The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), in Front Royal, Virginia, welcomed four endangered Przewalski’s horse foals between March and June.
The first foal, a filly named Dahlores, was born March 20. The younger three foals are colts and were born March 23, April 30, and May 29. It is the first time in 28 years that SCBI has four foals at one time, and the foals are thriving and living in a herd with their mothers.
Name the Colts
The SCBI is asking the public to help name the three colts. All of the names are inspired by Przewalski’s horses’ biology and ecology with a #MyLittlePHorse twist. The colts will receive the three names that receive the most votes. Keepers will assign the winning names to the individual animals. The public can cast their votes on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s website, and the winning names will be announced Aug. 13.
Voters can choose from the names:
- Takhi Twist—Takhi is the Mongolian word for Przewalski’s horse
- Ulaanbaatar Hero—Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia
- Steppenhoof—Przewalski’s horses are native to the steppes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
- Gobi Wan Kenobi —Przewalski’s horses live in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
- Citizen Mane—Przewalski’s horses have dark spiky manes and no forelock
Keepers describe the oldest colt, born to Przewalski’s horse Anne, as outgoing and confident. The second colt, Winnie’s foal, is especially shy and sticks close to the herd. Emma’s colt, the youngest foal, is indecisive and still learning how to be part of the herd. The SCBI will share additional photos and videos of the colts on social media with information about their personalities with the hashtag #MyLittlePHorse to help voters get to know them.
Przewalski’s Horse History and Research
Native to Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan, Przewalski’s horses are listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Once extinct in the wild, all Przewalski’s horses alive today are descended from 14 individuals.
Scientists at SCBI study Przewalski’s horse reproductive biology and have developed assisted reproduction techniques to help build a self-sustaining and genetically diverse population in human care. In 2013, they welcomed the first Przewalski’s horse born via an artificial insemination.
Additionally, SCBI ecologists study Przewalski’s horses in the wild. They are learning about the movement and behavior of horses reintroduced Hustai National Park in Mongolia by tracking them with GPS tags. This year, mares delivered 35 foals in the park and 28 survived through their first critical months, suggesting the horses reintroduced to the wild are thriving. A healthy population capable of producing foals is necessary to establish herds of free-ranging Przewalski’s horses in the wild.
Przewalski’s horses were long considered the last surviving wild horse species, but a recent study raised speculations. The new data highlights a close genetic relationship between Przewalski’s horses and Botai horses—considered by some scientists to be the first domesticated horse species. However, Botai horses form a clade (a descendant group from one common ancestor) distinct from domestic horses. Some scientists believe Przewalski’s horses are unique descendants of horses within Botai/Borly clade and represent genetic diversity no longer found among horses, and that they are integral to a healthy steppe ecosystem.