Takh, Takhi, Dzungarian horse
Przewalski's horse, otherwise known as P-horse, is named after Nikolai Przewalski (pronounced "shuh-val-skee"), a Russian explorer. In 1870, he was the first to discover sub-species of this horse. As a matter of fact, this animal is the last surviving true wild horse, from which the domestic horse originates. Przewalski's horse is almost the same size as related plains zebra, African wild ass and the domesticated burro. However, this ungulate hasn't been domesticated.
The natural range of this species covers certain regions of central Asia. Przewalski’s horses were formerly extinct in the wild. Last time these animals had been spotted in Mongolia back in 1966. However, Przewalski's horses have been successfully re-introduced to this country, where they currently inhabit the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhin Tal Nature Reserve and Khomiin Tal. Within this area, Przewalski’s horses inhabit steppes, shrub-lands as well as grasslands.
Habits and lifestyle
The Przewalski's horses are diurnal and gregarious animals that live in small herds consisting of 10 - 20 individuals. Groups of Przewalski’s horses are either harems or bachelor herds. The former typically consist of a single dominant male, 10 - 15 females and their offspring. The stallion of the harem is responsible for mating with females as well as defending the territory against outsiders, particularly other males. Hence, he can often be seen patrolling the boundaries of the harem's territory. Community members form very close bonds between each other. They feed together and practice mutual grooming. As for bachelor herds, these are loosely organized units, members of which often travel and feed solitarily. Within bachelor herds, social grooming is rarely observed.
team, harras, stable, troop, stud, herd, band
Diet and nutrition
Przewalski's horses maintain a herbivorous diet, which is generally composed of grass, plants and fruits, supplemented with tree bark, leaves and buds. Additionally, those living in zoos feed upon hay, grain and alfalfa.
Przewalski’s horses exhibit a harem defense polygynous mating system, in which the lead male mates with females of his herd. Przewalski’s horses mate during the spring months, typically in April-May. Gestation period lasts for 11 months (more precisely, 320-342 days), yielding one baby in April-June of the following year. Foals are born in a highly-developed state. As soon as being born, they are able to stand. Within one hour after birth, they begin to follow their mother. During the first 6 - 8 months of their lives, their diet is composed of maternal milk. After reaching maturity at 2 years old, males are chased away by the dominant male, who limits their access to the females of the herd. Mares, on the other hand, disperse and join other harems.
By the 1960s, Przewalski's horses were extinct in the wild, as a result of numerous factors such as continuous hunting, conflicts with humans, degradation of their natural habitat as well as competition for resources with domestic livestock. Although these ungulates are currently re-introduced into their natural range, they still suffer from various threats. For example, they compete for food and water with the related domestic horses. Additionally, Przewalski's horses are potentially threatened by interbreeding with domestic horses.
As reported by the Desert USA resource, the total population of this species is around 1,900 individuals, about 1500 of which inhabit the world's zoos and breeding reserves, while the remaining 400 compose re-introduced populations, which currently live in wildlife reserves, located within the original range of these animals. As stated on the IUCN Red List, the total number of all Przewalski’s horses in the world is 1,988 animals, including 1101 females, 883 males as well as 4 individuals whose gender is unknown. Meanwhile, Mongolia holds 387 free-ranging reintroduced and native-born individuals, which live in 3 areas of re-introduction. Overall, the species is currently classified as Endangered (EN), but its numbers are increasing.
Fun facts for kids
- Communication system of Przewalski’s horses includes neighing calls, which display threat submission or frustration. Additionally, these neighing calls are used to alert group members of a predator.
- In the end of 1950s, 13 individuals of this species were captured in the wild and protected, which allowed Przewalski’s horses to survive. Currently, the entire population of these ungulates around the globe is composed of descendants of these 13 horses.
- Otherwise called the Mongolian wild horse, this mammal is an object of various folk tales. In this country, Przewalski’s horses are considered the riding mounts of the Gods and are hence called “takhi”, literally meaning "spirit" or "holy".
- Horses play an important role in the culture of Mongolia. Przewalski's horses, in particular, symbolize the national heritage and culture of this country.
- These animals possess very sharp hooves, which they use in digging the ground, typically in search of a water source in their dry habitat.
- There have been found prehistoric, 30,000 years old cave paintings in Spain and France, which feature sturdy ungulates, closely resembling those currently known as Przewalski's horses.
- When shedding their fur, Przewalski’s horses usually lose hairs on their tail and mane simultaneously and all at once, whereas domestic horses shed their coat very slowly, losing just a few hairs at a time.