The Management of Przewalskis Horses in Nature Conservation Projects


More and more Przewalski’s horses are kept in various grazing projects under semi-natural condition. Despite extensive Equine literature, knowledge relating to the use of such habitats by these animals, remains limited. Furthermore, data about factors influencing use of the habitat is also lacking.

The Asian wild horse became extinct in the wild and is listed as an endangered species. Knowledge about behavior patterns and habitat usage of the Przewalski’s horse is of great importance to breeding in captivity and eventual reintroduction into the wild... One aim of the study is to get some information about the suitability of individual horses for reintroduction into the wild. A second aim is to gain insight into the habitat usage of the animals. Data is being collected over a two year period, during which the two Przewalski’s horse groups living in Hanau and Augsburg will are being observed. Both groups are living with practically no human intervention and serve the area’s nature conservation through their grazing habits. In addition, this kind of life prepares the animals for a life in the wild. The data collected will give an overview of the types of vegetation preferred by the animals for grazing and if there is any underlying seasonal variation in habitat usage influenced by temperature, precipitation or insects. Additionally tests will be carried out on factors found to affect the habitat usage of particular horses. The individual exploration behavior will be analysed by a novel object test. Furthermore the age and social ranking of individual horses will be considered and by determining their cortisol matabolites their stress capacity can also be ascertained.


Wolter, R., Pantel, N., Stefanski, V., Möstl, E., & Krueger, K. (2014). The role of an alpha animal in changing environmental conditions. Physiol. Behav., 133, 236–243.

The maintenance and development of conservation areas by grazing of large herbivores, such as Przewalski's horses, is common practice. Several nature conservation areas house male bachelor groups of this species. When males are needed for breeding they are removed from the groups, often without considering group compositions and individual social positions. However, alpha animals are needed for ensuring group stability and decision making in potentially dangerous situations in several species. To investigate the role of the alpha male in a bachelor group, we observed the behaviour of five Przewalski's horse males during the enlargement of their enclosure. We analyzed the group's social structure and movement orders, as well as the animals' connectedness, activity budgets, and whether they moved with preferred group members and how factors such as social rank influenced the horses' behaviour. We also investigated the excretion of glucocorticoid metabolites (GCM) via faeces of the horses while exploring a new area as a parameter of glucocorticoid production. Our results show that the alpha male is important for a bachelor group in changing environmental conditions. The alpha male had the highest level of connectedness within the group. When exploring the new environment, its position in the group changed from previously being the last to being the first. Furthermore the whole group behaviour changed when exploring the new area. The stallions showed reduced resting behavior, increased feeding and did not stay close to each other. We found that the excretion of glucocorticoid metabolites of most horses rose only marginally during the first days on the new area while only the alpha male showed a significant increased amount of glucocorticoid production during the first day of the enclosure enlargement.