The History of the Akhal-Teke Horses, from the Past to the Present (2023)

The prized blood of the Akhal-Teke horse is the beginning of the world's horsebreeding culture.

From ancient books, you can see that Central Asia was the center of horsebreeding of the ancient world. The paintings that we still have, show to us Central Asian horses with beautiful and strong legs, high necked and quick, already existing at the end of the third and the beginning of the second century BC. The ancient authors speak especially of the golden color of these horses.

Every aristocrat from Rome dreamed of getting this type of horse for hunting and war; Chinese emperors sent armies to get these horses.

One of the main arguments in favor of the Akhal-Teke being the oldest and most ancient horse breed is the horse mummies that were buried together with a Scythian king in the 4th or 3rd century BC. They were found in Russia, in the Altai Mountain region, and the horses looked typical of the Akhal-Teke.

At the time that a new religion--Islam--began to spread in the Arab countries was the beginning of Arabian horse breeding. Before this, the horse was a very rare animal in Arabia; the main animals used in warfare were camels. The influence of Akhal-Teke horses on Arab horse breeding came from the fact that the Arabs got many of their horses from their enemies; a lot of these horses were Akhal-Tekes that were then used as breeding stock by the Arabs, and from which the Arabs developed a strong cavalry.

Much later, after the Turkmen decided to move into Central Asia, Arabian horse breeding was once again influenced by Akhal-Teke horses. Famous breeders and lovers of Arab horses, Carl Raswan and E. Shille and others, say that the Arabian "Muniqi" or "Maneghi" strains were developed by using Akhal-Teke blood.

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A great achievement in the world of horse breeding was the work of English breeders in the 18th and 19th centuries in developing the Thoroughbred race horse. In making this breed, English breeders used a lot of Akhal-Teke horses and horses of eastern breeds.

Pictures of early Thoroughbreds show how similar these horses were to Akhal-Tekes. Many people from Europe who visited Russia and Turkmenia in the 18th and 19th centuries also noticed how similar the horses were.

Together with the horses, the Turkmenian way of training came to England, a system which was never used in Arab countries (working under blankets, breaking a horse at one year old, etc.)

Akhal-Teke horses came not only to Arab countries and England. Turkmen Atti, an Akhal-Teke stallion, was used in Germany to develop the Trakehner breed.

But the strongest influence that Akhal-Teke horses had was in Russia. In Russia, people loved Akhal-Teke horses. The Russians sent expeditions to take horses, and bought them from other countries. The Tzars Alexi M. and Fedor M.--father and brother of Tsar Peter the Great--loved Akhal-Teke horses. Peter the Great had an Akhal-Teke mare named Lisett that he loved. In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were a great many Akhal-Teke horses in Russian stud farms. The Russian government bought many Akhal-Teke stallions at very high prices.

The Russians used the Akhal-Teke horses especially at the Rostov, Strellets Derkulsk, Limarevsk and Novo Alexandrov stud farms, and in the latter third of the 19th century, 40% of the horses at these farms were Akhal-Tekes.

The influence of the Akhal-Teke was also very strong in the Karabakh and Don breeds. In 1839, 800 Akhal-Teke horses were used in breeding the Don. Famous general Orlov used Akhal-Tekes for the Orlov Riding Horse and the Orlov Trotter. The famous horse Sultan was, according to Prof. V. O. Vitt, first of all, not an Arabian horse, he was an Akhal-Teke. Vitt also said that the Darley Arabian was an Akhal-Teke, and of course Turkmen Atti was an Akhal-Teke.

For breeding the Orlov Riding Horse and Orlov Trotter, many Akhal-Teke horses were used: Saltan, First, Shah, Drakon, Djeiran, Gussein-Hak, Ialangush-Han and others.

(Video) Akhal Teke horse - purebred Turkic horse

A new interest in Akhal-Teke horses came in 1881-1882, when Turkmenia joined Russia. The military were very interested in using Akhal-Tekes in the cavalry. After the union with Russia, the economy of Turkmenia did not depend so much on horses as it had before. Many people ceased to travel, and instead settled in one place to raise vegetables and fruits. There was no more need to raise horses for war, and many horses were sold to Iran, India, Afghanistan and England. This became a dangerous situation for the breed. But the General of the Zakaspiiski region, N. A. Kuropatkin, loved the Akhal-Teke horses, and he established a breeding farm in Zakaspiiski in 1897, with his own money. The first director was a Russian Cossack, J. A. Mazan, who using the best Akhal-Tekes he could find, began the main sire lines of the breed.

