Tag Archives: Przewalski’s Horse

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