onager

onager ŏn´əjər [key] or Persian wild ass, wild ass of central Asia, Equus hemonius onager. Formerly classified as a separate species, it is one of the several subspecies of Asian wild ass (E. hemonius; the term onager is also now used more broadly for Asian wild ass). It formerly ranged widely across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 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. Greatly reduced in number, they are a highly endangered species. Populations have been introduced in a few areas once inhabited by the extinct Syrian race of the Asian wild ass. The onager is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Perissodactyla, family Equidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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