Kiang

With long legs built for speed, and a coat that shines like the golden rays of the Himalayan sun

J. Patrick Fischer

An intriguing and majestic creature that thrives in the rugged and breathtaking highlands of Tibet, an area renowned for its natural beauty and challenging climate. Often described as a hybrid in appearance between a horse and a donkey, the Kiang stands out not only for its size but also for its strikingly colorful appearance, making it the largest and most vibrant member of the wild asses. Its coat, a rich tapestry of reddish-brown that deepens to a darker hue in the winter months, contrasts beautifully with its white belly, muzzle, and legs. A distinctive black stripe runs along its back, culminating in a tufted tail, adding to its unique and picturesque appearance.

Adapted to the harsh conditions of the Tibetan Plateau, the Kiang has made a home in the cold, dry grasslands and shrublands that characterize this high-altitude environment. Remarkably, it thrives at elevations as high as 5,400 meters (17,716 feet) above sea level, a testament to its resilience and adaptability. The diet of the Kiang is primarily composed of grasses and sedges, which are crucial for sustaining its large frame. However, it also supplements its diet with shrubs and herbs, showcasing its ability to adapt its feeding habits to the sparse vegetation available in its high-altitude habitat.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Kiang’s behavior is its social structure and mobility. These animals are known to travel great distances across the Tibetan Plateau in search of food and water, demonstrating their endurance and the migratory nature of their lifestyle. On these journeys, Kiangs can form impressive herds, sometimes numbering up to 400 individuals, illustrating their social nature and the safety found in numbers, especially against predators.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Bhutan
2015
Presence Uncertain
China
56,500 – 68,500
Official estimate
LC
2015
India
1,500 – 1,600
Official estimate
LC
2015
Nepal
<100
LC
2015
Pakistan
2015

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No