Mazan started to write the stud book in order to make an archive for the breed. Later, in 1912, Tsar Nicolai II signed the documents of organization making Zakaspiiski an official state stud. In 1915, there were already more than 40 purebred Akhal-Teke mares.

The Akhal-Teke horses from Zakaspiiski were shown before the first world war at Tashkent (1909), Piatigosk (1912) and Kiev (1913) and made quite an impression. In the journals and newspapers many nice words were said about the breed; the stallion Djeiran was sold to von Ettinger, who used him at stud in the famous Trakehnen farm.

Then there was the first war, the Revolution, a civil war, and only because of the work of the Zakaspiiski stud farm is the breed still alive today.

It was a great thing for the breed when Russian scientists K. Gorelov, G. S. Neelov and Bogushevski, in 1926-1927, started to write down the pedigrees of Akhal-Teke horses, and after this was started the stud book of the world's oldest pureblood breed of horses. K. I. Gorelov organized a new breeding farm, the first one not in Turkmenia. A group of mares and two stallions went to South Kazakhstan (now Lugovskoi Stud Farm), where was born the famous Absent.

An important event in the history of the breed was when, in 1958, the famous breeder Vladimir Shambourant brought 53 Akhal-Teke horses from Turkmenia and started breeding them at the Tersk stud farm. Shambourant's idea was to breed big, harmonious, beautiful horses with exotic type of the Akhal-Teke. They also needed to be strong, sportive and fast for racing. He bred many famous horses: Yulduz, Gundogar, Guneshli, Guldjakan, Asat and many others, who have had a huge influence in the future of the Akhal-Teke breed.

Because of the work of Russian professionals, the breed was saved in both Russia and Turkmenistan.

At the beginning of 1970, there were only 200 breeding mares in Turkmenia. The situation once again became dangerous and the Soviet government desired to give the main control and all the work with breeding papers to the Institute of Horse Breeding in the Ryazan region. In 1973 Dr. T. Riabova, together with M. Chezkesova, controlled all the Akhal-Teke horses in Turkmenia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

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Beginning in 1973 and continuing today, each Akhal-Teke foal must be blood typed. Competitions are held to choose the most sportive horses and choose the best young horses. The Institute of Horse Breeding keeps the stud book of Akhal-Teke horses, and gives recommendations on all the problems that breeders may have. The scientists at the institute write many articles about the special problems of the Akhal-Teke breed.

Because of the very tight control from the Institute, the quality of horses at the stud farms continues to go up, as does interest in the breed itself. Now there are over 1,000 purebred broodmares. The Institute started a stud book of partbred Akhal-Tekes, which showed themselves competent in sports. In 1990 the Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding of the Soviet Union was started, to be the overseer of Russian Akhal-Teke breeding; when the Soviet Union was finished, it became the Russian Association. Nevertheless, the members of this Association were not only Russians, but breeders from Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Turkmenistan became independent from Russia, and said that it would work with its horses in its own way. With that, the situation for Akhal-Tekes in Turkmenistan began to worsen severely. By 1997, the quality of Turkmenian horses was much worse than it had been; 30% of the horses at the Ashkabad Hippodrome are not purebred, and the Turkmenians do not register their horses in the Stud Book.

To help reverse the situation in Turkmenistan, it was decided to create the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding (MAAK), with the first president being a Turkmenian breeder, Geldi Kiarizov. This decision was made at the Akhaltekinets breeding farm in Dubna, owned by T. Pontecorvo. The founders of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding are the Institute of Horsebreeding in Russia; the Russian Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding, and the private farm Akhal-Yurt from Turkmenistan.

The main founder is the Institute of Horsebreeding in Russia. This Institute does all the paperwork for the Akhal-Teke breed the world over, and is the only organization which has the right to keep and control the work with the Stud Book of pureblood Akhal-Teke horses. The only information about the Akhal-Teke that you can trust 100% comes from this Institute.

Only at the Institute is there a dossier about every pure-blood Akhal-Teke horse: blood test, pedigree, the results of every year of control, photographs, and a lot of other information.

The Institute of Horsebreeding is the breeding center of the International Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding--and only the Institute can give real documents for Akhal-Teke horses. There are only two signatures that you can trust on the documents of Akhal-Teke horses, those of the inspectors of the Stud Book, T. N. Riabova and N.V. Abramova. All the other documents with other signatures are falsified documents.

Today the Akhal-Teke horsebreeding in Russia is doing very well. Prices for Akhal-Tekes are between $20,000 and $80,000. Russians love these clever and intelligent horses. They are used for classical horse sports and for racing.

