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The Zoo's Hidden Gem

Sidebar: The Last Wild Horses

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institure: aerial view

National Zoo scientists have been extraordinarly successful at breeding Przewalski's horses. (Jessie Cohen/NZP)

Przewalski’s horses are the only truly wild horses left on the planet. They lack whatever genetic combination of temperament and physical traits is necessary to become domesticated animals. Once, thousands of them roamed the steppes of Mongolia, Russia, and China. Their stocky builds,
spiky manes, buff bodies, and the faint zebra stripes on their legs make them look astonishingly similar to the horses painted in the caves at Lascaux, France, by Paleolithic people.

The horses were declared extinct in the wild in the late 1960s, and only captive populations allowed for their survival. Scientists at SCBI Front Royal and other similar facilities were able to breed the population back from the brink of extinction and are now attempting to reestablish wild populations in Mongolia and China.

 

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Smithsonian Zoogoer 39(5) 2010. Copyright 2010 Friends of the National Zoo. All rights reserved.