Rare Caspian Foal Born At Memphis Zoo

Hisan, a seven-year-old gray Caspian mare made history at the Memphis Zoo August 15 by giving birth to Xerxes, the first Caspian horse born in a U.S. zoo.

Named after predecessor of King Darius the Great of Persia, Xerxes (ZERK-CEES) was born at 6:40 p.m. The young colt was born weighing approximately 45 pounds.

“I didn't get to see him drop, but I was there for the rest of it, said Farm keeper Tracy Dunlap. “He was walking within 20 minutes.”

Xerxes is the first Caspian horse born in a zoo, with Memphis being the only zoo in the country to exhibit this rare breed. Since their introduction into the U.S. in 1995, only 114 (now 115) Caspians live in the country, and there are fewer than 500 horses worldwide.

“We really want to stress just how rare these horses are and how important this birth is,” said Farm Manager Mark Ferguson. “One of the Farm's conservation priorities is to preserve this rare breed, and Xerxes' birth is a big deal because there are so few of these horses in the world.”

Ferguson said the mother is doing wonderfully with her new colt. “She was being a good mother even before her foal was born,” he said.

Keepers are already implementing basic husbandry with Xerxes. “It's best to start as soon as possible,” Dunlap said. “Pick up his feet while standing, lips peeled back to check teeth, rub the insides of the ears, getting him used to being led around...all of this is so the vet can come and the horse will stand perfectly still.”

The Farm plans to keep Xerxes for approximately a year and then sell him to another Caspian breeder since their barn is designed to hold only two horses, and they already had two Caspian horses. “It would really be cramped with three. People should come see him quickly because he'll grow up fast,” said Ferguson.

“To say that the staff is excited and proud would be an understatement,” Ferguson added.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More