Horses are creatures that have been a huge part of human society for centuries. From helping to build our modern world during the industrial revolution, to being a fantastic form of transport in the days before cars, trains and even roads were invented. They are also an animal that humans have often enjoyed a special relationship with – their beauty can often be seen, immortalised in art like these bronze horse sculptures https://www.gillparker.com/horses-limited-edition-bronze-sculptures-to-buy and they have also been, and indeed still are faithful and loving companions to humans all over the world.
There are many different species of horses, many which have been bred for centuries by humans to be suited to the sort of job that they do – whereas others are truly wild and cannot be tamed. One of these fascinating and beautiful wild horses is Prewalski’s Horses. They differ to domestic horses as they have 66 chromosomes, whereas domestic horses have 64. Native to Asia and Eastern Europe, these horses were at one point so critically endangered that there were none left in the wild. Fortunately, things set to be getting better for these beautiful horses.
Prewalski’s horses are the only true wild horses left in the world. They lived for generations in many areas, including Mongolia. They are incredibly hardy, and they can easily endure this extreme climate which can reach desert like temperatures in the summer months but get incredibly cold in the winter with temperatures that reach well below zero.
It is the horse that is the national symbol of Mongolia in fact, and once, vast herds of them could be seen roaming across the plains. However, a combination of over hunting, habitat destruction and some very harsh winters, meant that by the mid-20th century these beautiful horses were starting to become hard to find. Some explorers had collected foals of some of the horses and sent them to zoos all over the world. However, these wild creatures did not fare well in the zoos, with many of them dying and most not breeding successfully.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, conservation and reintroduction efforts were made to put these horses back into the wild where they belonged. In Mongolia itself, a wild herd had not been seen since the late 60s, and Mongolians born after that heard about the tales of these creatures having never been able to see one for themselves.
There are many sites that have been chosen for reintroduction, in Mongolia and across Asia, including in China and Russia. Another strange twist in the tale is the appearance of the horses in another area, that is completely off limits to humans – the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The horses have been spotted in the area having decided to set up home in this most deadly of habitats.
Only time will tell how these Chernobyl horses fare in the future, but it is looking a lot more promising for them now in many other regions across Asia, as they will hopefully grow stronger in numbers as they return to the wild where they belong.