onager or Persian wild ass, wild ass of central Asia, Equus hemonius onager. One of the several races of Asian wild ass (E. hemonius), it formerly ranged widely across S Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan. A small, slenderly built animal, it stands about 4 ft (120 cm) high at the shoulder. Its back and legs are rusty brown and its belly white. It has a black tail tuft, a short, stiff black mane, and a black spinal stripe lined with white on either side. For many centuries it was hunted for sport by the Persian nobility, and young onagers were captured for the breeding of riding animals. Owing to the swiftness and endurance of the onager, relatively few animals were captured by traditional methods. However, since the invention of modern firearms and automobiles, the animals have been extensively slaughtered for their flesh and hides. They survive in Russia only on the Badkhys reserve and are greatly reduced in numbers elsewhere. The continued existence of the race is in doubt. The onager is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Perissodactyla, family Equidae.
The Onager (Equus hemionus) is a large mammal belonging to the horse family and native to the deserts of Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel, and Tibet. It is sometimes known as the Asian Wild Ass.

Like many other large grazing animals, its range has contracted greatly under the pressures of hunting and habitat loss, and of the six subspecies, one is extinct and two endangered. The Kiang (E. kiang), a Tibetan relative, was previously considered to be a subspecies of the Onager as E. hemionus kiang, but recent molecular studies indicate that it is a distinct species.

Onagers are a little larger than donkeys at about 290 kg and 2.1 metres (head-body length), and are a little more horse-like. They are short-legged compared to horses, and their coloring varies depending on the season. They are generally reddish-brown in color during the summer, becoming yellowish-brown in the winter months. They have a black stripe bordered in white that extends down the middle of the back. They are notoriously untameable. Equids were used in ancient Sumer to pull wagons circa 2600 BC, and then chariots on the Standard of Ur, circa 2000 BC. These have been suggested to represent Onagers, but are now thought to have been domestic asses. (Clutton-Brock)


See also

External links


  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable
  • Duncan, P. (ed.). 1992. Zebras, Asses, and Horses: an Action Plan for the Conservation of Wild Equids. IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  • Moehlman, P. & Feh, C. 2002. Equus hemionus. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. . Downloaded on 21 January 2006.
  • Clutton-Brock, Juliet (1992). Horse Power: A History of the Horse and the Donkey in Human Societies. USA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674406469.

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