Common Name: Przewalski’s horse
Scientific Name: Equus ferus
In the summer and autumn, these horses build up fat reserves which help to see them through the winter when there is less good quality food available. As they use up their energy reserves they can end up losing up to 18% of their body weight by the end of the winter.
Przewalski horses live in groups of between six and seventeen animals. These groups are known as harems, and are comprised of one dominant stallion plus mares, foals, and young up to about two years of age. Young males and stallions which don’t have a harem form bachelor groups.
All the Przewalski’s horses alive today are descended from just twelve individuals which were caught in the wild. Eleven were caught between 1899 and 1902 and one was caught in 1947.
Head to body: 220-280 cm; shoulder height: 120-146 cm
In the wild
Przewalski’s horses are grazers. They mainly eat grasses and the leaves from shrubby trees. In the summer they seek out good quality food near water, but in the winter they rely on poorer quality, more fibrous food, which is often covered by snow.
This species is currently only found in a few national parks and nature reserves in China and Mongolia, where it has been reintroduced into the wild. Until the late 18th century they were found across the Russian Steppes, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern China. Przewalski’s horses live in steppe (grassland) and semi-desert habitats.
Przewalski’s foals weigh between 25 and 30kg at birth. Studies in captivity have shown that they are able to stand and walk within an hour of being born.
Gray wolves are known predators of these horses. Foals are most vulnerable to predation, so if wolves are nearby, adult females form a defensive circle around the foals in an effort to protect them.
Przewalski’s horses were extinct in the wild from 1969 until 2008. Since the 1990s there have been several successful reintroductions of these horses in Mongolia and China, and they are now classified as Endangered. The main threats to these reintroduced populations are the small size of the populations, their limited range, competition for food and water with domestic livestock and the potential for hybridizing with domestic horses or catching diseases from them. A number of measures are in place to help protect this species. Przewalski’s horses are legally protected in Mongolia meaning it is illegal to hunt them. Most of the reintroduction sites are within protected areas. This species is listed on CITES Appendix I, which means that it is illegal to trade in these animals or any of their body parts.
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