An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Perissodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Perissodactyla
        Family: Equidae
          Genus: Equus

Equus kiang

      Kiang, Tibetan wild ass


Equus kiang [Moorcroft, 1841].  
Citation: Travels in the Himalayan Provinces, 1:312.
Type locality: India, Kashmir, Ladak.

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 210 cm / 7 ft.
Shoulder Height: 140 cm / 4.6 ft.
Tail Length: 50 cm / 50 in.
Weight: 250-400 kg / 550-880 lb.

The reddish brown upper parts are sharply contrasted with the pure white underparts, including the rump.  This white area stretches up the ventral half (stomach-side) of the neck to the jowls.  A thin stripe of brown extends down the front of the legs, which are otherwise white.  Where the legs meet the body, large wedges of white reach up the sides.  Along the spine is a dark dorsal stripe.  The grey muzzle has a thin border of white.  The summer coat is short and sparse compared to the very long, thick, browner winter coat.  There is a short, dark brown mane which stands vertically, and follows the top of the neck from the ears to the shoulders.  The tail has a dark brown tuft, with long hairs growing up the side.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: Almost 12 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: By 12 months.
Sexual Maturity: After 1 year.
Life span: 20 years.

The August-September breeding season yields foals born in late July through August the next year.  Small groups of 2-5 females split away from the main herd, retreating to rocky places to give birth.  The young can walk and run just a few hours after birth, and mothers and foals rejoin the herd after a couple weeks.

Ecology and Behavior

Kiang live in very cohesive herds which never become scattered.  Led by an old female, the herds travel in single file, and the members appear to do everything - including eating, drinking, turning, and running - in unison.  Unlike horses, however, there is little physical contact (like mutual grooming) among animals.  Males begin to follow these female herds in July, fighting amongst themselves through August for breeding rights.  During mid-August, they begin herding the females into harems, defending them from rival males.  Kiang are good swimmers, and during the summer months take apparent pleasure in bathing in rivers.  During August and September, the only time when vegetation is plentiful, kiangs may gain up to 40-45 kg / 88-100 lb.

Family group: Maternal herds of 5-400 animals, mature males generally solitary, although bachelor herds of up to 10 individuals form during the winter.
Diet: Grasses and low plants.
Main Predators: Wolf


High plateaus and undulating steppe in Tibet at elevations up to 5,000 meters / 16,500 feet.

Range Map (Localities redrawn from Schaller, 1998)

Conservation Status

Insufficient data has caused the status of the kiang to be undetermined by the IUCN (1996).


Only recently has this equid received specific status, although it is still sometimes refered to as a subspecies of E. hemionus.  Equus (Latin) a horse.  Kiang (or kyang) is a Tibetan native name.

Literature Cited

Klingel, H.  1990.  Horses.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. Volume 4, pp. 557-594.

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schaller, G. B.  1998.  Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).  In Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe.  By George Schaller.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  pp. 163-177.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

Additional Resources

Fox, J. L., C. Nurbu, and R. S. Chundawat.  1991.  The mountain ungulates of Ladakh, India.  Biological Conservation; 58(2): 167-190.

Harris, R. B., and D. J. Miller.  1995.  Overlap in summer habitats and diets of Tibetan Plateau ungulates.  Mammalia; 59(2): 197-212.

Harris, R. B., D. H. Pletscher, C. O. Loggers, D. J. Miller.  1999.  Status and trends of Tibetan plateau mammalian fauna, Yeniugou, China.  Biological Conservation.  87(1): 13-19.

Rasool, G.  1992.  Tibetan wild ass - verging on extinction.  Tigerpaper (Bangkok); 19(4): 16-17.

Ryder, O. A., and L. G. Chemnick.  1990.  Chromosomal and molecular evolution in Asiatic wild asses.  Genetica Dordrecht; 83(1): 67-72.

Schaller, G. B., and B. Gu.  1994.  Ungulates in northwest Tibet.  Research and Exploration; 10(3): 266-293.

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