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Zoo Celebrates Birth Of Rare Endangered Horse That Went Extinct In The Wild For Almost 40 Years

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Zoo Celebrates Birth Of Rare Endangered Horse That Went Extinct In The Wild For Almost 40 Years

A British zoo is celebrating the birth of an ultra-rare Przewalski's horse, a breed that went extinct in the wild for over 40 years.

The foal was born at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, on May 28, with zookeepers naming the little boy 'Basil'.

The new colt is an extra-special surprise as the Przewalski's horse, also known as the Mongolian Wild Horse, went extinct in the wild from 1969 until 2008. 

Marwell Zoo's new foal was named after the first-ever Przewalski's horse male to live at the Hampshire zoo.

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The zoo has kept Przewalski's horses since it first opened in 1972, with Basil Senior born in 1963.

"He arrived prior to Marwell opening its doors in 1969 and was one of the animals on show when the zoo opened in 1972," a zoo spokesperson told the Daily Mail.

Basil Junior comes right on time for the zoo's 50th birthday, a milestone that will be celebrated by the animal sanctuary later in the year.

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The new colt comes one year after Marwell had to euthanise another Przewalski's foal named Altan.

"Altan was born with a health condition that our animal and veterinary teams monitored for a few months as well as consulting external equine and veterinary experts," the Marwell spokesperson said, as per the Daily Mail.

"The difficult decision to euthanise was made when it became clear his condition wasn’t going to improve."

The arrival of baby Basil is good news for conservation, with the colt intended to join a breeding program in the future to further bolster the number of Mongolian Wild Horses left in the world.

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"The male foal will go on to be an important part of the European ex-situ breeding programme," the zoo said. 

Przewalski's horse is considered the only true wild horse left on the planet as they do not share any ancestry with the modern domesticated horse.

Credit: mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

While they do look similar, the domestic horse (equus) has 32 chromosomes, whereas the Przewalski (equus ferus przewalskii) has 33.

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Their last common ancestor lived between 38,000 and 160,000 years ago, which was long before the domestication of the modern-day horse that we now know and love.

Przewalski's horse is a stocky, short-maned species named after Russian explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky.

They are short and stocky breed - measuring between 12 to 14 hands - and only come in the yellow and black 'dun' colour, with zebra markings on their legs.

Despite also being known as the Mongolian Wild Horse, they roamed across Asia from the Russian Steppes, east to Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and in northern China prior to their extinction. 

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There are only 2,000 left in the world and are all in captivity or special conservation reserves.

Featured Image Credit: Marwell Zoo/Instagram

Topics: Animals, Good News, UK News

Rachel Lang
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