The wild horse (Equus ferus) is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the domesticated horse as well as the undomesticated Tarpan and Przewalski's Horse. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century, and Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced successfully to the wild.
Never again seen in the wild, Przewalski’s horses have since been kept and bred in captivity and have recently been reintroduced in Mongolia. With a short, muscular body, Przewalski’s horses are smaller than most domesticated horses.
Przewalski's horses are the last surviving subspecies of wild horse. First described scientifically in the late 19th century by Russian explorer N. M. Przewalski, for whom the horse is named, the horse once freely roamed the steppe along the Mongolia-China border.
The Tarpan was a wild or possibly feralized horse ecotype that lived on the steppes of the Ukraine and southern Russia. Information regarding the species is scanty. There have been attempts to breed back the Tarpan, but they reflect the personal vision of individuals, about what a Tarpan should look like.
Przewalski’s horses grow a dense coat for very cold winters and shed into a lighter coat for very hot summers. Their tan coloration helps them blend into their grassland and desert habitat.
There is no doubt that wild horses should have their rightful place in Europe’s nature areas today. It becomes a lot more complicated when the question arises which horse breeds to choose as a truly wild horse species.
The first problem is that one of the last wild horses of Eurasia, the Tarpan, is seen by many biologists and ecologists as the ecotype to be used in the whole of Europe.
The Przewalski’s horse is a very social animal forming herds consisting of one stallion and four to 10 mares with their offspring. The stallion is responsible for the herd’s protection and coordinates daily movements of the group as they wander to graze, drink or rest. Herds don’t mix but will share territory because the stallions are more protective of their mares than their territory.
Although Wild Horses (of which Przewalski's Horse Equus ferus przewalskii is the only living representative) can hybridize with domestic horses to produce fertile offspring (Ryder et al. 1978, Trommerhausen-Smith et al. 1979), the existence of 2n = 66 chromosomes in Przewalski's Horse identifies it as being more different from its domestic relatives (2n = 64) than are any two breeds of domestic horse (Ryder 1994). Mitochondrial DNA research has shown that the Przewalski's Horse is not ancestral to modern domestic horses (Vila et al 2001). Przewalski's Horses also show a number of other consistent differences in their appearance: the mane is short and erect in most horses that are in good body condition, forelocks are close to nonexistent; the upper part of the tail has short guard hairs, unlike domestic horses, that have long, falling manes and long guard hairs all over the tail; a dark dorsal stripe runs from the mane down the back and dorsal side of the tail to the tail tuft; several dark stripes can be present on the carpus and, generally, the tarsus (Groves 1994).
The wild horse (Equus ferus) is a species of the genus Equus, which includes both the domesticated horse subspecies as well as the undomesticated Tarpan and the Przewalski's Horse. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century, and the Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced successfully to the wild. The most likely ancestor of the domestic horse was the Tarpan, which roamed the steppes of Eurasia at the time of domestication.
The very first visual account of the existence of Przewalski's type wild horses dates from about 20,000 years ago. Rock engravings, paintings, and decorated tools dating from the late Gravetian to the late Magdalenian (20,000-9,000 B.C.), consisting of 2,188 animal pictures were discovered in caves in Italy, western France and northern Spain; 610 of these were horse figures.
The three postglacial wild horses for which there is osteological evidence are Equus ferus przewalskii, the tarpan E. f. ferus (of which Polish and Ukrainian representatives cannot on present evidence, be distinguished from one another), and the unnamed Swedish form. On the steppes east of the Volga, as Heptner (1955) argued, was a zone of intergradation where both grey (tarpan-like) and reddish (Przewalski-like) wild horses occurred. This is evidence that the European tarpan and Przewalski's horse were actually con-specific.