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Horse Like Animals: Top 5 Equine Doppelgängers

Last updated: February 16, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Recently, I had a heartwarming movie experience with my grandchildren while watching Racing Stripes. One of the young ones mistakenly referred to a zebra as a striped horse, and I took the opportunity to educate them.

I explained that a zebra is not a horse, but rather a close relative of horses, both of which belong to the Equus family. Despite their similarities, each species within the Equus family possesses unique characteristics and traits that distinguish them from one another.

With their curiosity piqued, my grandchildren and I embarked on a journey to discover more about horse like animals and the members of the Equus family. Join us as we explore their unique features and characteristics.

Equine Doppelganger #1: The Zebra

Picture of a zebra.
Zebra

Zebras are horse like animals that are native to Africa. They are easily recognizable by their distinctive black and white stripes. Zebras have a similar build to horses and a mane and tail.

They are known for their strong legs and excellent speed, making them difficult for predators to catch. Zebras come in three species: the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra, and the Grevy’s Zebra.

Differences between zebras and horses

Zebras are different from horses in several ways. One of the most noticeable differences is their stripes, which are unique to zebras and serve as camouflage and a method of individual recognition.

Zebras also have shorter legs in relation to their bodies than horses. Their hooves are also more rugged, which makes them well-adapted to the rough terrain they often inhabit.

In addition, the zebra’s mane is short, upright, and bristle-like, and horses have longer, flowing manes. Zebras also have bushier and more tufted tails, while horses have long tails full of hair. These differences in mane and tail distinguish zebras from horses and help reinforce their unique identity as a species.

Here is a short YouTube video of zebras in the wild.

YouTube video

Importance of Zebras in the Animal Kingdom

Zebras play an important role in the African ecosystem. They are herbivores, and their grazing helps to maintain the balance of grasslands, which are vital habitats for many other species.

Zebras are also important prey animals, providing food for predators such as lions and hyenas. In addition, zebras are keystone species, meaning that their presence influences the behavior and populations of other species in their habitat.

Picture of a horse and donkey eating hay.
Horse and donkey

Equine Doppelganger #2: The Donkey

The Donkey is a domesticated equine species that has been used for transportation, farming, and other purposes for thousands of years. Donkeys are similar in appearance to horses but are generally smaller in size and have a stockier build.

They have long ears, a short mane, and a tail that is tufted at the end. Donkeys are typically gray, brown, black, and white. They also have a dark stripe that crosses their withers.

Characteristics that Distinguish it from Horses

Donkeys are different from horses in several ways. One noticeable difference is their size, as donkeys are generally smaller and have a stockier build. They also have longer ears, a short mane, and a tail that is tufted at the end.

Another key difference is their vocalization. Donkeys are known for their distinctive braying sound, which is loud and long and can be heard from a great distance. Horses, on the other hand, make various sounds, including whinnying, snorting, and snickering.

These sounds are used to communicate and express emotions such as joy, excitement, or distress. While horses and donkeys belong to the same family, their sounds are unique to their respective species, and it’s one of the ways to tell them apart.

Additionally, the shape of donkey hooves is more rounded and compact than horses, making them well-adapted for traversing rugged terrain.

Importance of Donkeys in the Animal Kingdom

Donkeys have played a critical role in human societies for thousands of years. They have been used for transportation, farming, and other purposes, providing an important source of power and support for people. In addition, donkeys are also used for their meat and hide, and their manure is used for fuel and fertilizer.

onager wild ass edited
Parth Kansara, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Equine Doppelganger #3: The Onager

The Onager is a wild ass native to the deserts of central and southwestern Asia. Onagers have a similar build to horses, with a muscular body, long legs, and a mane and tail.

They are a reddish-brown color, with a dark dorsal stripe and dark legs. Onagers are known for their speed and endurance, making them well-adapted to their arid habitat.

Much like horses, they use their speed to escape predators. In Iran, Persian leopards and striped hyenas prey on onagers. Meanwhile, in India, migratory onagers are targeted by mugger crocodiles.

Characteristics that Distinguish it from Horses

Onagers are different from horses in several ways. One noticeable difference is their coloration: a reddish-brown with a dark dorsal stripe. Onagers also have a slightly different head shape, with a more pronounced nose and a sloping forehead.

Additionally, their hooves are wider and more robust, which is suitable for the harsh desert terrain.

Importance of Onagers in the Animal Kingdom

Onagers play an important role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems of the deserts in central and southwestern Asia. As herbivores, their grazing helps to maintain the balance of vegetation, which provides vital habitat and food for other species.

Onagers are also important prey animals, providing food for predators such as wolves and golden eagles. In addition, onagers play a role in seed dispersal, helping to spread plant species throughout their range.

kiang horse like edited
Asif N KhanCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Equine Doppelganger #4: The Kiang

The Kiang is a wild ass species native to the Tibetan Plateau in Central Asia and known for its striking beauty. Its coat shines with a warm chestnut hue, darkening to a deeper brown during winter and lightening to a shimmering reddish-brown in summer as it sheds its thick fur.