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In 1997 most of the Turkmenian breeders understood that without Russia, the breeding of pureblood Akhal-Tekes in Turkmenistan would be finished. And that's why there was an agreement made between the Russian Institute of Horsebreeding and the Turkmenian breeders, about keeping Turkmenian horses registered and blood-typed, with the Institute in control of their paperwork. Only the Institute of Horsebreeding will be able to save the breeding of purebred Akhal-Tekes in Turkmenistan.

Article By Dr. Tatiana Riabova and N.V. Abramova
Translated by Dr. Tito Pontecorvo

Dr. T. N. Riabova is the main inspector and registrar of the Stud Book, and director of the Breeding Center of MAAK. She is also the president of the Russian Association of Akhal-Teke Horsebreeding. She has a Ph.D. in Biology.

Dr. N. V. Abramova is an inspector and registrar for the Stud Book, Secretary of MAAK and has a Ph.D. in Agriculture.

A.S. Klimuk is the main breeder at the Stavropol Stud Farm.

This article was translated from the original Russian by Dr. Tito Pontecorvo of the Akhaltekinets Stud Farms in Dubna, Russia, and San Antonio, Texas.

Š 1998 T. Pontecorvo. Reprinted here with his kind permission.

FAQs

What is the origin of the Akhal-Teke horse? ›

How old is the Akhal-Teke horse? ›

The Akhal-Teke is a horse from Turkmen, in the southern region of the modern country of Turkmenistan. These horses have been renowned as cavalry mounts and racehorses for some 3,000 years.

What is the Akhal-Teke known for? ›

The Akhal-Teke, otherwise known as the “Golden Horse” or "horse that sweats blood," is originally from the southern desert region of modern-day Turkmenistan and one of the most ancient horse breeds with a widely disputed history. It is best known for its shimmery coat and outstanding endurance.

How many Akhal-Teke horses are left in the world? ›

Akhal-Teke horses are known for their unique, metallic coat color. Today they are used in endurance competitions, dressage, show jumping, and eventing. There are currently only 6,600 horses left in the world of this breed.

What does Akhal mean? ›

nausea, vomiting, retching, throwing up.

Why are Akhal-Teke horse so rare? ›

While you don't usually see this with domestic animals, the Akhal-Teke is a threatened breed on the Conservancy's Conservation Priority List (CPL). Part of this is due to the political and economical turmoil that took place in Soviet Russia. The breeding barns that men established in the late 1800s gradually shut down.

What is the oldest horse known to man? ›

The greatest age reliably recorded for a horse is 62 years for Old Billy (foaled 1760), bred by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Lancashire, UK.

What breed of horse is the oldest and purest? ›

Breed origin: The Fjord horse is one of the world's oldest and purest breeds. Horses were known to exist in Norway at the end of the last ice age. It is believed that the ancestors of the modern Fjord horse migrated to Norway and were domesticated over 4,000 years ago.

What breeds make up the Akhal-Teke? ›

The Akhal-Teke is the only remaining pure strain of ancient Turkmene horse, a breed whose common ancestors bear a succession of different names over time: Massaget, Parthian, Nisean, Persian, Turkmene and finally, Akhal-Teke.

What is the most powerful horse in the world? ›

#1: Belgian Drafts

The Belgian draft is the strongest horse in the world. Taller than many of the strongest horses in the world, the Belgian Draft stands at up to 18 hands and an impressive 2000 pounds. Although they are not the heaviest or stoutest breed on this list, Belgian horses are highly muscular and powerful.

Why do Akhal-Tekes wear collars? ›

This is an alaja, a woven collar worn by Akhal-Teke foals for protection against misfortune. It typically has charms and beads worked into it to draw good luck and ward off the "evil eye".

What horse almost went extinct? ›

Przewalski's horses once ranged throughout Europe and Asia. Competition with man and livestock, as well as changes in the environment, led to the horse moving east to Asia, and eventually becoming extinct in the wild. Today they can only be found in reintroduction sites in Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.

What is the original horse? ›

By 55 million years ago, the first members of the horse family, the dog-sized Hyracotherium, were scampering through the forests that covered North America. For more than half their history, most horses remained small, forest browsers.

What is the 2 fastest horse breed in the world? ›

2. Quarter Horse. The fastest breed at short distances, the American Quarter horse can run up to 55 mph at a quarter mile — the distance that inspired the animal's name. The breed originated in the 1600s, when colonial Americans crossed Native American horses of Spanish origin with English horses imported to Virginia.

