The Przewalski horse has long been considered the last real wild horse, the preservation of which was pursued with a lot of effort. We have known since 2018 that the Przewalski horse is “only” a special kind of feral domestic horse.
But it has long been recognized that even these not quite original wild horses can teach us a lot about how to best handle horses.
The Przewalski horse is a wild horse originally settled in the Mongolian region. For a long time, it was considered the “ancestor” of our domestic horses.
It was only when the genes of the wild horses were examined that this was found to be wrong. Since 2018 the Przewalski horse has been identified as “Equus Przewalskii”. A special kind next to our house horse “Equus caballus”, which had been feral for 5000 years when it was “discovered” in 1950.
For science, this means that it has to go back in search of the direct ancestor of our domestic horses.
For the Przewalski horse, it means that it is “only” one of the various wild horses that have been feral from human husbandry that lives on our earth.
The special status as the “honored ancestor of our domestic horses” has also contributed a little to the protection: a short time ago, many people wanted to preserve the Przewalski horse as the direct ancestor of domestic horses rather than any Mustang.
How good that the Przewalski horse was only downgraded from the “primeval status symbol” to the “normal wild horse” in 2018. In the meantime, many people have understood that all of nature in all its diversity belongs to an environment worth living in. And therefore urgently needs to be preserved so that we can learn from it.
Size: 120 – 146 cm
Weight: 200-300 kg
Origin: Mongolia, China
Lifespan: 25 – 35 years
Leisure time, jumping, draft horse
Origin and breed history
All over the world, people have used the horses that lived wild in their environment for thousands of years. The Mongolian wild horses have been used by the inhabitants of these areas since prehistoric times.
Documents from the 13th century indicate that Genghis Khan had contact with the Przewalski horse.
After a long break, during which no one was interested in the Mongolian primeval horses, a Scottish doctor described Przewalski’s horse in the diaries of his Russia-China trip around 1760.
Around 1840 a British naturalist mentioned the Przewalski horse again in his work, but it still remained an unconfirmed legend. Until the Russian officer and explorer N.M. Przewalski discovered a living Przewalski horse in western Mongolia around 1880.
This discovery didn’t do the poor wild horse any good at first; it was hunted and even eaten until it was near extinction.
Between 1899 and 1904 some Przewalski foals were caught by private “animal collectors”. A local merchant named Assanov organized the hunting expeditions and he also sold the foals to reasonable animal parks and zoos.
In the beginning, the breeding in captivity did not go very well, at that time very little was known about the demands of the wild horses. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, fewer than 40 individuals were left in human care; only 12 were left in the wild.
After a period of research, a studbook was set up (of which the international version is kept in Prague and Cologne Zoo coordinates the studbook of the European Endangered Species Breeding Program).
Since then, the wild Przewalski horses have been successfully bred in many zoos and zoos around the world – with the ultimate goal of resettling the Przewalski horses in the Central Asian steppe.
First, however, an attempt was made to breed the Przewalski horses more robustly in animal parks and zoos, as well as to reintroduce them into the wild, and to research their needs in more detail.
The appearance of the Przewalski
The Przewalski horse is no more than 146 cm tall. It is stocky and strongly built, has a very broad body and a rounded belly. The neck is fairly short and stable, the head curved from the forehead similar to Ramskopf.
The whole Przewalski horse looks more square and practical than athletically slim; a visibly unbreakable “super pony”. The fur is light brown, gray-brown, reddish-brown, Isabel-colored, the variations probably go back to wild crossbreeding of domestic horses.
A Przewalski horse differs significantly from our domestic horses in some features:
- The Przewalski horse has one more thoracic vertebra than our domestic horse.
- With every change of coat, a Przewalski horse also swaps the mane hair and the hair at the edge of the tail.
- The Przewalski horse usually lacks the forehead entirely.
- Standing mane and sparse tail are always dark to black in color.
- A dark eel line can be found on the back of the Przewalski horse.
- The nostrils are also always dark in color, the outer edges of the ears are always black.
- The legs are mostly partly colored black, sometimes in dark stripes.
Temperament and essence
The temperament of the Przewalski horse is difficult to judge by the standards that we apply to our domestic horses. He’s just primal and wild.
So far there have been a few reasons and opportunities for the Przewalski horse to really make friends with humans. Even when foals are raised by humans, they often prove to be almost indomitable.
