Boyd studies horses

Caroline Hau Washburn Review

Lee Boyd has been a professor with the Washburn University biology department since 1981.

She has a bachelor of science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a master of science from the University of Wyoming studying the mustangs, and a doctor of philosophy from Cornell University. She currently teaches BI 100: Intro to Biology, BI 255: Human Physiology, BI 110:General Zoology, BI 315: Vertebrate Zoology, and BI 202: Biology of Behavior, and does research with her students.

One study that she conducted over several years was the behavior of the Przewalski’s horses (Equus ferus przewalskii). These ancestral horses have 66 chromosomes, two more than the domestic horses (Equus caballus), which gives them enough genetic variation to be considered a separate species. These animals  were completely extinct in the wild in 1968, but successfully reintroduced in Mongolia in 1992. Currently an estimated 375 horses exist in the wild at 3 different sites in Mongolia.

Boyd moved to Topeka to study these horses at the local zoo. She wanted to compare the behavior of the Przewalski’s horses in the wild with the P-horses in captivity. To do so, she had to travel to Mongolia on several different occasions.  

“I felt like coming home, when I stepped off the plane in Mongolia. It looked like the west, it reminded me of Wyoming,” said Boyd. “The people there are very friendly, and it is kind of like Kansas, which is a rural area and everybody helps everybody.”

She stayed with the Mongolian people, and during their interactions learned about their culture and their traditions as horsemen.

“They were very interested about our cowboys,” said Boyd. “They were very disappointed that there weren’t as many as there once were, and that they don’t do any cattle drives anymore.” 

Besides sharing the different horse cultures and discovering many similarities, Boyd also gathered uncommon culinary experiences, all of which she brought back to Washburn to share with her students.

“Yesterday in the physiology lab we were talking about lungs, and I would tell them that I have actually sampled some lung in Mongolia, and the students said ‘ugh,’  and that ugh-factor was kind of fun,” said Boyd.

The knowledge gained about international travel, different cultures, conservation and reintroduction is appreciated by the students.

“I have taken the Biology of Animal Behavior class with Dr. Boyd and I think her experiences in working with those horses make her flourish in those types of classes,” said Trey Moss, a senior (marine) biology student. “I think it’s cool, I would like to work in a different country, I just hope my animals are more wet.”