Mongolian horses are the world's oldest horse breed and perhaps the only true wild horse. It is believed that all other breeds came from the Mongolian horse. The animal is called the takhi in Mongolia. Due to displacement from their plains environment and over-hunting, the Mongolian horse was extinct in the wild by 1969. Reintroduction efforts, beginning in 1992, have been made, taking animals from European breeding reserves and reintroducing them into large nature preserves in Mongolia.
The Mongolian horse has a long history. Many cave paintings of horses are believed to be of them. The first outsider to discover the horse was Polish explorer Nicolai Przewalski, sent by the czar of Russia in 1881. The species is named after him. Collectors in Europe soon wanted the horses. Scores of adults were slain to secure their offspring. Many died in transit to Europe. Breeding in captivity was difficult but over a hundred Mongolian horses were living in Europe before World War II. Only 30 survived the war. But by the time of Mongolian reintroduction, the population was back up to over a thousand worldwide.
Mongolian horses tend to have a smaller, stockier build. They have an upright mane, donkey-like tails and dark brown legs. They have been mostly free from human-induced selection and thus are a distinct species from other horses. They have 66 chromosomes while every other horse species has 64. Mongolian horses live in herds lead by a stallion. They are adapted to living outside, even in temperatures reaching -49 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most young Mongolians learn to ride horses and riding festivals and competitions are popular. The Mongolian style of riding is unique. They hold the reins in one hand and stand up in the stirrups. The saddle is wooden and hasn't adapted much since Chinggis Khaan's warriors used the design to stay up on the horse while firing arrows in every direction. Saddles are often decorative and adorned with silver. Mongolian horse mares aren't ridden and are often used for their milk. Fermenting the milk creates the alcoholic airag, Mongolia's national drink.