If we were to enlist some of the most fascinating horse breeds in the world, Przewalskis (pronounced as shuh-VAL-skees) would definitely be right up there. The Przewalski is an extremely rare species — so much so that they were once close to extinction.
Although many horse enthusiasts know of this breed’s existence, very few have actually seen it. Which brings us to the question: where does the Przewalski horse live?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the Przewalski’s natural habitat as well as the efforts that are being exerted to preserve this fascinating horse breed.
Where Does the Przewalski Horse Live?
Initially, the Przewalski’s horse was only found in the Dzungarian Basin of the Gobi desert. This was not the natural habitat of the Przewalski’s horse but due to the pressure of hunting and loss of habitat, they were forced into the area. This is another reason why Przewalski horses are endangered as they were forced out of their habitat to an inhabitable place.
Two different populations of the Przewalski’s horse were recognized by the local Mongolians. The light-colored population was found on steppe lands whereas the dark-colored population was found on mountain areas.
The Takhiin Shar Nuruu was the species’ habitat. In the years when the Przewalski’s horses were close to extinction, they were only found between the Takhiin Shar Nuruu and Bajtag-Bogdo mountain ridges.
This critically endangered species is found on the wild grasslands of Mongolia and China. They were reintroduced in the Kalamaili nature reserve in Xinjiang, China. The free-range population of Przewalski’s horse is living in large enclosures at multiple sites.
The population of these horses has also increased since 1998 in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone without any interception of humans.
Physical Traits of the Przewalski Horse
The Przewalski horse is small in size and is stocky. It has a very muscular built with a thick neck, large head, and short legs, similar to an Arabian horse. They usually have a brownish or dark grey color with no forelock and an erect mane like zebras which lines their large head and neck.
They have a yellowish-white belly which has a coat that is thinner in the summer and thicker in the winters. Its coat color usually lies between beige and reddish color. Their legs are dark and have stripes behind their knees just like zebras.
They usually have a height of 4.5 – 5 feet and usually weigh between 550 to 800 pounds. They are taller at their withers and have a height of about 7.5 to 8.5 feet. Their average life span is 36 years.
The Lifestyle of the Przewalski Horse
These horses live in small herds that have 15- 20 individuals. The herd usually has one male which is dominant with 10 – 15 females and their offspring. The dominant male is responsible for mating and defending the herd against intruders, especially other males. All the members of the herd live close to each other as a community.
Bachelor horses are not organized and usually travel and feed individually. Social improvement is not observed in bachelor herds, however, herds with both male and female practice mutual grooming.
Przewalski horses mate in the spring months and have a gestation period of 11 months. The offspring starts to follow the mother after 1 hour of birth.
They usually feed on grass, fruits, and plants as they are herbivores. Their diet may also include tree bark, buds, and leaves. Those who are kept in zoos are fed with alfalfa and grain.
Endangerment and Attempts of Reintroduction of the Przewalski Horse
The Przewalski horses nearly came to extinction in the 1960s due to interbreeding with other domesticated animals. Efforts were then made to reintroduce them which were successful. Due to these efforts, the number of Przewalski horses gradually increased.
Zoological Society of London along with many Mongolian scientists worked together for the conservation of these horses. The captive breeding program was successful enough to rebound 1500 individuals in just 50 years. About 300 Przewalski horses were reintroduced into the Mongolian habitat.
China on the other hand, used its captive breeding program to reintroduce a large number of these horses in the Gobi desert. Askania Nova reserve in southern Russia has the largest herd of reintroduced Przewalski horses. Chernobyl exclusion zone acts as a wildlife refuge where a herd of these horses is successfully reproducing without any human interruption.
After the successful reintroduction of Przewalski horses in the wild, the International Union for Conservation of Nature again reclassified them from extinct to endangered in 2008.
A Netherland based foundation also worked hard for the preservation and protection of the Przewalski horses by trading them to other breeding programs to increase genetic diversity.
A few months earlier, scientists were able to produce a Przewalski horse by artificial insemination.
The biggest threat that the Przewalski horses face today is the loss of genetic diversity. Other reasons for their extinction in the past were loss of water resources, loss of habitat, and hunting.
FAQs Related to the Przewalski Horse
Let’s talk a bit more about this fascinating breed of horses a bit more in this FAQ section.
How many Przewalski horses are left in the world?
There are about 400 Przewalski horses in the wild which include 178 adults.
We already know that the Przewalski horses were near to extinct in the past. It was due to the efforts made by organizations like the Zoological Society of London that these horses were reintroduced in the wild.
This resulted in an increase in their number and their status was changed from “extinct from wild” to “endangered”.
The growth of the Przewalski horse is still being carefully observed as they are still endangered and the biggest threat for them now is the loss of genetic diversity.
What is Przewalski’s horse predators?
Wolves are the biggest predators for the foal’s of the Przewalski horse but do not pose much of a threat to the adults. For the protection of the little ones, the adult females form a defensive circle around them and constantly keep an eye out for any threat.
During the night, one or more adults watch out for predators. The protection of the whole herd is mainly the responsibility of the dominant male that doesn’t allow any intruders in the herd. The herds which are smaller in number have a much greater chance of getting attacked.
When did the Przewalski horse become extinct in the wild?
The Przewalski horse was led to extinction in the early 1960s due to interbreeding with other domesticated horses.
Other reasons for the endangerment of the species were the stress of hunting and habitat loss. Efforts for the Reintroduction of Przewalski horses were made which were successful and the number of the Przewalski horses has increased since then.
Currently, there are 400 Przewalski horses in the wild with 178 adults and their number is still increasing.
Why is the Przewalski horse important?
The Przewalski horse is important because it’s the last surviving species of wild horses. Although every animal species is important and, hence, efforts are exerted to avoid their extinction; the extinction of the Przewalski won’t just be the extinction of a breed but that of the complete group of wild horse breeds.
It is due to this unprecedented significance that horse enthusiasts are more vocal about this breed’s dwindling population and assume greater importance for it.
Is the Przewalski horse endangered?
The Przewalski horses came close to extinction in the wild in the early 1960s due to various reasons, including hunting, loss of habitat, and loss of water resources. They were brought back to the wild by captive breeding programs which were successful in increasing the number of these horses.
In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified Przewalski horses as “endangered” before which they were rendered “extinct in the wild”. There are about 400 Przewalski horses in the wild with 178 adults. They are still classified as endangered species, however, their number is increasing successfully.
Przewalski horse is a rare species of horse and is of great importance as it is the only wild species of horse left in the world.
The efforts made to prevent the extinction of Przewalski horses paid off as the captive breeding program was successful.
If it weren’t for the efforts of several wildlife organizations and Mongolian scientists we would have lost this rare horse species.