What does Akal stand for? ›

Akaal (or Akal) (Gurmukhi: ਅਕਾਲ) (which means timeless, immortal, non-temporal), is an important term in Sikh tradition and philosophy. It is extensively used in the Dasam Granth hymns by Guru Gobind Singh, who titled one of his poetic compositions Akal Ustat; i.e., In Praise (ਉਸਤਤਿ ustati) of the Timeless One (akaal).

What colors can Akhal-Tekes be? ›

The coat is thin and silky. The Akhal-Tekes come in a wide variation of colors, shades of black, bay, chestnut, buckskin, palomino, cremello, perlino and grey. Many of the colors are combined with the metallic sheen that is a unique and ancient trait of the breed.

What is the most prestigious horse breed? ›

There is no other breed with better bloodlines and a history of winning than that of a Thoroughbred. Because of its almost assured spot at the top of any competition, thoroughbreds are the most expensive horse breed in the world.

What is the rarest wild horse breed? ›

Przewalski's horse (UK: /ˌpɜːrʒəˈvælskiz/, US: /-ˈvɑːl-/, (Пржевальский Russian: [prʐɨˈvalʲskʲɪj]), Polish: [pʂɛˈvalskʲi]) (Equus ferus przewalskii or Equus przewalskii), also called the takhi, Mongolian wild horse or Dzungarian horse, is a rare and endangered horse originally native to the steppes of Central Asia.

Who was the longest living horse? ›

Old Billy (also called Billy or Ol' Billy) was the longest-living horse on record. Old Billy was verified to be 62 at his death. Born in England in 1760, Billy adventured and became a barge horse that pulled barges up and down canals.

Who was the first horse in America? ›

The oldest oldest-known species of the genus Equus is Equus simplicidens, also known as Hagerman horse, Hagerman zebra and American zebra, which appeared about 4 million years ago. It could be found from present-day Florida to Idaho.

What did the first horse on earth look like? ›

Eohippus. Eohippus appeared in the Ypresian (early Eocene), about 52 mya (million years ago). It was an animal approximately the size of a fox (250–450 mm in height), with a relatively short head and neck and a springy, arched back.

What race horse is the oldest? ›

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest recorded thoroughbred racehorse was the 42-year-old chestnut gelding Tango Duke foaled in 1935 in Victoria.

What horse did Native American? ›

The Spanish Mustang is the original Native American breed. It descends from the horses of the Conquistadors and Native Americans, and developed on the plains of the American West, growing stronger and thriftier through natural selection.

What breed of horses were used in Braveheart? ›

When Mel Gibson galloped across the silver screen as Sir William Wallace in the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart, his beautiful bay mount was big and majestic.

What kind of horse is spirit? ›

The film follows Spirit, a Kiger mustang stallion (voiced by Matt Damon through inner dialogue), who is captured during the American Indian Wars by the United States Cavalry; he is freed by a Native American man named Little Creek who attempts to lead him back into the Lakota village.

What horse breed did samurai use? ›

The horses ridden by the samurai were mostly sturdy Kisouma, native horses that resembled stocky ponies rather than modern-day thoroughbreds. They were stub faced, long haired, short legged, shaggy looking creatures, their backs averaging about 120 to 140cm in height.

What horse was faster than Secretariat? ›

Triple Crown winner Secretariat may have taken the 1973 Belmont by a record 31 lengths and in a record time of 2:24, but American Pharoah was faster to the finish over the final 440 yards. Big Red took 25 seconds; American Pharoah was . 68 seconds quicker, going two furlongs in 24.32 seconds.

Which horse was bigger Man O War or Secretariat? ›

Man O' War was half-a-hand taller and slightly more bulky in frame...ruggedly handsome. Neither horse would have met rejection from an amorous filly. War was foaled on March 29, 1917; Secretariat on March 30, 1970. Each had 21 races and competed only as 2 and 3-year-olds.

What is the world's Smartest horse? ›

Bill Key, born a slave, overcame many obstacles to become a veterinarian and a businessman. Key's horse, Jim, was eventually recognized as the world's smartest horse and accompanied Key in his work with the Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Can Akhal-Tekes do dressage? ›

While Akhal-Teke horses of course excel at endurance riding, they are tremendous all-around athletes. In addition to Thoroughbred-style flat racing, Akhal-Tekes have had great success in other disciplines, including Dressage, Jumping, and naturally, Eventing.

Why use a lip chain on a horse? ›

The lip chain just gives the handler an advantage while handling their horses. A lip chain is placed along the upper gum line in a horse's mouth and attaches to the lead rope. While using a lip chain, keep a fair amount of pressure so that the chain does not slip off of the horses gums and into their mouths.