Its white legs, underbelly, ear insides, and nose tip provide striking contrast. A bold chocolate-colored stripe runs down the kiang’s back, from its mane to the end of its tail, and finishes with a plume of dark, nearly black hairs.

Like horses, the Kiang sustains itself on a diet primarily composed of grasses and sedges. In periods of scarce vegetation, such as winter or in drier regions, they may turn to shrubs and herbs and even dig for roots to fulfill their dietary needs.

Characteristics that Distinguish it from Horses

Kiangs differ from horses in several ways. One noticeable difference is their coloration: a reddish-brown with a dark dorsal stripe. Kiangs also have slightly different tails. If you notice in the picture, their tail has short hair with a bob on its tail.

Additionally, their mane is short and stands up straight, whereas horses have long manes that lie down on their necks.

Importance of Kiangs in the Animal Kingdom

Kiangs play an important role in the ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau. As herbivores, their grazing helps to maintain the balance of vegetation, which provides vital habitat and food for other species.

Kiangs are also important prey animals, providing food for predators such as wolves and snow leopards. In addition, kiangs play a role in seed dispersal, helping to spread plant species throughout their range.

Picture of a horse like animal, the mule.

Equine Doppelganger #5: The Mule

Mules are a hybrid species created by breeding a male donkey with a female horse. Mules are similar in appearance to horses but have some distinct characteristics from both parent species.

They are typically larger than donkeys and have a more horse like build. They also have longer ears and a short mane, which are traits inherited from the donkey parent. Mules come in diverse colors, ranging from chestnut to brown to black.

Characteristics that Distinguish it from Horses

Mules typically have longer ears and a shorter mane than they horses. These are traits inherited from the donkey parent. Another key difference is the shape of their hooves, which are more rounded and rigid, which is why they are so surefooted in rough terrain.

Importance of Mules in the Animal Kingdom

Mules have played an important role in human societies for centuries. They are valued for their strength, endurance, and ability to work in challenging environments, making them an important source of power and support for people.

Horse like animals that are not members of the Equus family

Horses are well-known and beloved creatures that have captivated the hearts of humans for centuries. However, they are not the only horse-like animals that roam the earth. While horses belong to the Equus family, many other animals share similar physical characteristics and adaptations that make them resemble horses.

From the long-legged gazelle to the striped okapi, these equine doppelgangers are found in various habitats and play important roles in their respective ecosystems.

okapi horse like edited
Alan Eng from Brussels, Belgium, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0,

Okapi

The okapi is a forest-dwelling mammal that is native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is often referred to as the “forest horse” due to its horse-like body, legs, and distinctive stripes, which slightly resemble a zebra. Okapi are herbivores and are known for their agility and grace in their forest habitat.

moose
Moose

Moose

Moose are considered horse like animals because of their similar physical characteristics. Both moose and horses are four-legged mammals that are known for their agility and ability to move quickly in their environment. Both horses and moose are herbivores, meaning they feed on plants rather than meat.

Horses and moose have different feet and bodies. Horses have hooves with a single toe, while moose have cloven hooves with two toes. Additionally, horses have streamlined bodies with long manes and tails, while moose have bulkier bodies and shorter hair.

However, horses and moose have similar adaptations for running and jumping, such as strong leg muscles and a flexible spine, allowing them to move quickly and efficiently.

The Equus (Equine) family

The equine family of mammals, part of the order Perissodactyla, encompasses a diverse group of animals, including modern horses, zebras, and asses.

Equines are characterized by their distinctive features, such as slender legs, long heads, relatively long necks, manes (present in most subspecies), and long tails.

All equine species are herbivorous and primarily feed on vegetation, with digestive systems that are simpler than ruminants but still capable of processing low-quality plants.

Members of the Equine family

The Equidae family, also known as the equine family, includes the following species::

  1. Horse (Equus caballus): The horse is a domesticated mammal that has been used for transportation, recreation, and work for thousands of years.
  2. Donkey (Equus africanus): The donkey is a domesticated mammal often used for transportation and carrying heavy loads.
  3. Zebra (Equus grevyi, Equus burchellii, and Equus zebra): Zebras are African wild horses with distinctive black and white stripes on their fur.
  4. Przewalski’s Horse (Equus przewalskii): This is the only wild horse species.
  5. Kiang (Equus kiang): The kiang is a large wild ass native to the Tibetan Plateau and is known for its chestnut coat with a dark chocolate-colored dorsal stripe.
  6. Onager (Equus hemionus): The onager is a wild ass native to central Asia and the Middle East.

Conclusion

Horse-like animals are an interesting and diverse group of mammals; whether they belong to the Equus family or not, these creatures have captured the imagination of people worldwide and continue to play an important role in their respective habitats and ecosystems.

Whether you are a fan of the horse, the hardworking donkey, or the bold zebra, these animals offer us a unique and fascinating window into the natural world. With their incredible beauty, grace, and strength, horse like animals truly embody the spirit of nature and remind us of the wonders that exist all around us.