If something does not suit a Przewalski horse, it often shows it clearly and quite aggressively.
Husbandry and nutrition
The Przewalski horse lives in Mongolia in very rough areas with temperature fluctuations of up to 25 degrees. Hardly any rain, few barren types of grass, every day long distances to the reasonably fresh food.
This is what healthy wild horse life looks like that a Przewalski horse has known for thousands of years and into which it is now being released back into the wild.
A nice, warm, “normal” stable, which could easily be offered in any zoo, is, therefore, a very dubious pleasure for the survivors.
A Przewalski horse can e.g. B. can do without water for several days, the early attempts at breeding probably failed to a large extent due to “too much pampering”.
That is why the Przewalski horse is kept in the conservation stations today as it lives in the great outdoors: in a family group that is protected by a stallion.
The feeding behavior of horses is researched on wild horses like the Przewalski horse. We learned from the Przewalski horse that the entire digestive tract of a horse is geared towards slow food intake throughout the day.
The Przewalski horse eats fiber-rich grasses and “undergrowth” (e.g. shrubs) all day long, it does not even know concentrated feed such as oats.
In the wildlife parks and zoos where the Przewalski horse is kept, it is offered just such food. If you intend to get a horse yourself, it would not be bad if you could find out more about how a Przewalski horse is fed in one of the holding stations.
You can learn a lot about the nutrition of your horse from the feed and the feeding rhythm of the Przewalski horse.
Education and care
Even wild horses like the Przewalski horse enjoy a kind of education so that the horses do not get into unhealthy stress during any necessary measures or treatments.
As already mentioned, the Przewalski horses have long had a reputation for resolutely defending themselves against the human approach.
This is one of the reasons why they are allowed to live as remote as possible from people today and their upbringing is limited to the bare minimum. A domestic horse can be transformed into a real companion much faster because it has lived with people non-stop for endless generations.
Already the foal is brought up comprehensively by the breeder, learns to endure the sometimes quite beautiful grooming and to lift the hooves. There is a walk to get to know cars and crowds.
It may even be prepared with a streamer in the yard for plastic bag waste in nature and plastic advertising on the tournament site. You only have to continue this education – in a careful acclimatization phase and then consistently in daily training.
The Przewalski horse does not get the same care as the domestic horse. If dirt bothers you, it is rubbed away on the next tree, sticky sap is licked off by the neighbor or washed off the next time you bathe in the pond.
Small wounds simply heal in the air. A person only intervenes when a Przewalski horse really needs urgent medical treatment, because every encounter with a person is quite stressful for a Przewalski horse.
It is different with a domestic horse: the better it is trained, the better you can carefully examine all of its body parts. So you can intervene early before z. B. becomes a real wound from a rubbed area.
But precisely because of his insistence on naturalness, you can learn something from the Przewalski horse for the care of a domestic horse: Always keep everything beautifully natural, do not use chemical care products, if in doubt, do not cream or wash too much at all.
Health and Typical Diseases
In terms of health, too, a Przewalski horse has a lot ahead of the domestic horse: The compact, square body with strong bones was not negatively influenced by any “beauty breeding”.
Apart from stallion fighting (which can cause wounds, but never endanger life in natural horses) and real accidents, a Przewalski horse usually stays healthy for life.
The average life expectancy of a horse is between 20 and 35 years. Originally living ponies, so-called robust horse breeds such as fjord and Icelandic horses, live longer than their larger conspecifics.
They often live to be 30 to 35 years old, most sport horses reach an age of a good 20 years at the most. In this respect, too, you can take an example from the Przewalski horse, which usually easily reaches the age of 35 in a natural, species-appropriate manner.
Buy horse breed Przewalski
Buying a Przewalski horse will be really difficult for normal people or for private purposes.
However, this is not a bad thing, since trophy hunters are now mostly viewed with contempt, and keeping wild horses privately is extremely difficult for humans anyway.
However, if you still have your professional training ahead of you or if you want to switch to a horse professionally, you certainly have the opportunity to get closer to the Przewalski horse.
Before you focus your whole life on horses, you should first check carefully whether a horse is really the right “pet” for you. And you should definitely have experience with other animals beforehand.
Good to know: The Przewalski horse is a strictly protected species that are bred worldwide as part of conservation programs and whose private trade is subject to severe penalties in all countries with a functioning legal system.