Len the Przewalski’s Horse
As the grandson of the last Przewalski’s horse caught in the wild, he is genetically extremely valuable for his entire species. In spite of that, he has voluntarily chosen to play second fiddle in the herd. A bashful stallion with notched ears – that’s our Len.
The Przewalski’s horse is the only remaining wild horse species that has not been driven into extinction by humans. That it is not to say it has all been a walk in the park for this species. Large herds once roamed the steppes and semideserts of Central Asia, and yet, by the end of the 1960s, there was no record of even a single Przewalski’s horse living in the wild. The species was surviving only in human care. Fortunately, things are different today: several hundred “P-horses” are roaming freely in Mongolia again. This is thanks to projects to reintroduce the Przewalski’s horse to the wild, projects in which Prague Zoo is playing a major role.
Len, Prague Zoo’s stallion, is an especially unique representative of his species. He was born on June 16, 2002 in Ukraine’s Askania Nova breeding station, and if you peruse his pedigree, you will find the mare Orlica III, the very last Przewalski’s horse caught in the wild. This means that Len has immense genetic value, and the whole of his progeny is crucially important for the survival of his species in human care and in the wild.
Breeding and Temperament
When Len left Ukraine, he did not come straight to Prague, but stopped first at Prague Zoo’s acclimatization center in Dolní Dobřejov, where horses come to prepare for relocation to other zoological gardens or for reintroduction into the wild. There he awaited the opportunity to strike out for Prague. Once in Prague Zoo proper, he settled in on “Wuthering Heights”, the highest point on the grounds. In winter, this enclosure is lashed by icy winds, while in summer, it is fully exposed to sunlight. These seemingly harsh conditions, however, agree with the Przewalski’s horses; after all, on the Mongolian steppe they would have had to brave much more inclement weather.
Len is good-natured and cool-tempered, and when in the company of fellow horses, he is not assertive. So much so that he does not occupy the dominant position in the herd. In the wild, Len would be the proud leader of the herd; in Prague, he has ceded command to the mare Hara. Len is also very calm around people. Early in the morning, when his caretakers arrive at work, he does not let that come between him and his beauty sleep. He won’t be rushed: he needs his two hours to rise and shine. In the meantime, he never ceases to yawn and to look for ways to extend his repose by another few minutes.
As he occupies a subordinate position in the herd, Len is among the last to feed. But he doesn’t mind in the least. Furthermore, unlike his fellows, Len simply loves to browse on oak boughs – and, with equal appetite, he will tuck into beetroot. But beetroot is sweet, so he gets to have it only when he has really deserved it.
It may be because he spent the first years of his life on the plains of Askania Nova, but Len, his calm disposition notwithstanding, is actually rather skittish. He does not allow people to touch him and never lets himself be shut into holding pens.
For a time, his caretakers had doubts about Len’s fertility, but in 2011 he satisfied everyone that he was indeed in tip-top shape: the mare Hara gave birth to Len’s first offspring, a filly named Primula Bohdalová (after the famous Czech actress Jiřina Bohdalová, Primula’s godmother). Since then, he has become the proud father of several other foals as well as the perfect buddy for adolescent foals, with whom he spends a great deal of time in coltish games.
Things came full circle in summer 2015 when Prague Zoo organized another P-horse transport under its Return of the Wild Horses project: this time, along with a trio of other mares, the Mongolia-bound flight also included Len’s second offspring, the mare Querida, on her way to join the country’s free-living herds. This great-great-granddaughter of Orlica III, the last Przewalski’s mare caught in the wild, has now returned to the land of her ancestors.
On Wednesday 15th of July TripAdvisor.com, the prestige travel site, published its top 25 zoos, an evaluation based on the opinion of millions of its users. Prague Zoo took 4th place, which confirms its global popularity!
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