Mongolia

Mongolia Monday- Wildlife Profiles: Takhi

Takhi stallion, Hustai National Park, 2010

Species: Takhi or Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)

Takhi, Khomiin Tal, 2006

Weight, height: approximately 300 kg or 660 lbs.; 13 hands (52 inches, 132 cm)

Takhi, Hustai National Park. 2005

Conservation Status: Endangered (IUCN Red List)

Takhi, Hustai National Park, 2011

Habitat Preference: Steppe, semi-desert; now also mountain steppe (Hustai)

Takhi group, Berlin Zoo, 2004 (first time I ever saw the species)

Best places to see takhi: In the wild: Hustai National Park, Mongolia. Captive animals: Many zoos and some reserves, including: San Diego Zoo, Denver Zoo, the National Zoo, the Berlin Zoo, the Wilds (near Cincinnati, Ohio)

Takhi leg stripes, Hustai National Park, 2005

Domestic Mongol horse with leg stripes, 2011

Interesting facts:

-Takhi are the only surviving species of true wild horse. What are called “wild horses” in the USA are feral domestic horses.

-The last wild takhi, a lone stallion, was spotted at a waterhole in the Dzungarian Gobi in 1969, and not long after the species was declared extinct in the wild. After WWII, only 55 survived in captivity, all descended from 13 founder animals. Today there are approximately 2000 takhi of which, as of 2011, 360 were at three release sites in Mongolia.

-Their range originally included, along with Mongolia: Belarus, China, Germany, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, Ukraine.

– Takhi have 66 chromosomes. Domestic horses have 64. They can mate and produce fertile offspring. It is estimated that they diverged around 500,000 years ago, so the speciation process is not complete. Domestic Mongol horses with takhi characteristics like carpal and tarpal leg stripes are fairly common, indicating a cross at some point in the past. Modern horses are not descendents of takhi.

-Other than a few instances of intensively hand-raised foals who would tolerate a rider while young, no one has ever “tamed” a takhi.

-They became known in the west when Col. Nikolai Przewalski brought a skull and skin, which had been presented to him at a border crossing between far western China and Mongolia, back to Russia. The official description was published in 1881.

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