Mongolian Beasts


This post is about two beasts that I encountered in Mongolia.   The first is the rare Przewalski’s horse.  When we think of wild horses, we might often think of the American Mustang or other such horses.   However, these are really just domesticated horses that have gone feral.  The Przewalski’s Horse is the only surviving true wild horse.   It is a possible ancestor of the modern domesticated horse.

It has 68 choromosones whereas the modern horse has only 66 chromosomes.  It also has faint striping on its legs which is a sign that it is a more ancient species.  Scientists believe that it and the modern horse diverged from each other some 160,000 years ago.

The horse is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky; hence its unusual name.  However, the Mongolians call it the Takhi.     The Takhi disappeared from its home range in the Mongolian Steppes in the 1960’s but since 1998 an international effort has successfully introduced takhi taken from zoo populations and reintroduced them into three Mongolian  protected areas.  This is a rare example of a successful reintroduction of a species into the wild and the Mongolians are rightly proud of this.

One of the places to see the takhi is in Hustai National Park near Ulaanbaatar.  However, you still need a bit of luck to see them.

We first saw the Takhi against this spectacular backdrop.
Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
The Herd

 

My blogging friend  Geewits always speaks of “synchronicity”.  By this she means, the strange phenomena when suddenly a topic or an item keeps appearing in a short period from different sources.  Well, this second beast of this post is an example of synchronicity.

Just before going to Mongolia, I did my Halloween post which was about the Beast of Gevaudan.  While researching for the post, I discovered that some cryptozoologists proposed that the animal may be a surviving member of a group of wolf-like animals called Mesonychids which were believed to have gone extinct 32 million years ago.

When I was in Ulaanbaatar, I had the opportunity to visit the Mongolian Natural History Museum and guess what I saw there?  The top part of a skull of the Andrewsarchus mongoliensis.  This animal is known from fossils dug up from the Mongolian Gobi Desert and is thought to be the largest of the Mesonychids.  What would be the odds about posting about this and then coming face to face with its fossil within a week in a foreign land?  That’s synchronicity.

Hopefully I will now not meet one of these creatures alive and biting.  That would not be synchronicity.  That would be a story from the Twilight Zone.

Andrewsarchus mongoliensis skull
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14 thoughts on “Mongolian Beasts”

  1. Now it’s my turn to speak of synchronicity… on our way down to the Cevennes in south-central France on vacation in July, we went through the area where the beast of the Gevaudan was legendary, still very present in the visible folklore of the region. And then on the Causse Méjean we came upon a place where there is a colony of Przewalski’s horses in semi-liberty in a large wild space they can roam in. Although we were there a couple of times, the horses stayed hidden… Am amazed that you found traces of both of these subjects on your trip to Mongolia, but my goodness, rather terrifying, the thought of great giant wolves with long sharp teeth who would chomp squirrels like pretzels…

  2. A squirrel at large in the Gobi desert? Hmmm…. Sounds like an invasive species to me!
    Loving all the pictures and info about Mongolia….

  3. I was reading about horses just a few months ago for whatever reason and it was the first I had ever heard of the Przewalski’s horse. I think I was trying to explain to someone that there were no real wild horses: that there are only feral horses. Then I thought, well, before I state this as a fact I should look it up. I think it’s pretty obvious without checking their DNA that they are very different. They certainly look different. I think it’s cool that you got to see them. If you had a dollar for every animal that you have ever seen that I have never seen, you would be quite wealthy.

  4. Mr. Charleston,
    Thanks for the encouragement but sadly 5 posts is about all I can wring out of a short 7 day trip. Time to return to the normal scheduled programming.

    Owen,
    This synchronicity thing is getting a little creepy. One might almost think that the Universe is trying to tell us something about wolves and horses. And, yes, I wouldn’t want to run into a sabre-fanged wolfie.

  5. Molly,
    Invasive species? Rumours that the Lone Grey Squirrel is plotting world conquest is greatly exaggerated. In fact its just CIA lies. I am just taking pretty pictures. Really.

    Riot Kitty,
    Yeah, that would really ruin one’s day.

  6. geewits,
    Thanks but I doubt if I could get more than a dinner from getting a dollar for every animal I have seen that you haven’t. I wouldn’t get rich.

    Stinkypaw,
    I guess the theory is that donkeys and horses came from these Takhis.

  7. LGS i have looked these horses in the eye as close to where I lived was an area next to the river what was given back to nature to let everything grow wild and one of the animals they put in there was this horse and we learned that the horse was from Poland Here is a link I will post soon about this park as I have a story about this horse http://www.watertravel.com/millingerwaard2.htm

  8. Marja,
    Wow another example of synchronicity. It would seem that the horses are not as rare as I thought since so many have seen them but in fact there are only about a 1000 horses worldwide and only about 300 living free in the wild.

    Now, the horses are definitely Mongolian but they were named in honor of the Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky. Now apparently, Przhevalsky is actually a name of Polish origin and when written in Polish, it is “Przewalski”. Hence the name Przewalski’s horse.

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