The Prezwalski's horse also known as a Dzungarian horse is a rare and endangered breed, native to central Asia. The breed is the only true wild horse remaining in the world today and was reintroduced to Khustain Nuruu National Park in Mongolia starting in 1966. Most wild horses such as the Australian Brumby and the American Mustang were descended from domesticated horses, but escaped to live a wild existence as a feral horse.
The Prezwalski is a stocky built horse, normally reaching a height of 12-14 hands. A full grown horse may weigh up to 660 pounds. The muzzle and belly may appear pale yellow to white in color, the flanks a pale reddish-brown, striped legs and the mane may be a darker brown.
The females reach maturity by age three and can give birth. The gestational period lasts from 11 to 12 months. The foal may stand within one hour of birth and will soon begin to suckle. However, stallions do not look to mate until the age of five. Stallions will fight for leadership of a group of mares. One adult stallion will typically live in a family group of three mares and their colts. At two to three years of age, a stallion will join a bachelor group until he forms his own family. Families will sometimes join together to form a moving herd.
The Prezwalski horse communicate through a tilt of the head, vocalizations, scent markings, kick, groom and other visual and tactile signals, which encompass a complex communication network. Seasonal vegetation comprises the horse’s diet. During the cold winter months, the horse’s metabolic system slows down.
Genetically, the domesticated horse and the Prezwalski's horse are closely related. Ancient DNA recovered from archaeological shows the bones and teeth to be similar, but mitochondrial DNA suggests that the Prezwalski diverged over 160,000 years ago from today’s domesticated horse. The Prezwalski has 66 chromosomes, while other horses contain 64 chromosomes. Although, the number of chromosome and fusion differences exists between the Prezwalski and the domesticated horse, the two could interbreed and produce a fertile offspring.
Photo is courtesy of Prezwalski's Horse as uploaded by Lain Cameron on Flickr’s Creative Commons.