Equus ferus przewalskii
Species Survival Plan
Steppe vegetation and scrubland
Man and wolf
Originally Native To
Grassland and steppe in Mongolia
54 inches at shoulder
Light tan to reddish coat, stiff dark mane, lower legs are black or brown
April or May
Captivity 20 years
15 - 20 females led by one stallion
About Przewalski’s Horse
Przewalski’s (“shuh-VOLL-skis”) horse was thought to be "the last true wild horse" and the only ancestor of the domestic horse alive today. However, scientists have found this horse is a descendant of one of the earliest known groups of domesticated horses, called Botai horses, found in northern Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago.
The name "Przewalski's horse" refers to Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski, who first discovered the horse in the 1870s.
After the last ice age, the habitat of the wild horse began to shrink due to climate change. As their semi-arid, treeless habitat gave way to forests, the horses were pushed into smaller ranges. In the early 20th century, the horses’ range shrank even further as farmers and their livestock began to monopolize good grazing lands. By 1969, they were declared extinct in the wild.
Called “takhi” by the Mongolian people, the Przewalski’s horse seen today in zoos in North America and Europe is descended from 12 founders. The Asian Wild Horse Species Survival Plan is a nationwide effort in America to study and revitalize this species, working amongst zoos to maximize genetic diversity of the horse’s population and minimize inbreeding.
A successful captive management program is just one part of the story. Reintroduction efforts are also under way in China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The population was estimated to consist of about 2,000 horses in 2018.
These horses are very social animals and can be affectionate with one another. One example is their grooming ritual. Two mares will stand side by side and head to tail.
One mare begins by working her way down the back of her partner, nibbling along the back and then to the hind legs. They may pair with a regular grooming partner or any available nibbler. This activity not only keeps the horses clean, but reinforces the social bond.
The Przewalski’s horse has 66 chromosomes rather than the domestic horse’s 64. When interbred, the offspring of a domestic horse and a P-horse has 65 chromosomes and is fertile. When the offspring is bred, however, the resulting new offspring has the domestic horse’s original 64 chromosomes.
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