Przewalski’s Horse (Equus caballus przewalskii)


Family:                    Equidae.

Status:                     Endangered.

Size:                        12 to 14 hands; weight up to 800 lbs.

Diet:                        Herbivore.

Characteristics:        Social.

Area:                       Mongolia.

Offspring:                1 foal.

Predators:               Wolf.



·       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.

·       There are approximately 150 of these horses in North America, mostly in zoos.

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

·       A horse needs at least 12 gallons of water per day.   



Because of their usefulness to man, most horses were domesticated long ago. There are wild mustangs in California, as well as the ponies of Assateague Island, who 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 is considered the only true wild horse left in the world, but by 1968, there were no more of them left in the wild. In 1992, the Przewalski Foundation in the Netherlands reintroduced the breed back into the wilds. These horses are sturdy animals with heavier skulls than most domestic breeds, and unlike domestic horses, who possess 64 chromosomes, they have 66 chromosomes. Offspring of Przewalskis bred with domestic horses have 65 chromosomes, all of which leads to the belief that the Przewalski is a different species from the domesticated horse. This horse has 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 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’re stocky with flat backs and look as if they’d be better suited to be packhorses than riding horses. They live in herds of up to twenty, with one dominant male and spend most of the day grazing, eating grass, plants and fruit.



Przewalski's horses once lived in Mongolia and China, 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, twelve carefully chosen captive-bred Przewalski’s horses were released in 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.



Pregnancy lasts approximately eleven 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’re pregnant almost non-stop. Usually only one foal is born (twins are rare), and the 50 to 65-pound 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 rest almost the entire day for the first week of their lives, standing only to nurse. The next week, they rest half the time and play with their mothers the other half. From the third week on, foals begin to play more with other foals in the herd than with their mothers. Playing consists of gently biting each other, leaping, jumping and chasing. 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 a year or more. The oldest known Przewalski's horse was 34 years old.