Species: Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The Przewalski’s horse is the only surviving ancestor of the domestic horse and is the last true wild horse.
The Przewalski’s horse is named after the Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski, who first discovered the subspecies in the 1870s. Wild horses (Equus ferus) were once common across Europe and Asia, but habitat degradation, human activities including hunting, and competition with domestic livestock all helped drive this species to extinction in the wild. The last wild Przewalski’s horse was recorded in southwest Mongolia in 1968.
The subspecies clung on to existence in a number of small populations in various zoos around the world. In the 1990s, a number of individuals were introduced in small herds into the Hustai National Park in Mongolia. Today, more than a 120 survive in the area, and a further 50 exist in the Dzungarian Gobi in Southwest Mongolia. Hybridisation with domestic horses and competition with domestic horses for resources remains a threat to these reintroduced populations.
The return of the Przewalski’s horse to its natural environment is a success story for conservation and it is hoped that there will soon be at least two large, self-sustained populations in the wild.
For more information on the Przewalski’s horse conservation and release programme, see the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse (FPPPH) website.
See images and videos of the Przewalski’s horse on ARKive.
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher