Actually, they can. From the urban settings of Ulaan Baatar, myself and 6 other friends headed out to Khustai Nuruu Reserve last weekend. This reserve is about 65 miles west of UB, and the main draw of the park is the presence of Takhi horses.

These horses are distantly related to modern horses, but are actually genetically different. They’re completely wild, and legally protected from being domesticated. The Takhi are native exclusively to Mongolia, and live in the open plains, and semi-desert of the Mongolian landscape, living off grasses, leaves, barks and buds. They are typically about four feet in height to the shoulder, with distinctively large heads, pale colouring, and dark, erect, zebra-like manes. In the winter they are an unusual beige colour, which blends into their steppe environment, with a white back, which fades to a darker colour in the summer as the snow on the mountain tops melts. They are still an endangered species, and prior to re-introduction programs none had been seen in the wild since 1968, though a significant number still survived in zoos all over the world. Breeding in captivity has made it possible for reintroduction of the species into Mongolia to take place.

We spent the weekend driving and hiking around the park checking out all the different types of wildlife. As a bonus, we had one of the owners of the Chingiss Brewery on the trip with us, so we had plenty of beer to go around.

Besides the horses we saw a lot of other wildlife, the most notable being the marmot. These look like large prairie dogs, and are hunted by the nomadic Mongolians for food. They can do this for only the late spring and early fall season..during the hottest part of the summer, the marmots tend to get infected with the bubonic plague! Yep, the same thing that wiped out half of Europe is still alive and well down here.

On our way out we stopped at a historic site where we saw examples of Turkic man stones. These are thousand old gravestones that were left by the Turkic (not Turkish) people of central Asia during their migrations ages ago. They’re not marked at all, and unless you knew exactly where to go to find them, you would miss them completely.

 

About The Author

Henry has spent three winters living in Antarctica which funded his early explorations and adventures around the world. Now he holds down a full time job in Denver, CO and continues to make travel a priority in his life, both internationally, and on weekend warrior type trips.

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