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            An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Perissodactyla

             
            Classification
            Kingdom: Animalia
              Phylum: Chordata
                Class: Mammalia
                  Order: Perissodactyla
                    Family: Equidae
                      Genus: Equus

            Equus caballus

                  Przewalski's wild horse, Domestic horse

            Taxonomy

            Genus [Linnaeus, 1758].  
            Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:73.
            Type locality: "Habitat in Europa" (= Sweden?); based on domestic horses.
            Horses have traditionally been assigned to two different species, Equus caballus and E. przewalskii, but recent authors include przewalskii in caballus.  As domestic horses are so diverse, only the wild form is discussed here.

            Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

            General Characteristics

            Body Length: 210 cm / 7 ft.
            Shoulder Height: 140 cm / 4.6 ft.
            Tail Length: 90 cm / 3 ft.
            Weight: 350 kg / 770 lb.

            .The light tan to reddish brown coat (also known as dun or bay) fades to white on the undersides.  The coat is short in summer, growing longer and woolier and becoming lighter in the colder months.  The lower legs are dark brown or black.  On the top of the neck is a stiff, dark brown mane which is permanently erect.  The stocky body is supported by short, slender legs, each terminating in a single hoof.  The head is relatively large, and is generally darker than the rest of the body.  The ears are small, and the muzzle is white.

            Ontogeny and Reproduction

            Gestation Period: 340 days.
            Young per Birth: 1
            Weaning: At 6-8 months, although the young may remain with their mother for upwards of two years.
            Sexual Maturity: 2 years.
            Life span: About 20 years.

            Young are usually born in April, May, and June.

            Ecology and Behavior

            Due to its extinct-in-the-wild status, little recent data is available on Przewalski's wild horse.  In the wild, this horse is (was?) extremely wary, constantly alert for wolves and man.  They can be quite aggressive, and are able to defend themselves with their sharp teeth and hooves.  The dominant stallion in a herd is responsible for the herd's protection and coordinating daily movements, and holds his position for several years.  It is rare to find a herd led by a male less than 6 years of age.

            Family group: Breeding bands of 15-20 females and young led by an adult male, and small bachelor herds.
            Diet: Grasses.
            Main Predators: Wolf.

            Distribution

            Formerly grassland and steppe in Mongolia.

            Conservation Status

            Przewalski's horse was previously extinct in the wild, but in the past decade several dozen animals have been reintroduced to protected areas in the steppes of Mongolia.  Nevertheless, it is classified as extinct in the wild by the IUCN (1996).

            Remarks

             While several wild subspecies survived in the past - including the tarpan (E. c. gmelini), believed to be the ancestor of the domestic horse - only one species of wild horse remains today: Przewalski's wild horse.  Ironically, although called a "wild" horse, the Przewalski's wild horse or takhi has been extinct in the wild for several decades, only surviving through captive breeding.  

            General N.M. Przewalski (1839-1888) [pronounced "shuh-VOLL-ski"] was a Russian explorer and naturalist who made several trips to Central Asia, collecting birds and mammals.  Equus (Latin) a horse.  Caballus (Latin) a pack-horse, a nag.

            Literature Cited

            Boitani, L., and S. Bartoli. 1982. Simon & Schuster's Guide to Mammals. New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc. Entry 341.

            Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

            Volf, J.  1990.  Przewalski's wild horse and domestic horses.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. Volume 4, pp. 594-596.

            Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at http://nmnhwww.si.edu/msw/

            Return to Perissodactyla



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