The domestic horse’s closest living wild relative, the Asian wild horse, disappeared entirely from the wild in the late 1960’s. Organizations around the world have cooperated to breed zoo animals and reintroduce their offspring to native lands. Today nearly 500 Asian wild horses again roam the grasslands of China, Mongolia, Russia, and Ukraine.
What They Eat
Asian wild horses eat coarse, shrubby plants and tall grasses.
Where They Live
The grassy steppes of Eurasia are the Asian wild horse’s historic range, though in recent years humans have forced it to the borders of the stony, sandy Gobi desert.
What They Do
Asian wild horses live in small herds, with a stallion, several mares, and young animals traveling together as they roam the grasslands in search of food to eat.
How They’re Doing
In the 1960s, Asian wild horses disappeared entirely from the wild. Since then, people have worked to preserve habitat and reintroduce animals from zoos to the protected lands. As of 2014, there are about 500 Asian wild horses living in their native habitat in the wild.
This wild horse species (Equus ferus przewalskii) is not the same as the wild mustang (Equus caballus) of the American West. The mustang escaped from the Spanish conquistadors and ranchers after many years of domestication and was derived from a closely related and now extinct species of Equus. The dun-colored Asian wild horse has never been domesticated and differs from its domestic relative by having a short, erect mane and a dark dorsal stripe that runs from the mane to the tail. Also contrary to domestic horses, all the mane and tail hairs are also shed every year. And, most importantly, the fixed DNA chromosomal number of the Asian wild horse has one extra pair (2n=66) over the number for domestic horses (2n=64), providing clear evidence that these two horses are distinct and separate species.