Przewalski’s Horse (Equus caballus przewalskii)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family:    Equidae
Size:    Height: 12 to 14 hands (1 hand = 4 inches/10 cm)
Weight: Up to 800 pounds (363 kg)
Diet: Grass, plants, fruit
Distribution: Mongolia
Young:  1 per year
Animal Predators:  Wolves
IUCN Status: Extinct in the Wild
Terms: Male: Stallion  Female:  Mare  Young:  Foal  Male foal: Colt  Female foal: Filly  Group: Herd 
Lifespan: Average 20 to 35 years; longest in captivity was 62 years



·       Przewalski’s horse is named for the Russian explorer who discovered the horse in western Mongolia in 1879.

·       Przewalski is pronounced “shuh-val-ski.”

·       These wild horses are known as “takhis” in Mongolia.

·       The Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse was founded in 1977 in the Netherlands.

·       The scientific name is Latin, meaning Equus (horse) and caballus (packhorse). 

·       A pony is a horse that is 14.2 hands high or smaller, so Przewalski’s horses are all ponies.



These horses are sturdy animals with a heavier skull than most domestic breeds, and unlike domestic horses, which possess 64 chromosomes, they have 66 chromosomes. They have a mane that stands up and a black stripe running down the back. All Przewalskis are dun-coloured with white muzzles, and their legs are black or dark brown from the knee to the hoof. The fur gets long and shaggy as the cold weather approaches, and is shed in the spring, becoming shorter and silkier. They are stocky with a flat back. Like domestic horses, they have a gap in between their front and back teeth called a diastema. 



Przewalski’s horses once lived in Mongolia, China and Kazakstan on vast grassy plains. When people moved into the area with domestic herds of sheep and goats, the horses were driven back, as well as hunted for food, leading to their eventual extinction in the wild. In 1992, after years of preparation, the Netherlands Przewalski Foundation released 12 carefully chosen captive-bred Przewalski’s horses into the recently established 150,000-acre Hustain Nuruu Steppe Reserve in Mongolia. Since then, many more horses have been released at regular intervals into the reserve, which is also a national park. The herds are doing well and the offspring born in the wild have been instinctively breaking off to form their own herds. 


Feeding Habits

Horses spend most of the day grazing, eating grass, plants and fruit. They are usually found near a water source, as horses need to drink a minimum of four gallons per day. 



Pregnancy lasts approximately 11 months in horses, and under good conditions, most females are pregnant once a year (they come into heat seven to eight days after giving birth) which means they are almost continuously pregnant. Usually only one foal is born (twins are rare), and the 50 to 65 pound (22.6 to 29.4 kg) foal can stand and nurse within one hour of birth. The bond between mare and foal is strong, with the mother immediately licking the newborn clean. Foals begin to graze approximately a week after birth, but will also continue to nurse for six to seven months, and stay close to their mothers for up to two years. 



Przewalski’s horses live in herds of up to 20, with one dominant male and several females and their offspring. They spend most of the day grazing. When they detect a predator, they give a shrill whinny to alert the others and then the herd sets off at a run. Young males eventually leave the herd and live solitary lives or join bachelor herds until they can form their own herds. 



This species is considered Endangered by the USFWS. Because of their usefulness to man, most horses were domesticated long ago. There are wild mustangs in California and Nevada, as well as the ponies of Assateague Island, that are rounded up regularly and auctioned off, but these horses are believed to have descended from domestic stock that either escaped or were released. Przewalski’s horse is a wild horse that has never been domesticated and was considered the only true wild horse left in the world, but by 1969, there were no more left in the wild.



Przewalski’s Horse Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

All the World’s Animals: Pets & Companion Animals, Torstar Books, 1986