Turkmenian wild ass or Kulan
Equus hemionus kulan
KULAAN e. TÜRKMENISTANI EESLIK
Asian wild asses are primitive horses. Forming a distinct group of Equus, they systematically have the closest affinity to true horses. The head of the Asian wild ass is more massive than that of the horse. Its ears are longer than horse’s and shorter than donkey’s.
Asian wild asses live in Asia. Once occupying a vast area, they now have become restricted to small pockets of habitat. The smallest belong to the Turkmenian wild ass or kulan.
Kulans are swift and enduring
Kulans live mainly in clayey and stony deserts or foothills semideserts, more rarely in steppes. Most of them inhabit the Badkhys Nature Reserve in Turkmenistan. Being extremely persistent animals, they are capable of enduring dry hot summers and cold snowy winters. They run light-footedly, with their heads characteristically upright, and can develop greater speeds than saddle horses, reaching 80 km/h for brief periods. Thanks to their quick feet they hardly have any natural enemies. Their numbers have been decreased by hunting, but the main cause of their decline is that they have been deprived of their access to water sources.
Kulans live in herds led by a stallion and containing several mares and foals. The average number of animals in a herd is5–11. The stallion stays close to the herd, guarding it against enemies and rivals. The leader stallion is generally 4–10 years of age. In each herd there also is a leading mare whose task is to guide the movement of the herd. The animals keep in touch with visual contact and seldom make sounds.
Water sources are important
The distribution of kulans like other desert and semidesert animals is determined by the availability of water sources. A kulan usually drinks 12–15 litres water a day. In the summer, when feeding on coarse grasses, it needs a double amount and has to drink more frequently. For that reason it remains within 10–15 km of watering sites, to which beaten trails lead.