The three wild asses that have existed since the history of domestication began are the Kulan (Equus hemionus kulan), the lesser known Kiang (Equus kiang), and African wild ass (Equus asinus). Asses generally florish in semiarid and arid zones. They can go longer without water than horse and zebras. The asses are more surefooted than the other equids, extremely hardy, but much slower.
The Kiang (Equus kiang), also known as Tibetan Wild Ass, is the largest of the Wild Asses, often standing as tall as 55 inches and weighing up to 950 pounds. This is a robust animal with massive bones. Kiangs have short, dark brown, erect manes, and their tails have dark brown longer tufts. The Kiang summer coat is reddish brown which darkens and grows longer in winter. The muzzle is edged with white and the underparts are also white. The three subspecies of Kiang have geographically distinct populations, with differences in coat colors and patterns, height, and skull proportions. The eastern kiang (Equus kiang holdereri) is the largest subspecies. The southern kiang (Equus kiang polyodon) is the smallest. The western kiang (Equus kiang kiang) is smaller than the eastern kiang and also has darker coat.3
Kiangs inhabit The Tibetan Plateau, the open plains and rolling mountains of China, Nepal, and India. Unlike the kulan (Equus hemionus), of which the population has declined drastically over the last century, kiang continues to have a wide distribution with fairly large populations. Yet, with growing integration of the local economy of pastoral nomadic communities with developed cash markets, pastoral communities are fast losing their tolerance towards the kiang and it is increasingly seen as a competitor of livestock.4 As a result, the kiangs are commonly being driven away from the pastures.
Photo © Larysa Johnston
- The Donkey Companion: Selecting, Training, Breeding, Enjoying & Caring for Donkeys. Sue Weaver
- A Perfect Harmony: The Intertwining Lives of Animals and Humans Throughout History. Roger A. Caras
- Equids: Zebras, Asses, and Horses : Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Patricia Des Roses Moehlman
- Perceived Conflicts Between Pastoralism and Conservation of the Kiang Equus kiang in the Ladakh Trans-Himalaya, India. Environmental Management, Dec 2006.
Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Rinchen Wangchuk, Herbert H. T. Prins, Sipke E. Van Wieren, Charudutt Mishra