Mongolian Horses
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Mongolian horses (Mongolian  aduu: "horse" or mori; or as a herd,rnado, or in Northern Khalka, tabun) are the native horse breed of Mongolia. Theyrnare considered to be have been largely unchanged since the time of GenghisrnKhan. Nomads living in the traditional Mongol fashion still hold more than 3rnmillion horses, which outnumber the country's human population. Despite theirrnsmall size, they are horses, not ponies. In Mongolia, the horses live outdoorsrnall year, dealing with temperatures from 30 C (86 F) in summer down to -40 Crn(-40 F) in winter, and they graze and search for food on their own. The mare'srnmilk is processed into the national beverage airag. Some animals arernslaughtered for meat. Other than that, they serve as riding and transportrnanimals; they are used both for the daily work of the nomads and in horsernracing.

rnrnThe origins of the Mongolian breed are hard to determine.rnNomads of the central Asian steppes have been documented as riding horses sincern2000 BC. Tests have shown, that among all horse breeds, Mongol horses featurernthe largest genetic variety, followed by the Tuwinian horses. This indicatesrnthat it is a very archaic breed suffering little human-induced selection. Therndata also indicate that many other breeds descend from the Mongol horses.rnrn 

Recently, breeders have begun importing expensive foreignrnracehorse breeds like Arabians and Thoroughbreds with the goal of breeding themrnto native stock to produce faster horses, but these relatively fragile breedsrnare unable to survive on the steppe like Mongolian horses can; if leftrnunsheltered, such horses inevitably freeze to death or starve. So, breedersrnhave focused on created crossbreeds between foreign horses and native Mongolianrnstock. The ultimate goal is to produce a race horse that has one-quarterrnforeign blood and three-quarters Mongolian blood; this proportion is believedrnto create a horse hardy enough to survive in Mongolia and combine the Mongolianrnhorse's stamina and endurance with foreign speed to produce a new breed withrnthe best qualities of both.rnrn 

rnrnOne of the drawbacks to breeding such crosses is that the foreignrnstallion is much larger than the smaller Mongolian mare. This results in largernfoals that can be difficult for the small mares to birth. Since Mongolian maresrntypically give birth on their own without human supervision - and seldom havernproblems doing so - breeders have little experience on how to deal with thernbirthing problems that result due to the size of the crossed foals. To reducernbirthing problems, a foreign mare could be bred to a native stallion to avoidrnthe large foal problem, but in practice this reduces the numbers of crossbreedrnfoals that can be produced each year. In one breeding season, a foreignrnstallion can impregnate 10 native mares and produce 10 crossed foals, but arnforeign mare can only be impregnated by a native stallion once and produce onerncrossed foal.rnrn 

rnrnMongol horses have been theorized to be the founding stockrnfor Japan's native horse breeds. Breeds such as the Misaki, Taishu, Tokara,rnKiso, Yonaguni, Noma, Hokkaido, and Myako are believed to be the descendents ofrndistant Mongolian ancestors.rnrn 

rnrnGenetic analyses have revealed links between the Mongolianrnhorse and breeds in Iceland, Scandinavia, Central Europe, and the British Isles.rnThe Mongol horses are believed to have been originally imported from Russia byrnSwedish traders; this imported Mongol stock subsequently became the basis forrnthe Norwegian Fjord horse and a variety of other Scandinavian breeds, includingrnthe Nordland. One of these breeds was eventually exported to Iceland byrnsettlers, producing the modern day Icelandic horse, which bears a strongrnresemblance to the Mongol horse and lives in much the same way, foraging freelyrnoff the land during all seasons. The Exmoor, Scottish Highland, Shetland, andrnConnemara pony breeds have also been found to be related to the Icelandic horse,rnsuggesting that all these northern European breeds had ancestors that grazed onrnthe steppe of Mongolia.rnrn rnrn 

rnrnMongol horses are best known for their role as the warrnsteeds of Genghis Khan. The Mongol soldier relied on his horses to provide himrnwith food, drink, transportation, armor, shoes, ornamentation, bowstring, rope,rnfire, sport, music, hunting, entertainment, spiritual power, and in case of hisrndeath, a mount to ride in the afterlife. Mongol horses made excellent warhorsesrnbecause of their hardiness, stamina, self-sufficiency, and ability to forage onrntheir own. The main disadvantage of the Mongol horse as a war steed was that itrnwas slower than some of the other breeds it faced on the battlefield. Soldiersrnpreferred to ride lactating mares because they could use them as milk animals.rnIn times of desperation, they would also slit a minor vein in their horse'srnneck and drain some blood into a cup. This they would drink eitherrn"plain" or mixed with milk or water. A Mongol warrior's horse wouldrncome at his whistle and follow him around, dog-like. Each warrior would bring arnsmall herd of horses with him (three to five being average, but up to 20) asrnremounts. They alternated horses so that they always rode a fresh horse.rnrn rnrn 

rnrnHorse racing is one of the "three manly arts".rnHorse racing is the second-most popular event in Mongolia, after traditionalrnwrestling. Mongolian races are long, up to 30 km, and can involve thousands ofrnhorses. The native horses have excellent endurance. Though foreign breeds arernfaster than Mongolian horses, they are usually exhausted by the end of the run,rnwhile the Mongolian horses still have wind. Nevertheless, horses have died ofrnexhaustion during the Naadam race on occasion.rnrn 

