Herd of Prezewalsky's Horses

The Wild Horses Of Mongolia, by Gerard M via Creative Commons

 

SPECIES-  Przewalski’s Horse  (Equus ferus przewalskii), the Wild Horses of Mongolia

CURRRENT RANGE-  Mongolia

CURRENT THREAT- Habitat Loss, Hunting, Hybridization with domestic horses

CURRENT STATUS-  Endangered

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM-  Mongolia’s Khustain Nuruu National Park, the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, and Khar Us Nuur National Park

 

WHAT IS IT?

Przewalski’s Horse, a.k.a. Dzungarian Horse or Takhi, is a subspecies of wild horse native to central Asia’s steppes, which has recently been reintroduced into Mongolia after being declared extinct in the wild. Considered the world’s only remaining truly wild horse, the Przewalski is much stockier than its domesticated cousins, weighing in at an average of 650 pounds. They typically stand at about 52 inches (13 hands) at the shoulders, with short, stubby legs that frequently boast faint stripes. Their colors range from beige to dark brown, often with yellow and white markings on their belly and muzzle. Their tails are quite distinctive, with shorter hair and longer dock than most horses.

Przewalski’s horse in Khustain Nuruu National Park

Przewalski’s Horse in Khustain Nuruu National Park, by Chineeb via Creative Commons

 

WHY ARE THEY ENDANGERED?

Numerous caused led to the Przewalski’s Horse being declared extinct in the wild in Mongolia and China. Harsh winters in the mid-20th century, hunting, military operations in their native regions and other land use issues all worked to their disadvantage and pressured the horses onto an increasingly smaller tract of land. And a rarity of waterholes in their last Mongolian refuge may have proven the straw that broke the horse’s back. But in the years since the reintroduction program began, the biggest threats to the species’ recovery has been hybridization with domestic horses and competition for resources with domesticated livestock.

 

WHAT’S BEING DONE TO SAVE THEM?

The next time some well-meaning animal rights activist tells you that zoos are inherently bad, tell them the story of the Przewalski’s Horse, a species brought back from the brink of extinction. Designated “extinct in the wild” by the IUCN for over 30 years, the species was saved by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse, which launched an exchange program of captive breeding between zoos throughout the world. In 1992, 16 horses were released into the wild in Mongolia, and Khustain Nuruu National Park, the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area and Khar Us Nuur National Park are now home to several hundred wild horses. With help from organizations such as the Association Takh and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo, there are now over 300 Przewalski’s Horses living in the wild in Mongolia and China, and the species’ status was changed in 2011 from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered.” It just goes to show that, if we’re willing to take action to save a species, it’s never too late.  –Bret Love

 

If you enjoyed reading Przewalski’s Horse, the Wild Horses of Mongolia, you might also like:

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5 Responses to ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: Przewalski’s Horse, the Wild Horses of Mongolia

  • Laurence says:

    Have to agree, it is never too late. I used to live on a small island where we were working to re-introduce the Seychelles Magpie Robin back into the wild. At one point they were down to 22 birds left in the wild. The numbers are now back into the hundreds. It seems like an awful lot of effort though to have to go to, when just some intelligence in the first place (not introducing cats / owls) may have let the birds get on with their own thing. Ah, people. We rock!

    • Agreed, Laurence! Unfortunately we do not have the power to change what has been: Only what will be. But when we see examples of conservation in action– whether with the Przewalski’s Horse in Mongolia or the Galapagos Tortoise or myriad other species that have been pulled back from the brink of extinction– it gives me hope that we can make a difference if only we dare to care.

  • What magnificent beasts – I’ve seen the small group they have at the open range zoo just outside Melbourne. And oddly, I’ve visited a museum in the backblocks of Kyrgyzstan dedicated to Przewalski – the explorer they are named for!

    • Very cool! Between endangered species I want to see in the wild and UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National PArks I want to visit, my travel bucket list is starting to grow unwieldy!

  • sfox says:

    The third release site is not Khar Us Nuur National Park. It is located around 130 km to the east in a river valley called Khomiin Tal. I know this because I’ve been there, also to Hustai many times and, a few weeks ago, Takhiin Tal in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area.

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