Przewalski's horse, the last wild horse
The Przewalski horse is a subspecies of horse rediscovered by the Russian explorer Prjevalski in the 19th century in Dzougaria, in the mountains bordering the Gobi Desert. It is easily recognized: with its massive appearance, its strong neckline and its Isabelle colour, it resembles the prehistoric horses painted on the caves’ walls. Long designated as the last horse on earth to have ever been domesticated, a recent study hypothesizes that it was domesticated 5,500 years ago by the Botai culture before returning to the wild.
After its rediscovery, the men shot whole groups to capture a few foals and send them to zoos. Out of the 50 or so individuals captured, only about 30 survived. Because of this intensive hunt, individuals living in the wild became scarce. Their last representatives are seen in 1969. After this date, the species will be perpetuated by the few animals living in captivity.
An international safeguarding program has started, and it is decided to separate the horses in groups isolated from each other in order to prevent contagious diseases but also inbreeding. In France, the Takh Association (Mongolian name of przewalski horse) works for the preservation of its equines and their reintroduction in their natural environment since the early 1990s. Individuals coming from various zoos were placed in semi- freedom on the Causse Méjean plateau, in Villaret, where they prepared for the wild life. In 2004 and 2005, the Takh Association successfully reintroduced 22 of them into the buffer zone of Khar Us Nuur National Park in Khomyn Tal in western Mongolia. Even today, the conservation program for the species continues and you can still see the horses at Villaret, where an exhibition hall presenting them and the project is open during the summer.