Przewalski's horse (pronounced 'ji-vaal-ski') is the only truly wild horse left in the world. It is believed that it has changed very little since the end of the Ice Age and is believed by some to be the ancestor of all modern horses.


Przewalski's Horse and Humans

For centuries, this horse was hunted by the Chinese and Mongolians as a source of food, and the decline of the species was speeded up when firearms reached the hands of these hunters.

Having such a wild, shy nature, the Przewalski's horse has never really been tamed by humans, and has only been semi-domesticated. When still in the wild, it had been allowed to breed with feral horses (i.e. formerly domestic horses now living wild).

This unique horse has been saved from total extinction through captive breeding in zoos. A studbook listing the horses and their ancestors helps zoos exchange animals to prevent inbreeding.   There are now a few small herds living wild in Mongolia.  The main threat to the continuation of these wild herds is now interbreeding with domesticated horses.

This is a real example of how humans can help to save a species from extinction (though it has to be said that humans are the main reason that Przewalski horses were in danger of extinction in the first place!)  The horses' population is increasing and its status in the wild has improved markedly from 'extinct' in 1996 to 'critically endangered' by 2008 to 'Endangered' in 2011.

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