The Prjewalski horse (or Przewalski) Is the last wild European horse. Even though it is very hardy, it has completely disappeared from the Mongolian steppes around the nineteen seventies. Today there are only about a thousand, living in land reserves and zoos. Hunting, competition with domestic horses and troubles affecting the border regions in Asia, have been fatal to them.
One herd occupies the open spaces of the Causse Méjean and can be seen at the village of Drigas (the base is more precisely in the hamlet Le Villaret in the “Cévennes National Park”). This hamlet is linked to the horse paddocks (their actual number is 30) where they freely graze and come to quench their thirst close to the houses.
They are acclimating to a life in the wild before attempting a reintroduction* to their original habitat in Mongolia (and also in Hungary). One shouldn’t scare the horses by approaching too close to them. And above all, respect the fences!
The Prjewalski horse (Equus caballus Przewalskii) is extremely hardy : his body is stocky, with a thick neck, a large and wide head and chunky limbs. His coat is yellow brown. His mane is a brush, his tail and feet are darker (dark brown or almost black). He often has a dark stripe more or less marked along his backbone.
His height at the withers varies from 1,20 to 1,40 meters and his weight from 200 to 350 kilograms. His life expectancy is around thirty years.
La tour du Valat
*This reintroduction is a followup of a study project on the behaviour of the Carmargue horses, by the Organic Station at the tower of Valat. The goal of this study is to observe the behaviour of horses when they are not under the constraints and practices of traditional breeding. A vast prairie has thus been granted them, where they can instinctively run free, without any human intervention.
One of the major points of interest is whether it’s possible for the horses to organise themselves in lasting family groups, a possibility which they didn’t have in the context of classic breeding, where males and females are separated for the major part of the year. The logical followup to this work on horses in a free environment would be to repeat the experience with horses who have never been domesticated : the Przewalski horse.
Thus, the hamlet Le Villaret was chosen to host a herd of Przewalski horses, a place where the individuals can recreate family groups. This initiative has been very successful. The animals have adapted perfectly to this mountainous region of southern France. Their reproduction, having been very satisfactory, means that just a few years later, a stock is available for reintroduction to the place of origin of the species : Central Asia, and Mongolia in particular.
The Przewalski horse had disappeared around 1966 and was only surviving in captivity. Two lots were transported to France in 2004 and 2005 to create a free and independent population.
From the experience of the horses in the Camargue and of the Villaret,TAKH has developed a specificity, which is to carefully take into account the ethnologic aspects. This experiment has been very useful in following the population which has been introduced to Mongolia.
From now on the main goal of TAKH is to complete the introduction in Mongolia and its related matters, particularly the link with the local breeders. With this in mind, TAKH depends on a multidisciplinary staff of fifteen people shared between France and Mongolia.