Przewalski’s Horse Population Suffers from Low Reproductive Rate By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 5, 2012
Przewalski’s horses, an ancestor of domestic horses and the only truly wild (rather than feral) horses in the world, have been classified as an endangered species with only about 1,500 living individuals. Animals in this population are all descended from a small group captured from a wild herd more than 100 years ago. The reproductive rate for the breed is only about 20%, a level that is thought to be too low to increase or even sustain numbers in the long run.
A study conducted by wildlife experts at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., concluded that the low reproductive rate may be due to inbreeding that has caused mares to have abnormal ovarian function and reproductive cycles. The finding is based on ultrasound examinations and tests of mares’ urine.
These stocky, dun-colored horses average around 13 hands tall and weigh about 600 lb (300 kg). They have short erect manes and may show zebra-like striping on their legs. Przewalski’s horses were first described to science after being seen in Mongolia in the 15th century.