Why do Indian horses have curly ears? ›

As traders and invaders came down from the North from Persia and Greece, and from China to the East, they mainly came by horse. A natural result was the cross breeding of these horses with the local horses and ponies along the route passages. In the midst of this equine conflation, the curled ears developed.

Who is the most famous horse in history? ›

Some horses are so famous they are household names. The most famous and well-known horses that you know are most likely Secretariat, Seabiscuit, and Mon O' War. These racehorses rose to celebrity status due to the huge popularity and cultural impact of the horse racing sport.

What is the only truly wild horse left in the world? ›

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It may come as a disappointment to equine enthusiasts, but a new genetic study has found that no truly wild horses still exist and that a population inhabiting Mongolian grasslands actually is a feral descendant of the earliest-known domesticated horses.

Was there a dinosaur horse? ›

Eohippus, (genus Hyracotherium), also called dawn horse, extinct group of mammals that were the first known horses. They flourished in North America and Europe during the early part of the Eocene Epoch (56 million to 33.9 million years ago).

What were horses used for 5500 years ago? ›

LONDON (Reuters) - Horses were first domesticated on the plains of northern Kazakhstan some 5,500 years ago -- 1,000 years earlier than thought -- by people who rode them and drank their milk, researchers said on Thursday.

What states still have wild horses? ›

A: Today, wild horses and burros can be found primarily on government-designated Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in ten western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

What did a horse evolve from? ›

During the early Eocene there appeared the first ancestral horse, a hoofed, browsing mammal designated correctly as Hyracotherium but more commonly called Eohippus, the “dawn horse.” Fossils of Eohippus, which have been found in both North America and Europe, show an animal that stood 4.2 to 5 hands (about 42.7 to 50.8 ...

Did America have horses before Columbus? ›

The discovery of the Hagerman horse proved that horses were present in North America before the arrival of Columbus. In fact, it's now thought that horses may have first come to the Western Hemisphere over 20 million years ago. The Hagerman horse was once a common sight in North America.

Who tamed horses first? ›

Archaeologists say horse domestication may have begun in Kazakhstan about 5,500 years ago, about 1,000 years earlier than originally thought. Their findings also put horse domestication in Kazakhstan about 2,000 years earlier than that known to have existed in Europe.

What horse is faster than a Mustang? ›

The Thoroughbred is largely considered to be the fastest horse breed in the world over longer distances – topping out at speeds of around 40 to 45 miles per hour. Able to reach 50 miles per hour, the American Quarterhorse is perhaps the fastest horse in the world over short distances.

What horse ran the fastest quarter-mile ever? ›

This is a Guinness World Record was achieved by a horse called Winning Brew. She was trained by Francis Vitale in the United States. The race was recorded at the Penn National Race Course, Grantville, Pennsylvania, United States. Winning Brew covered the quarter-mile (402 metres) in 20.57 seconds.

What dog is faster than a horse? ›

Everyone knows Greyhounds are fast, but exactly how fast are they? Most place their maximum speed at around 45 mph—a bit slower than a quarter horse, and much slower than a cheetah.

Is an Akhal-Teke an Arabian? ›

Akhal Tekes are believed to be one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, some say the precursor to both the Thoroughbred and Arabian. Ancestors of the breed may date back to animals living more than 3,000 years ago, known as the Nisean horse.

What is the toughest horse in the world? ›

In first place we have the Belgian Draft Horse. This breed of draft horse originally comes from Brabant, which is in Belgium, and is known for being one of the strongest breeds of horse on the planet. They are often chestnut in color, with a flaxen that is lighter than the rest of the body.

What is the average price of an Akhal-Teke horse? ›

There are fewer than 10,000 Akhal-Tekes around the world, with the majority in Turkmenistan and Russia. But they're still possible to find elsewhere, including North America. These horses cost around $10,000 on average, though that price can rise considerably based on age, health, training, and pedigree.

Can Akhal-Tekes be Pinto? ›

Although the Akhal-Teke does not have loud pinto spotting, it can be a roan or sabino or it can be a rabicano, a solid-colored horse with a multi-colored tail. The color that Turkmen like the best is dun (similar to buckskin) with black knees and black tail.

Where did ancient China get horses? ›

Horses in ancient and Imperial China were an important element of China on cultural, military, and agricultural levels. Horses were introduced from the West, disturbing warfare, and forcing local warring States to adopt new military practices such as chariots and cavalry.

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