Post Adventures of the Gobi Cold Camel Expedition
While I was in Mongolia I spent time in the Khustain Nuruu National Park photographing the endangered wild Przewalski horse, the only true wild horse in the world (known in Mongolia as the Takhi which means 'holy')!
Deep snowdrifts made it a challenge to Off-Road in winter, where the horses have to survive in up to -45 degree conditions, and there is no denying how tough these horses are.
Here are some fun facts about this ancient breed:
- The Przewalski horse is a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to this region and although once extinct in the wild (in Mongolia, the last wild Przewalski's horses had been seen in 1966), it has been successfully reintroduced from zoos with an estimated population size in the wild of 300.
- They generally don’t interbreed with traditional horses as they have a different number of chromosomes.
- Every Przewalski horse presently living is descended from 9 of the 13 horses captured in 1945. Two of these were hybrids, one sired from a wild horse stallion and domestic mare and the other from a wild stallion and a tarpan mare. These 13 horses were descended in turn from approximately 15 captured around 1900 from a total number of about 1,500 horses at the time.
After taming wild horses on three continents it was very special to spend time with these truly wild horses, a dream come true!
My time in Mongolia wouldn't be complete without a visit to the famed Chinggis Khaan Monument (known here in NZ as Genghis Kaan). It's the largest horse sculpture in the world and the photos don't do it justice; it out does anything I've seen in Europe and it's truly impressive!
The scrolls inside roughly translate to: I (Chinggis Khaan) am happy to suffer, but my people and horses will not.
Below the giant Chinggis statue are smaller life-sized bronze sculptures of his army - so far only 11 horse and riders grace the valley, but one day thousands of bronzes will be in formation to replicate the imposing army that once conquered much of Asia and Europe. People can pay for their likeness to be captured as one of the bronze riders and I have no doubt it will be one of the most impressive monuments in the world once it's complete.
Here are some fun facts about Chinggis Khaan and his army of horses:
- Genghis Khan or Chinggis Khaan (born 1227), was the Great Khan (King) and founder of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history.
- He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia.
- Mongol horses were a key factor supporting the 13th-century conquests of the Mongol Empire.
- After founding the Empire he launched the Mongol invasions that conquered most of Central Asia and China. His descendants extended the Mongol Empire by conquering all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and substantial portions of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia.
- Mongol horses made excellent warhorses because of their hardiness, stamina, self-sufficiency, and ability to forage on their own. Each warrior would bring a small herd of horses with him (three to five being average, but up to 20) as remounts and they would come to his whistle. They alternated horses so that they always rode a fresh horse.
- Beyond his military accomplishments, Chinggis Khaan also advanced the Mongol Empire in other ways. He decreed the adoption of the Uyghur script as the Mongol Empire's writing system. He also practiced meritocracy and encouraged religious tolerance in the Mongol Empire, and unified the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. Present-day Mongolians regard him as the founding father of Mongolia.
- Chinggis Khaan is also credited with bringing the Silk Road under one cohesive political environment. This brought communication and trade from Northeast Asia into Muslim Southwest Asia and Christian Europe, thus expanding the horizons of all three cultural areas.