Przewalski's horse has ancient lineage

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Jun 27, 2002
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Just some horsey trivia for those of you interested in such things :)

Przewalski's horse has ancient lineage

New Scientist vol 180 issue 2424 - 06 December 2003, page 21

THE famous Przewalski's horse, a conservation icon, is less closely related to domestic horses than we thought. The finding suggests that the two lineages split long before humans domesticated horses.

Przewalski's horse, or takhi, went extinct in its native Mongolia in the late 1960s. Around 150 animals existed in captivity and an intensive breeding programme was mounted to increase their numbers for re-release. The first 16 animals were returned to the wild in 1994 and the herd now numbers over 100.

The charismatic breed's stick-up punk mane makes it easy to distinguish from domestic horses, but whether it is really a separate species is controversial. The wild horse's two extra chromosomes suggest that it is, but the two animals have virtually identical mitochondrial DNA, implying they are simply different breeds.

Now Mathias Mller and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, have compared mutations in Y chromosome sequences of domestic and Przewalski's horse with seven species of wild equid. They estimate that the two populations diverged between 120,000 and 240,000 years ago (Animal Genetics, vol 34, p 453).

So the takhi can't be the domestic horse's ancestor, since domestication happened around 6000 years ago.


Active Member
Jan 3, 2002
Cornwall, UK
That's really interesting, anuvb. I did a study of some Przewalski's at a zoo for my uni course last year. They are amazing little horses and they really worked as a group all the time. I felt really sorry for them though, they were kept on a concrete yard and stable with little access to grass. Even domestic horses should have been given better conditions than that and Przewalskis haven't been domesticated, they are still wild animals!!


New Member
Oct 28, 2003
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I used to volunteer at a large animal shelter on their field section for years and they had two Przewalski's. Unfortunately the female died quite early on from when they arrived so the male (called Blondie!) used to be kept company at first by lots of little shetlands, and then by a mare called Lady. They had a nice big field and shelter so were very happy. Considering he was supposed to be 'wild' Blondie was far more friendly than Lady, he used to come up and investigate when we were poo picking round the fields and get in the way!
Unfortunatley, he had to be sedated whenever his teeth or feet needed checking which cant have been to nice for him.