Przewalski's Horse

Przewalski's Horse

Takh, Takhi, Dzungarian horse, Mongolian wild horse

Equus ferus
Population size
Life Span
20-25 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 
m ft 

Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii or Equus przewalskii), 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 a subspecies 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.


Przewalski's horse is stockily built in comparison to domesticated horses, with shorter legs, though being much smaller and shorter than its domesticated relatives. Its coat is generally dun in color with pangaré features, varying from dark brown around the mane, to pale brown on the flanks, and yellowish-white on the belly, as well as around the muzzle. The legs of Przewalski's horse are often faintly striped, also typical of primitive markings. The mane stands erect and does not extend as far forward, while the tail is about 90 cm (35.43 in) long, with a longer dock and shorter hair than seen in domesticated horses. The hooves of Przewalski's horse are longer in the front and have significantly thicker sole horns than feral horses, an adaptation that improves hoof performance on terrain.




Biogeographical realms

The natural range of this species covers certain regions of central Asia. Przewalski’s horses were formerly extinct in the wild. The 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 and semi-desert habitats.

Przewalski's Horse habitat map

Climate zones

Przewalski's Horse habitat map
Przewalski's Horse
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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 consists of a single dominant male, 10-15 females, and their offspring. The stallion (male) 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 with 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.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Przewalski's horses maintain a herbivorous (graminivorous) diet, which is generally composed of grass and various plants. They will also eat fruits, and buds and supplement their diet with tree bark.

Mating Habits

11 months
1 foal
6-13 months
mare, dam
stallion, stud
foal, colt

Przewalski’s horses exhibit a harem defense polygynous mating system, in which the lead male mates with females of his herd. They breed during the spring months, typically in April-May. The gestation period lasts for 11 months (more precisely, 320-342 days), yielding one baby called foal in April-June of the following year. Foals are born in a highly-developed state. An hour after birth, they are able to stand and begin to follow their mother. Foals begin grazing within a few weeks but are not weaned for 8-13 months after birth. They reach reproductive maturity at 2 years of age. At this time, males are chased away by the dominant male, who limits their access to the females of the herd. Females, on the other hand, disperse and join other harems.


Population threats

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.

Population number

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.
  • At the end of the 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.


1. Przewalski's Horse Wikipedia article -'s_horse
2. Przewalski's Horse on The IUCN Red List site -

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