Przewalski’s Wild Horse: A Note

For thousands of years wild horses or tarpan (Equus ferus) ranged across the Northern Hemisphere, from Scotland in the west to Kamchatka in the east, and even further across the Bering Strait into North America. But praised for their swift elegance and stamina these herds were tamed by man and used for agriculture and conquest. With time new breeds emerged from the wild stocky ponies as man applied them to their different labours. As the human population grew, so did the need for more horses until eventually the wild horses had all but disappeared from North Africa, Europe, North America and most of Asia. Ultimately in the year 1969 the last wild horse in Mongolia disappeared from the face of the Earth. The true wild horse had become extinct in the wild!

“Not all who wander are lost, for in wandering some find refuge.” Marcel van der Merwe II 

As the last true wild horse slipped quietly into the abyss of extinction, drastic efforts were made to obtain individuals from captivity. By that time only 12 animals could be found in captivity – each surviving animal containing within itself the last genes of the once widespread wild horse or tarpan. From these humble beginnings the wild horse began fighting extinction as the 12 individuals multiplied. The wild genes have proven resilient and today the wild horse, now known as Przewalski’s wild horse, again roams the wilds of Mongolia and China.

A herd of Przewalski’s wild horse in the wilds of the Gobi Desert.  Photo Credit:

Hopefully, in the near future this magnificent wild horse will again roam freely across the European steppe, Mediterranean and forest reserves from Spain to Russia, and someday, even across the prairies of North America…

Marcel van der Merwe II

Cape Town | South Africa


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