About Riwoche Horses
Riwoches are very small dun-colored horses from an isolated
region of Tibet in 1995. Previously unknown to science, these small horses may
be an evolutionary link between prehistoric wild horses and modern domestic
horses, though they could also be a domesticated variety that reverted to a
small size and primitive coloring.
They were discovered in 1995 in an isolated, 27 kilometres
(17 mi) long valley reached only by crossing a 5,000 metres (16,000 ft)
mountain pass. They were spotted by a team of explorers led by the French
ethnologist Michel Peissel. While on an expedition to study another
newly-discovered horse breed that Peissel had located in 1993, the Nangchen
horse, he came upon a number of small horses in an isolated valley in the
Riwoche region of Tibet. These animals were unknown to the rest of the world,
but apparently used by the local Bon-po people, Peissel and his crew obtained
blood samples from the herd for DNA testing.
A British equine psychologist accompanying the expedition,
Dr. Ignasi Casas, theorized that the Riwoche horse was a relic population due
to living in near-complete isolation from other breeds for a very long time.
Other hypotheses suggest they they are possibly an evolutionary link between
prehistoric horses and domesticated horses, but testing did not reveal genetic
variance with other horses, which is in line with news reports indicating that
they are used as pack and riding animals by the local villagers.
Riwoche horses are pony sized, standing only 12 hands (48
inches, 122 cm) tall. They are said to resemble horses depicted in cave
paintings. They have an angular body, upright mane, and primitive markings;
including a dorsal stripe and stripes on the back of the legs. These features
are similar to those of other ancient horse breeds. They also have small ears,
a rough coat, small jaw, straight, flat forehead, and unique, narrow duck-bill
Their unusual appearance led Peissel to speculate that they
could be a living fossil. He noted that they strongly resembled a horse
distinct from but often pictured with the Przewalski's horse in prehistoric