Namib Desert Horses
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About Namib Desert HorsesAbout Namib Desert Horses



Namib Desert Horses are a rare horse found in the NamibrnDesert, of Namibia, Africa. They are most likely the only feral herd of horsesrnresiding in Africa. Today, approximately 150 horses now live in 350 squarernkilometres of the Namib Desert. The origin of these animals is unclear, thoughrnseveral theories have been put forward. Genetic tests have been performed,rnalthough none to date have completely verified their origin.rnrn 

rnrnHorses are not native to Sub-Saharan Africa. The firstrnhorses in sub-Saharan Africa were brought by the Dutch to the area of the Capernof Good Hope in the 17th century. One theory says that a ship with horses onrnboard was run aground; the strongest horses were able to swim ashore to thernmouth of the Orange River and up to the Garub Plains, where the modern herdsrnlive today.rnrn 

rnrnThere is also a theory that Namib Desert Horses arerndescendents of the horses of the German Schutztruppe brought in during the 19thrncentury. Others say they are from Farm Duwisib (south of Maltahohe), owned byrnBaron Hansheinrich von Wolf. Other sources suggest they came from imports inrnthe 20th century, between 1904 and the beginning of World War I, when thernGermans brought 30,000 horses into the area. Others suggest that some of thesernhorses' forebears escaped from the South African cavalry during World War I.rnrn 

rnrnResearch in the archives of pre-1914 horse breedingrnoperations found at Windhoek, combined with blood-typing studies suggests thatrnthe animals descended from a gene pool of high-quality riding animals, asrnopposed to work horses. A study released in 2005 suggests two likely source of thesernhorses' forebears. The first source was a stud farm near Kubub, owned by EmilrnKreplin, once mayor of Luderitz from 1909 to 1914. In this period, Kreplin bredrnboth work horses and race horses. Photo albums from the stud show animals withrndistinctive characteristics still seen in the Namib Desert Horse of today. Inrnaddition, during World War I, at one point, the South African military wasrnadvancing against the Schutztruppe, then located in the Namib near Aus, whenrnthe pilot of a German biplane dropped bombs onto the South African camp nearrnGarub. In the process, some ordinance landed among a herd of 1,700 grazingrnhorses. These escaped army animals may have joined stock animals lost fromrnKreplin's stud farm during the turmoil of the war. Horses in the area wouldrnlikely have congregated together at the few existing watering places in the AusrnMountains and Garub.rnrn 

rnrnRegardless of origins, after 100 years there were only 200rnhorses left in the deserts, but those that survived had adapted to thernconditions of the South Namib Desert.rnrn 

rnrnThey were originally forced to compete with domesticatedrnlivestock turned loose by farmers onto the same ground where the horses grazed.rnDue, in part, to this competition for limited forage, the horses nearly became extinct.rnHowever, they were saved in part due to the efforts of Jan Coetzer, employee ofrnConsolidated Diamond Mine (CDM or DBCM), mining in a certain part ofrnSperrgebiet. Coetzer was fond of horses and made sure they always had water atrnthe Garub windmill, put there as a permanent water tank by CDM. Later, thernhorses' habitat was made part of Namib-Naukluft Park in the late 1980s. Thernpark was headed by Chris Eyre, head of the Nature Conservation.rnrn 

rnrnNamib Desert Horses are athletic, muscular, clean limbed,rnand are very strong boned. They are short backed with oblique shoulders andrngood withers. The horses have the appearance of well bred riding horses inrnhead, skin, and coat.rnrn 

rnrnThey must eat while on the move. When grazing, they onlyrnstay in one spot for a short time. They must cover considerable distances, asrnmuch as 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 mi) between the few existing water sourcesrnand the best grazing sources. Due to scarcity of water, the Namib Desert horsernsometimes has to go without water for as long as thirty hours in summer and hasrnbeen known to go close to 72 hours without water during the winter. As arnconsequence, Namib Desert Horses are considered very hardy. Due to therndistances they must travel and the scarcity of water, selection pressure isrnsevere, and weak animals do not survive.rnrn 

rnrnThe most common color of the Namib Desert horse is bay,rnalthough there are a few chestnut horses. There are occasional individuals withrndorsal striping but no zebra stripes. No other colors have been recorded.rnrn rnrn 

rnrnNamib Desert horses usually live in herds of up to tenrnanimals, consisting of one or, occasionally, two stallions with a few mares andrnfoals. These are the breeding groups. There are also 'bachelor' groups. The breedingrngroups are led by a mare. The lead mare decides when to go, stop, choosernanother grazing spot, and when to go to a water source.rnrn 

rnrnThere are few natural predators in the area, other than thernHyena, which poses a threat primarily to foals. When a foal is threatened, itrnis usually the mare that is the mother of the foal who defends her young. Thernstallion will deal with threats to the entire herd, though in many cases, thernstallion primarily keeps bachelor animals away. There are few serious fights, mostrnare for show.

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