In Search of the Lost Takhi Horses of Mongolia

“There,” he pointed to three brownish horses that blended in almost too perfectly with the rock outcrops, colored in reddish hues. We slowly crept along the ridge of the hill as our guide extracted a pair of binoculars from his jacket. Our first glimpses of the Takhi Horses of Mongolia.

Our first glimpse of the Takhi horses of Mongolia
Our first glimpse of the Takhi horses of Mongolia

The day began with an hours ride to the west, around noon, from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, to Hustain Nuur National Nark. A couple beers for the mini-bus, and we stopped for a short lunch of bread, pickles, chips, and ‘biscuits’ as my Non-American friends call them (cookies). Takhi Horses, more commonly known in the west as the Przewalski Horse, are an “ancient” species of wild horse that narrowly escaped extinction in the 60’s and considered the “spirit” horses of Mongolia.

An important point of distinction for the Takhi horse is that they have the highest number of chromosomes of any equine species, 65 as opposed to the usual 64, and thus cannot interbreed. They are also mono-colored, as all Takhi horses share the same zebra-like reddish striation, and are the only horse breed to never have been domesticated.

We tip-toed through underbrush and over rock piles – at various points, the stag would swing his head around his right shoulder, just to keep an eye on maintaining a safe distance between his family and these Others. Everyone in the group stayed low to the ground, trying not to seem too much of a nuisance to these regal and quickly-diminishing creatures.

The Spirit Horse!
The steed keeps a wary eye on our group, making sure his pack maintains a safe distance

Finally, they disappeared beneath a large outcrop of a hill and I made a quick and mad dash to try to get a close up picture, from above, thinking my angle of approach would be disguised. By the time I covered the 15-20 meters, they had taken off, already at the other side of the valley that now stood between us. “Well they scare easily…” I muttered, as the others in my group looked at me with certain disdain.

I scared them off! They ran fast...
I scared them off! They ran fast…
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