A rare Przewalski’s Horse foal has been born at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. The youngster can now be spotted trotting around the main reserve with the small herd.
The arrival of the foal represents a potentially important contribution to Przewalski’s Horse conservation, with the species currently listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. The species had previously been listed as extinct in the wild, following the last official sighting in 1968, but was reclassified in 2011 following the success of a number of reintroduction projects, including to its native Mongolia.
Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, said, “For the Przewalski’s Horse to go from being extinct in the wild to once again roaming the Mongolian Steppe is directly attributable to the efforts of the legitimate zoo community. Had it not been for the managed captive population, there would have been no horses to return to the wild. Although there is still a need to continue to augment the small wild herds, and our latest foal may play a part, the story of the horse’s recovery is a classic example of the important conservation role that good zoos are uniquely equipped to fulfill.”
The Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is the last true wild horse. They are the only living, wild ancestor of the domestic horse that has survived to the present day.
They are named after Nikolai Przewalski, the Russian explorer who first brought specimens back for a formal description in the 1870s. But the first time the species was made known to the West was in the 1763 published accounts of a Scottish doctor, John Bell, who travelled with Tsar Peter the Great.
This wild horse has a stocky body with robust, short legs, a short neck and an erect mane. Typical height of the species is about 12–14 hands (48–56 inches, 122–142 cm), and their length is about 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in). On average, they weigh around 300 kilograms (660 lb).
The hooves of the Przewalski's Horse are longer in the back and have a thick sole horn. This characteristic improves the performance of the hooves.