THE LAST WILD HORSE

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

On the steppes of Mongolia once roamed herds of truly wild horses that in the history of their kind had never been domesticated.

Their range also covered regions in Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Russia, and China. These were a pure and ancient breed of horse, tough and hardy, well suited to their environment. First described to the scientific world by Russian Polish naturalist Colonel Nikolai Przewalski of whose name the horse wears today, Przewalski’s Horse become extinct in the wild with the last sighting in 1966. There were a number of factors contributing to their demise in the wild. Chief among these was interbreeding with domestic animals. Chromosomal differences indicate that while closely related to modern horses they are not the rootstock which gave rise to them. There are some striking differences in appearance between Przewalski and modern horses one notable one being the very short mane sported by the Przewalski which unlike modern horses it sheds once every year. Aside from the Mohawk mane other features are the coat of the Przewalski's horse which ranges from brown to dun with a pale underbelly and muzzle with a dark tail, a dorsal stripe and striped legs. The head is large and the body is short and muscular, all in all a beautiful animal. The Przewalski horse is a rather compact stocky animal of about four feet tall at the withers and about seven hundred pounds in weight. 

The Przewalski horse almost went the way of the dinosaur but thanks to a few hundred captive animals held mostly in zoos that descended from just twelve animals that fate was averted. Starting in 2008 they have been successfully reintroduced into the wild. Today over four hundred wild horses roam the steppes of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan and another fifteen hundred remain in captivity. Przewalski’s horses have never been tamed for riding, which means that they are the last truly wild horse in existence today.

It would have been a sad loss had this gorgeous creature been allowed to perish from existence. They come frightfully close; by 1960 only twelve captive Przewalski horses existed on the face of the earth. Of the two thousand extant horses all descend from these twelve. Thankfully there are those who are working to ensure that these survive and flourish so that future generations can behold the majesty of the last wild horse.