The Przewalski’s horse was long though to be the last true “wild” horse, meaning it had never been domesticated by man. Some horse types, like the Mustang, are “feral” meaning that though they exist in the wild, they trace their lineage back to domestic animals. Przewalski’s horses, though long believe to never have been domesticated, were recently shown to have had a tame ancestor thousands of years ago. These horses were named after the explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky.
Scientific & Common Names
Genus, Species & Subspecies - Equus ferus przewalskii, some consider it to be its own species, E. przewalskii
Common Names - Przewalski’s (pronounced "Shiv-all-skee's") Horse, Dzungarian Horse, Mongolian Wild Horse, Asian Wild Horse
These horses differ from most domestic horses and feral horses, featuring shorter legs and a heavier, stockier build. Its mane is bristly and erect, and its coloration is a range of browns in a pangare style, with darker tones above fading to lighter on the underbelly and muzzle. This coat grows quite shaggy during the winter to keep the horse warm. They are usually smaller than most domestic horse breeds.
Very little is known about the reproduction habits of the Przewalski’s horse due to its rarity. It may be similar to that of the domestic horse, which has breeding cycles in spring and summer, but more research is needed, especially to aid in captive breeding programs to help reintroduce more horses into the wild. It is known that gestation lasts about a year, and females give birth to a single foal. When an adult male finds a group of females he wishes to join, he must defeat the current male leader.
The Przewalksi’s horse lives in the steppes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. This is not a sandy desert; though it is dry, the steppes are more like grasslands and savannas. They eat grass and other low vegetation. They live in social groups of females and young animals, led by a single stallion (male). At a certain age, young male horses are chased from the herd and must seek out a group of “bachelors”, or other young males.
Przewalski’s horse is not the ancestor of the domestic horse. DNA testing has shown that it is also not derived from modern domestic horses, but a separate lineage of more ancient tamed horses called the Botai horse. It is believed to have diverged from the lineage of what would become today's domestic horse around 150,000 years ago.
First described in the late 1800s, the Przewalski’s horse was thought to be completely extinct in the wild by the 1960s. Since then, captive breeding and reintroduction programs have helped bring the species back, and there are currently small populations in Mongolia and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the Ukraine. They are presently listed as “endangered”.