Animal Database

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Animal Database
Animal Database
800px-Equus kiang holdereri02
Range Tibetan Plateau
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Perissodactyla
Family Equidae
Genus Equus
Species E. kiang
Conservation Status
Least Concern

The Kiang (Equus 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. Other common names for this species include Tibetan wild ass, khyang, and gorkhar. It is pronounced "key-ANG".


The kiang is closely related to the onager (Equus hemionus), and in some classifications it is considered a subspecies, E. hemionus kiang. Molecular studies, however, indicate that it is a distinct species. An even closer relative, however, may be the extinct mexican horse of Pleistocene America, to which it bears a number of striking similarities; however, such a relationship would require kiangs to have crossed Beringia during the Ice Age, for which there is little evidence. Kiang can crossbreed with onagers, horses, donkeys, and burchell's zebras in captivity, although, like mules, the resulting offspring are sterile. Kiangs have never been domesticated.


The kiang is the largest of the wild asses, with an average shoulder height of 13.3 hands (55 inches, 140 cm). They range from 132 to 142 centimetres (52 to 56 in) high at the shoulder, with a body 182 to 214 centimetres (72 to 84 in) long, and a 32 to 45 centimetres (13 to 18 in) tail. Kiangs have only slight sexual dimorphism, with the males weighing from 350 to 400 kilograms (770 to 880 lb), while females weigh 250 to 300 kilograms (550 to 660 lb). They have a large head, with a blunt muzzle and a convex nose. The mane is upright and relatively short. The coat is a rich chestnut colour, darker brown in winter and a sleek reddish brown in late summer, when the animal moults its woolly fur. The summer coat is 1.5 centimeters long and the winter coat is double that length. The legs, underparts, end of the muzzle, and the inside of the ears are all white. A broad, dark chocolate-coloured dorsal stripe extends from the mane to the end of the tail, which ends in a tuft of blackish brown hairs.

Distribution and Habitat[]

Kiangs are found on the Tibetan plateau, between the Himalayas in the south and the Kunlun Mountains in the north. This restricts them almost entirely to China, but small number are found across the borders in the Ladakh and Sikkim regions of India, and along the northern frontier of Nepal.

Three subspecies of kiang are currently recognised:

  • Western Kiang:
  • Eastern Kiang:
  • Southern Kiang:

The eastern kiang is the largest subspecies; the southern kiang is the smallest. The western kiang is slightly smaller than the eastern and also has a darker coat. However, there is no genetic information confirming the validity of the three subspecies, which may simply represent a cline, with gradual variation between the three forms.

Kiangs inhabit alpine meadows and steppe country between 2,700 and 5,300 metres (8,900 and 17,400 ft) elevation. They prefer relatively flat plateaus, wide valleys, and low hills, dominated by grasses, sedges, and smaller amounts of other low-lying vegetation. This open terrain, in addition to supplying them with suitable forage absent in the more arid regions of central Asia, may make it easier for them to detect, and flee from, predators.