Equus caballus przewalskiiPrzewalski's wild horse

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Geographic Range

Przewalski's wild horse is found in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia (Denver Zoo 1997).

Habitat

Przewalski's wild horse inhabits grassy deserts and plains in Western Mongolia, but it has been reported to have lived at elevations of up to eight thousand feet (Volf 1990).

Physical Description

Head-body length: 7 feet

Shoulder height: 4 feet

Tail length: 3 feet (Lowry Park Zoo)

Przewalski's wild horse is stocky with short legs and a short neck, looking very pony-like (Burton 1962). Its head is massive with a long face and a powerful jaw. The upper and lower incisors are used for cutting vegetation, while its many hypsodont cheek teeth are used for grinding. With eyes set far back in the skull, it is able to view a wide field, making the only blind spot directly behind its head. The ears are fairly long and erect, but can be moved for the localization of sounds (Lowry Park Zoo).

A stiff, erect blackish mane runs down the back. The legs are slender. The tail hairs are of graduated lengths. In the summer its pelage is short and smooth. back and sides are reddish-brown. The coloration turns to a yellowish white on its belly. In the winter its pelage becomes longer and lighter in color (Denver Zoo 1997).

  • Range mass
    200 to 300 kg
    440.53 to 660.79 lb

Reproduction

Its gestation period is from eleven to twelve months, and it gives birth to one foal during April or May. An hour after birth, the foal is able to stand and walk. It begins to graze within a few weeks, but is not weaned for eight to thirteen months. Mating and birth occurs in the same season, since females come into heat seven to eight days after giving birth (Lowry Park Zoo).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual

Behavior

Przewalski's wild horse spends more than half the day foraging for food. It has been seen spending the day in the desert, traveling to grazing and watering areas after sun-down and returning to the desert in the morning (Volf 1990).

It socializes in large herds consisting of a few females and a male who leads the permanent group. There have been sightings of young solitary stallions, a result of the leader having driven the younger and weaker males from the herd.

Shy and alert to avoid enemies, Przewalski's horse has a shrill voice. It can also detect smell and sound at great distances. Its moods can be detected through changes in the positions of its ear, mouth and tail (Denver Zoo 1997).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Przewalski's wild horse is an herbivore, eating grass, plants and fruit. It sometimes eats bark, leaves and buds. It is fed hay, grain and alfalfa in the zoos (Denver Zoo 1997).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Its meat has been hunted, but other than that, it has never been domesticated by man (Burton 1962).

Conservation Status

Endangered (Baillie 1996)

The only true wild horse, Przewalski's wild horse has not been seen in its natural habitat since 1968, probably partly as a result of crossing with half-wild domesticated horses and losing its distinct features. It declined drastically because of excessive hunting by people and loss of grazing and watering areas to domestic animials (Nowak 1991).

It has been kept and bred in zoos with only 200 remaining today. In the late twentieth century, Mongolia tried to reintroduce it into the wild (Britannica).

There is a Przewalski's Horse Global Conservation Plan in the works, as humans attempt to preserve the surviving genetic diversity (Swaringen et al. 1997).

Other Comments

A famous Russian explorer and naturalist who made several expeditions to Central Asia, General Nikolai Michailovitch Przewalski discovered the wild horse in western Mongolia in 1879 (Gotch 1979, Volf 1990).

Contributors

Janette Luu (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Baillie, J. and B. Groombridge. 1996. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Gland, Switzerland.

Britannica. http://www.eb.com

Burton, M. 1962. University Dictionary of Mammals of the World. Thomas Y. Crowell Company: New York.

Denver Zoo. 1996. Denver Zoological Foundation: http://www.denverzoo.org/namerica.htm (link no longer valid)

Gotch, A. F. 1979. Mammals - Their Latin Names Explained. Blandford Press Ltd.: Dorset.

Lowry Park Zoo. http://www.lowryparkzoo.com/safari/asia/horse/

Nowak, R. M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Swaringen, K. et al. 1997. Asian Wild Horse (Equus przewalskii) Species Survival Plan. American Zoo and Aquarium Association: http://www.aza.org/aza/ssp/awhorseAR.html (link no longer valid)

Volf, J. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. McGraw-Hill, Inc.: New York.