Indian Wild Ass

Indian Wild Ass

Ask a question about 'Indian Wild Ass'
Start a new discussion about 'Indian Wild Ass'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
The Indian wild ass also called khur, is a subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of the Onager
The Onager is a large member of the genus Equus of the family Equidae native to the deserts of Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel and Tibet...

 native to Southern Asia.


The Indian wild ass, as with most other Asian wild ass subspecies, is quite different from the African species
African Wild Ass
The African Wild Ass is a wild member of the horse family, Equidae. This species is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic donkey which is usually placed within the same species. They live in the deserts and other arid areas of northeastern Africa, in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia; it...

. The coat is usually sandy, but varies from reddish grey, fawn, to pale chestnut. The animal possesses an erect, dark mane which runs from the back of the head and along the neck. The mane is then followed by a dark brown stripe running along the back, to the root of the tail.


The Indian wild ass's range once extended from western India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, through Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

 and Baluchistan
Balochistan (region)
Balochistan or Baluchistan is an arid, mountainous region in the Iranian plateau in Southwest Asia; it includes part of southeastern Iran, western Pakistan, and southwestern Afghanistan. The area is named after the numerous Baloch tribes, Iranian peoples who moved into the area from the west...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, and south-eastern Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Today, its last refuge lies in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Little Rann of Kutch
Rann of Kutch
The Great Rann of Kutch, also called Greater Rann of Kutch or just Rann of Kutch , is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India and the Sindh province of Pakistan....

 and its surrounding areas of the Greater Rann of Kutch in the Gujarat province. The animal, however, is also seen in the districts of Surendranagar, Banaskantha, Mehsana
Mahesana is a city and municipality in Mehsana district, in the Indian state of Gujarat.-City and surrounding area:Situated near Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, Mehsana is one of the largest cities in North Gujarat; followed by Patan and Palanpur. A number of primary industries including dairy, oil...

, and other Kutch districts. Saline desert, grassland in arid zone and shrubland are its preferred homeland.

Range extension in recent years

It seems to be increasing in numbers and extending its range from Little Rann of Kutch, where the world's last population of this subspecies had got confined to in recent years, and has gradually started moving out and colonizing Greater Rann of Kutch also extending into the neighboring Indian State of Rajasthan in the bordering villages in Jalore district bordering the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Gujarat’s supposed monopoly over this sub-species, also referred to as Khur (Equus hemionus khur) has thus been broken. Within Rajasthan it has started making its presence felt in Khejariali and its neighbourhood where a 60 km2 area was transferred to the Rajasthan Forest Department by the revenue authorities in 2007. At this place Rebaris (camel and sheep breeders) live in the Prosopis juliflora
Prosopis juliflora
Prosopis juliflora is a shrub or small tree native to Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. It has become established as a weed in Asia, Australia and elsewhere. Its uses include forage, wood and environmental management. The tree grows to a height of up to and has a trunk with a diameter of...

 jungles in the company of chinkaras, hyenas, common fox, desert cat and wolf etc.


Wild ass graze between dawn and dusk. The animal feeds on grass, leaves and fruits of plant, crop, Prosopis
Prosopis is a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae. It contains around 45 species of spiny trees and shrubs found in subtropical and tropical regions of the Americas, Africa, Western Asia, and South Asia. They often thrive in arid soil and are resistant to drought, on occasion...

pods, and saline vegetation. It is one of the fastest of Indian animals, with speeds clocked at about 70 – 80 km. per hour and can easily outrun a jeep. Stallions live either solitarily, or in small groups of twos and threes while family herds remain large. Mating season is in rainy season. When a mare comes into heat, she separates from the herd with a stallion who battles against rivals for her possession. After few days, the pair returns to the herd. The mare gives birth to one foal. The male foal weans away by 1–2 years of age, while the female continues to stay with the family herd.


It is unknown how the Indian wild ass disappeared from its former haunts in parts of western India and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, since the animal was never a hunting target of Indian Maharajas and colonial British officials of the British Raj
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. However, India's Mughal Emperors and noblemen from the time took great pleasure in hunting it with Emperor Jahangir in his book Tuzk-e-Jahangiri
Tuzk-e-Jahangiri or Tuzk-i-Jahangiri is the autobiography of Mughal Emperor Nor-u-Din Muhammad Jahangir . Also referred to as Jahangirnama , Tuzk-e-Jahangiri is written in Persian, and follows the tradition of his great-grandfather, Babur , who had written the Baburnama; though Jahangir went a...

. In an illustrated copy that has survived of Akbarnama
The ' , which literally means Book of Akbar, is the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor , commissioned by Akbar himself and written in Persian by his court historian and biographer, Abul Fazl who was one of the nine jewels in Akbar's court...

, the book of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great
Akbar the Great
Akbar , also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great , was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India...

 there is an illustration of Akbar on an Indian Wild Ass shoot with several of them having been shot by him.

