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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Akhal-Teke the mythic Golden Turk

The Akhal-Teke is the horse of Turkmenistan. It is a horse of great speed and endurance. The breed started as sort of a Landrace. It was a raiding horse until 1881 Russia took over Turkmenistan and the Akhal-Teke was used in the failing war to keep that from happening. The horses were so tough and fast that the Russians called The Divine Horse.

No one knows the exact origin of this horse, like many of the really old breeds. The people of Turkmenistan kept oral records until the 30’s when the Russian’s closed the studbook. This horse is often a golden palomino or a golden buckskin. The breed carries the cream dilution gene. That is exactly what it sounds like, it dilutes the horses coat color.  

We will talk a bit more about this breed when we get to the Thoroughbred as the Byerly, Lister, White and Yellow Turks, all important and foundation sires the Thoroughbred may have been Akhal-Teke. The breed may have introduced Naked Foal Syndrome, a fatal genetic disorder, as well as cervical vertebral malformation, (CVM causes a horse to ‘wobble’) to the Thoroughbred breed.

I have, in the past, mentioned the race from Ashkabad to Moscow in 1935, a distance of over 2000 miles an incredible distance to race over.

There are only around 6000 of these horses world wide and the Turkmenistan government uses them as diplomatic gifts.  

Here is an in hand class of young Akhal-Teke

Edited to add a link to the Akhal-Teke breed registry.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Horse of the horde

Here is another tiny war horse. It seems like if the world called you a ‘Hoard’ you ride around on small little things. 

The Mongol horse is small and stocky it isn’t as fast as some other horses but is extremely hearty and sure footed. The horse stands 12 to 14 hands high (48 to 56 inches) Warriors often rode lactating mares because the milk is a food source. Like the Icelandic this breed moves with a high head. The Mongol may be the oldest of all the breeds and has the highest genetic diversity of all domestic horses.

These horses are still ‘free breeding’, basically the horses live in herds and choose who they breed with. People say that if you need a horse from the herd they just pull one out of the herd and tack it up and ride it - I don’t know if that is true or not. This breed was the basis for the Scandinavian breeds and they went on to influence… well I have a post about that. 

The Mongolian is a Landrace. A Landrace is a type of animal that develops in an area and is evolved to fit the environment it lives in. They can be formalized into a breed, like the Icelandic, or they can be informal. The Mongolian, the Mustang, and the Exeter are all examples as informal landrace, although I know that there are registries for Mustangs and Exeters. When a Landrace gets formalized as a breed they lose a lot of genetic diversity. That is what happens when we humans control things.

The Mongolian may be the most important breed of all time because of the breeds that sprung from it, as well as the whole hoard thing.

Funny thing about the Mongolian and the Icelandic, if you read the saga of the Burgundians (you know it from the Wagner operas and the Ride of the Valkyrie) the daughter of one of the Nordic kings married Attila the Hun. Now we know, genetically, those horses are related so you never know.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Primitive markings and colors


I thought this was a good place to stick the primitive European horse. I have to admit that the ‘primitive’ horses have always fascinated me. So before I start talking about eastern horses I thought we should talk about the primitive markings.

Plus it gives me an excuse to talk about my horse. I’ll talk about her more when we get to modern New World horses. 

First I should define wild and feral.

Wild animals have always been wild, individuals may be tamed, or even domesticated but as a whole the populations have not been interfered with by people. Zebra are wild.

Feral animals come from stock that was domestic once but now run wild. Mustangs are feral. 

Two other terms domesticated and tamed. 

A tame animal is an animal you can touch, but pretty much that is all you can do with them. Chincoteague ponies are tame. You can go to the park and touch them, or at least some of them. 

Domesticated animals live and work alongside humans. We are interdependent. 

There is a lot of controversy about whether or not there are any true wild horses. I don’t really care if there are or not, but if I was pressed I would fall on the side of there aren’t wild horses.

I know it is semantics.

Anyway back to primitives.

Primitive breeds include the Przewalski’s, Tarpan, Konik and Heck Horses. That isn’t an inclusive list, some primitive breeds are going to be covered in other posts and I mentioned them when I was talking about the Viking horses.


The Primitive horses are small with shorter legs, straight shoulders, high backs and strong necks and they have primitive markings. 

They are generally dun.

A dun has the body color from a sandy yellow to a steel gray, they have darker legs manes and tails. All duns have dorsal stripes, a stripe that runs down the horses back.

Other primitive makings are guarder or zebra stripes on the legs, shoulder or transverse stripes crossing at the withers, dorsal barbs that come off of the dorsal stripe, rib marks, varnish, soot or shadow marks, darker marks on the horse’s body, zippers of light colored hair that runs up the back of the horses legs and with the zippers are often pared with light colored guard hairs in the main and tail. 

Sometimes you will see a line running along the belly matching the dorsal stripe. 

Faces are usually darker on the lower half, the ears will have darker markings (matching the dorsal stripe) and they may have light markings around the muzzle and eyes (mealy mouth and eye spots). 

Primitive duns may have white or cream bellies. 

Not all duns are primitive and not all horses with primitive markings are dun. My American Quarter Horse was a roan (mixed white and dark hairs all over the body) she had almost all of the primitive markings. If I had to classify her body type it have been more on the Baroque side. My little war pony.

 Sausage showing spider webs and eye patches

 Sausage showing guard hairs and garter marks