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Horses

( Originally Published 1936 )

This family includes the Horses, Asses, and Zebras, which are distinguished from other mammals by having only one toe (the third) developed on each foot. The hair on the body is short and smooth, but the mane and tail are long and bushy. Several species of Horses and Asses are still found wild in Africa and in Western and Central Asia, while the striped species called Zebras are confined to Africa south of the Sahara. Wild Horses are now extinct on the steppes of South Russia, where they were found up to perhaps a century ago, and Horses have run wild in many countries to which they were not native, and are now found in many parts of Australia and America.

Naturalists were long puzzled to know whether any true wild Horses were still in existence, but of late years a really well-marked wild species, called the Prejevalsky Horse, has been found in the high tablelands of Turkestan. In colour this little animal is a light bay, or fawn, with dark legs and tail and a dark stripe running down its back. The mane is also dark in colour and stands upright, and the end of the muzzle is greyish or whitish. It is about the size of a pony, the flanks are thin and delicate in form, and the breast also is narrower than in most domestic Horses. Just below the elbow on the front legs are four or five small stripes. This striped character of the legs, and, in fact, the general colour, is found in many of the Horses of our Western States, especially the so-called dun ponies of the plains. The Prejevalsky Horse does not differ essentially in characters from all other members of the family, and shows considerable intelligence, but is not easily tamed. Two which have lived for some years in the Bronx Zoological Park are still in good condition, but have never bred. Their parents were captured some years ago in Turkestan by an animal dealer, who sent out a special expedition for this purpose. As it was found impossible to take the adult animals, only the young were captured, by chasing the herds until the foals became exhausted. These were nursed by domestic mares taken out by the party. A number of them lived and thrived, and there are now several in various European collections.

Mustang (Equus caballus varius)

The domesticated breeds of Horses differ very much in size and colour, and even in shape, some being slenderly formed, like the Race Horse, others very bulky and powerful, like the Dray Horse, and individuals may be either chestnut, bay, brown, black or white. The so-called wild Horses that roam in great herds over the plains of Mexico and the adjoining Southern States of America, are nothing more nor less than domestic Horses that have run wild. They are popularly called Mustangs, are generally pied or dappled, often, as in our figure, being coloured like a red and white cow. See Plate 34., Fig. 145. The Horse has a callosity on the inner side of all legs, but in the Asses and Zebras those on the hind legs are wanting. The mane and tail are also much more thickly haired in the Horse. Horses were very numerous in America in former times, but appear for some unexplained reason to have become extinct before the arrival of the Spaniards, by whom they were reintroduced into the New World.

Koulan (Equus hemionus)

The Asiatic Wild Ass is found in large herds throughout Western and Central Asia as far as the northern and north-western frontiers of India. It measures six or seven feet in length, and about four in height, and varies considerably in colour, hairiness, and so on, in different localities, but is generally grey, reddish-grey, or chestnut, with the under parts white, and a dark stripe on the back. The mane is short and erect, and the tail is tufted towards the end, in-stead of being uniformly covered with hair, as in the horse. See Plate 34, Fig. 146. Earlier naturalists considered that there were three allied Asiatic species, but the best recent authorities regard them as only varieties of one. It is an extremely swift animal, and very difficult to capture.

Egyptian Wild Ass (Equus asinus)

This is a greyish animal with long ears and a short black mane and long tail, inhabiting Egypt and Abyssinia, and although it is sometimes treated as distinct, under the name Equus toeniopus, there is little doubt that it is the original stock from which the domestic Ass has been derived. There is a dark stripe along the back, and sometimes more or less developed cross-stripes, especially in the young animal. See Plate 34, Fig. 147. In Southern Europe and North Africa the Ass is often large and graceful in form. It is sometimes used as a beast of burden, and is also much ridden by children in holiday resorts. In mountainous countries mules (a cross between the Horse and the Ass) are much used, as they are extremely sure-footed.

Quagga (Equus quagga)

This animal was formerly very abundant on the plains of South Africa, roaming in large herds, as is the habit of all the Equidae, and was frequently brought to Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century. But owing to the reckless destruction of the larger mammals in South Africa since that time, the Quagga is believed to have been absolutely exterminated, and there are now only a few specimens pre-served in museums. Judging from skins and photo-graphs, it looked not unlike the Burchell Zebra, but was a somewhat larger animal, and the whole body was a darker shade. See Plate 35, Fig. 149.

Zebra (Equus zebra)

The true Zebra is often called the Mountain Zebra, because it inhabits the mountainous sections of Cape Colony, where, however, it is now becoming very scarce. It is an interesting and characteristic species of horse, distinguished by curious stripings and markings. All are more ass-like than the true horse, having long pointed ears, small hoofs, and long switchlike tails. The species represented is about the size of a large donkey, and in character is wild and untamable, being extremely vicious in confinement. The stripes are broader than those of the other forms, and it has many characters unlike them. The stripes are brownish, widest across the hips, and continue even to the very hoofs of the animal. See Plate 34, Fig. 148. It is almost impossible to capture this Zebra, owing to its great speed over rough ground.

Burchell's Zebra (Equus burchelli) is found further north, in more open country than the Mountain Zebra, and is somewhat more horse-like in appearance. It has very few stripes below the knee and elbow on the legs, which are pure white in colour. Another variety known as Chapman's Zebra is striped almost to the feet, the ears are shorter, the hoofs larger and rounder, while the stripes are not so broad nor so conspicuous. Still another and larger variety, found in Abyssinia, is known as Grevy's Zebra (E. grevyi). This has extremely large and rounded ears, and the body is covered with a countless number of fine stripes arranged in a beautiful pattern. This is probably the handsomest and most striking of the group, and also the most easily tamed.



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