason was competition, as domestic livestock took up resources. Although the Przewalski’s horse has been successfully reintroduced, these problems still effect them.
There are only around 1,900 of these rare horses left, 1,500 of which are found in zoos and breeding reserves. The remaining 400 are found in wildlife reserves.
Przewalski’s horses were once found all the way in Europe, but competition with humans and changes in the environment forced them east.
Przewalski's Horse. Smithsonian's National Zoo. (2021, May 7). Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/przewalskis-horse.
Przewalski's horse: National Geographic. Animals. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/przewalskis-horse.
Przewalski's Horse. Przewalski's Horse - Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on Animalia.bio. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://animalia.bio/przewalskis-horse.
Cover image courtesy of Michael Eisenriegler