From 1958-1960, the wild ass became a victim of a disease known as surra
Surra is a disease of vertebrate animals. The disease is caused by protozoan trypanosomes, specifically Trypanosoma evansi, of several species which infect the blood of the vertebrate host, causing fever, weakness, and lethargy which lead to weight loss and anemia...

, caused by Trypanosoma evansi
Trypanosoma evansi
Trypanosoma evansi is a protozoan trypanosome in the genus trypanosoma that causes one form of the surra disease in animals. It has been proposed that T. evansi is - like T. equiperdum- originally a subspecies of T. brucei brucei. Due to this loss of part of the mitochondrional DNA T...

and transmitted by flies, which caused a dramatic decline of its population in India. In November and December 1961, the wild ass population was reduced to just 870 after to the outbreak of South African Horse Sickness.

Besides disease, the ass's other threats include habitat degradation due to salt activities, the invasion of the Prosopis juliflora
Prosopis juliflora
Prosopis juliflora is a shrub or small tree native to Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. It has become established as a weed in Asia, Australia and elsewhere. Its uses include forage, wood and environmental management. The tree grows to a height of up to and has a trunk with a diameter of...

shrub, and encroachment and grazing by the Maldhari. Conservation efforts since 1969 have helped boost the animal's population to 4000.

Need to Re-establish populations

In the last century, the Indian wild ass lived all over the dry regions of northwestern India and western Pakistan including Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Sind and Baluchistan. Today, it survives only in the Little Rann, and a few stray towards the Great Rann of Kutch with some reaching bordering villages in the Jalore district of the Indian State of Rajasthan
Rājasthān the land of Rajasthanis, , is the largest state of the Republic of India by area. It is located in the northwest of India. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert , which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with...

. First census of the wild ass was done in 1940, when there were an estimated 3,500 wild asses. But, by the year 1960, this figure fell to just 362, it was then classified as a highly endangered species. In the years 1973 & 1976, Rann of Kutch and adjoining districts were taken up as the area for conservation for this sub-species also known as Khur. From 1976, the forest department began conducting the Wild Ass census. Water holes were increased in the area, the forest department has also started a project for having fodder plots though the forest department is yet to get desired success. In 1998, Wild Ass population was estimated at 2,940, by the year 2004 it has increased to an estimated 3,863. A recent census conducted by forest department in 2009 has revealed that the population of wild ass in the state was now estimated to about 4,038, an increase of 4.53% as compared to 2004. Of late it has been spotted right outside Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad also known as Karnavati is the largest city in Gujarat, India. It is the former capital of Gujarat and is also the judicial capital of Gujarat as the Gujarat High Court has its seat in Ahmedabad...

 near Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, consisting primarily of a huge lake and ambient marshes, is situated about 64 km to the West of Ahmedabad near Sanand Village, in the Gujarat state of India...

. It seems it is no more confined to the 4,953.71 km2 area of the Rann, but it is now being found right up to the Kala Dungar near Banni grasslands in Kutch and Nal Sarovar. Within the State of Gujarat it is now also found in districts of Surendranagar, Rajkot, Patan, Banaskantha and Kutch. This population of wild ass is the only gene pool of Indian Wild Ass (Khur) in the entire world and one of the six geographical varieties or sub-species surviving on the planet.

The population has been growing since 1976 but the wild ass experts warn, long-term trends show intense fluctuations. This area in Kutch, Gujarat is drought-prone due to erratic monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

s, the wild ass population could decline suddenly as a result of a massive die-off. It is only if there are no severe droughts, the species is likely to grow and disperse in the Great Rann and adjoining Rajasthan, habitats that the wild ass occupied in the recent past. The Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER) report has recommended that the Thar desert
Thar Desert
The Thar Desert |Punjab]] province. The Cholistan Desert adjoins the Thar desert spreading into Pakistani Punjab province.-Location and description:...

 in Rajasthan should be developed as an alternative site for reestablishing the Indian wild Ass by reintroducing
Reintroduction is the deliberate release of a species into the wild in zones formerly inhabited by said species but where it has disappeared from for a number of reasons, from captivity or relocated from other areas where the species still survives in...

 a few of them there.

See also

  • Asinus
    The subgenus Asinus encompasses four species and several subspecies of Equidae characterized by long ears, a lean, straight-backed build, a scant tail, and a reputation for considerable toughness and endurance....

  • Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary
  • Kiang
    The kiang is the largest of the wild asses. It is native to the Tibetan Plateau, where it inhabits montane and alpine grasslands. Its current range is restricted to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, plains of the Tibetan plateau and northern Nepal along the Tibetan border...

    , the Tibetan wild ass
  • Onager
    The Onager is a large member of the genus Equus of the family Equidae native to the deserts of Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel and Tibet...

Further reading

External links