News & Politics

Rare Horse Dies at National Zoo

Rolles, who arrived at the zoo in 2008 by way of the Bronx, was put down this morning following a poor prognosis for a nasal illness.

Rolles, in his prime. Photograph courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Veterinarians at the National Zoo euthanized a 23-year-old horse this morning a month after it began experiencing a nasal illness. The equine, named Rolles, was a male Przewalski’s horse that arrived in Washington in 2008.

The zoo says that Rolles experienced a nasal discharge in July that was treated with antibiotics. But he developed a tumor on the side of his nose about 10 days later, and started to lose weight and habitually rub the affected area, a sign that the growth was causing him great discomfort. The exact illness that caused the discharge and tumor will not be known until the zoo’s staff conducts a pathology report, but Rolles’ chances were not hopeful.

“Animal care staff elected to humanely euthanize Rolles based on his poor long-term prognosis,” the zoo said in a press release.

Rolles was born in 1990 in captivity at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Przewalski’s horses, which are endangered, are native to the steppes of Mongolia and are closely related to the steeds that Genghis Khan’s horde rode while conquering much of Asia. They were first noticed by Westerners in the 15th century.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.