011 646 2000 | Home | Contact |    
Johannesburg Zoo

Wild horses were first domesticated 6000 years ago. All horses and ponies are descended from wild horses that once lived on the grassland of southern Russia. The original wild horse is now extinct, but it probably looked like an Asian Przewalski's horse, which comes from Mongolia. Wild horses were smaller. They had stiff manes, like zebras and wild asses. Several hundreds of recognised breeds of domesticated horses exist throughout the world, with few being truly indigenous. There are over 200 horse and pony breeds. There has been a lot of cross breeding to a point that some types have become indistinct.

For centuries, farmers used horses as draught animals. With a collar, they could pull ploughs and carts faster than oxen. In many parts of the world horses still provide the power for farming. In the 19th century, horses transported heavy goods such as coal and iron for industry. Ponies worked in mines and mills and are still used as pack animals in many countries. Horses are also kept for meat and even milk in parts of the Middle East. In many countries, horses are now used more for sport and leisure than for work. They have been raced for hundreds of years, some horses are bred for show-jumping as well as racing. Other equestrian sports are pony-trekking, polo, carriage-driving and rodeos.

Horses eat little and often. They need at least 20 litres of clean water a day. They also need daily exercise, grooming and health checks. Grooming should include attention to the feet as well as the coat and if it�s properly carried out, it promotes health, prevents diseases, ensures cleanliness and improves appearance. Grooming should start with cleaning out and washing the horse�s feet and examining the shoes to see that none is loose. The dandy brush or a hay or straw wisp is then used to remove dirt and dried sweat adherent to the coat; this is followed by the body brush which penetrates through the coat and brushes the actual skin. The mane and tail are dealt with by use of the body brush and a comb and not a dandy brush.

Horses must be shoed to maintain the foot in a healthy condition. When horses are kept in a stable the debris that accumulates on the sole of the foot and the frog must be removed daily as it may give rise to infection of the frog. Growth of the wall tends to be more rapid in the summer. Shoeing of horses is a skilled practice and should not be attempted by persons who have not had proper and sufficient instruction, but all persons working with horses should be able to recognise whether the shoes have been put on properly or not.

The Zoo has 2 horse species, Shire Draught horse and Shetland pony.

Shire Draught Horse
It is from Britain and was used for pulling. The breed is known for its easy going temperament. Shire horse is the biggest and they have world records as largest and tallest horse-mares from 16 hands and stallions 17 hands and over. Heavy horses were used in battle in medieval times, and pulling brewery wagons. Today, they are used for forestry, leisure and promotions. The term Shire horse was first used in the mid17th century. In the 1930s, increasing mechanization and strict livestock feed laws caused their numbers to drop greatly until the 1950s and 60s. Their popularity increased again from the 1970s. Various breeders associations consider the breed as critical to vulnerable with only between 500 and 1500 breeding mares active today.

Shetland pony
Is one of the oldest animals in the Zoo, it was born in 1976. Invading Norsemen brought ponies with them, which crossed with native equids, created the Shetland pony. They are probably the oldest British horse breed. The little: Sheltie� is stocky and muscular, with a long, shaggy mane, forelock and tail, because of its cold, harsh original environment. The Shetland Islander domesticated them for work, but Shelties are now mostly pets. They still compete in working contests. They stand at about 9.3 hands to maximum 10.2 hands. They usually bred 1 foal per year.

Johannesburg Zoo
Copyright 2016 Johannesburg Zoo                                                                                                                                                                 Back to Top
Information manuals