rnrnIn Mongolia, racing is a people's sport where everyonernparticipates. Each family selects the best horse from their herd and takes itrnto the fair to race. However, in recent years, the introduction of fast foreignrncrossbreeds has changed the sport. Only the richest breeder can afford to buyrnand raise a Thoroughbred/Mongolian mix, and such horses tend to win races. Thisrnhas led to complaints that ordinary people no longer have a chance to win, andrnthat racing has become the province of the elite. Racing horses with a child inrnthe saddle run in full gallop over 35 km at a time. Children are used insteadrnof adults because they are lighter. Mongolians are not so much concerned withrnthe skill and experience of a jockey as the ability of the horse.rnrn 

rnrnMongolian nomads have long been considered to be some of thernbest horsemen in the world. During the time of Genghis Khan, Mongol horsernarchers were capable of feats such as sliding down the side of their horses tornshield their bodies from enemy arrows, while simultaneously holding their bowsrnunder the horses' chins and returning fire, all at full gallop. The educationrnof a modern Mongolian horseman begins in childhood. Parents place theirrnchildren on a horse and hold them there before they can even hang on withoutrnassistance. By age 6, children can ride in races; by age 10, they are learningrnto make their own tack. Materials such as books on horse training or medicalrncare are uncommon and seldom used. Information is passed down orally fromrnparent to child.rnrn 

rnrnA variety of rules for how tack and horses should be handledrnare known. For example, it was taboo to use the whip as a prop or to touch anrnarrow to the whip; such crimes were punishable by death. In Genghis Khan's time,rnstrict rules dictated the way horses were to be used on campaign. The Khanrninstructed his general Subutai, "See to it that your men keep theirrncrupper hanging loose on their mounts and the bit of their bridle out of thernmouth, except when you allow them to hunt. That way they won't be able torngallop off at their whim [tiring out the horses unnecessarily]. Havingrnestablished these rules--see to it you seize and beat any man who breaks them. Anyrnman.who ignores this decree, cut off his head where he stands."rnrn 

rnrnMongolian tack differs from Western tack in being madernalmost completely of rawhide and using knots instead of metal connectors. Tackrndesign follows a "one size fits all" approach, with saddles, halters,rnand bits all produced in a single size. Mongolian tack is very light comparedrnto western tack. The modern Mongolian riding saddle is tall, with a woodenrnframe and several decorated metal disks that stand out from the sides. It has arnhigh pommel and cantle and short stirrups. Riders frequently stand in thernstirrups while riding.rnrn 

The Mongolian saddle, both medieval and modern, has shortrnstirrups rather like those used on modern race horses. The design of thernstirrups makes it possible for the rider to control the horse with his legs,rnleaving his hands free for tasks like archery or holding a catch-pole.rnrn 

rnrnThe Mongols have many stories and songs about horses.rnLegendary horses include magical flying steeds, beloved horses that visit inrndreams, and a rich body of folklore about equine protagonists. The horse hasrnlong played a role as a sacred animal, and Mongols have a variety of spiritualrnbeliefs regarding them. The mane is believed to contain a horse's spirit andrnstrength; for this reason, the mane of stallions is always left uncut. Mare'srnmilk has been used in ceremonies of purification, prayer, and blessing sincernantiquity. In modern times, it continues to be used in a variety of ceremoniesrnassociated with racing. Historically, horses were sacrificed on specialrnoccasions; 40 horses were sacrificed at the funeral of Genghis Khan. When arnhorse is killed, a variety of rituals may be followed to honor the remains.rnHorses are believed to have spirits that can help or hurt their owner afterrndeath. When a deceased horse's spirit is content, the owner's herd willrnflourish; if not, then the herd will fail.rnrn 

rnrnOf the five kinds of herd animals typically recognized inrnMongolia (horses, camels, oxen/yaks, sheep, and goats), horses are seen to havernthe highest prestige. A nomad with many horses is considered wealthy.rnMongolians do not give their horses names; rather, they identify them by theirrncolor, markings, scars, and brands. Over 500 words in the Mongolian languagerndescribe the traits of horses.rnrn rnrn 

rnrnMongolian horses are valued for their milk, meat, and hair.rnIn the summer, mares are milked six times a day, once every two hours. A marernproduces an average of 0.11 lbs of milk each time, with a yearly production ofrn662 lbs total. The milk is used to make the ubiquitous fermented drinks ofrnMongolia, airag and kumis. Horse meat is considered the healthiest, mostrndelicious kind of meat. Each 600-lb Mongol horse yields about 240 lb of meat.rnThe horse's hair can be used for a number of products, including rope, fiddlernstrings, and a variety of ornaments. Horse dung is used for camp fuel.rnrn 

rnrnMongol horses are of a stocky build, with relatively shortrnbut strong legs and a large head. They weigh about 600 lbs. and range in sizernfrom 12 to 14 hands (48 to 56 inches, 122 to 142 cm) high. Their cannon bonernexternal circumference is about 8 inches (200 mm). They have a slightrnresemblance to Przewalski's horse and were once believed to have originatedrnfrom that subspecies. However, that theory was disproven in 2011 by geneticrntesting. Przewalski's horse has been conclusively shown not to be an ancestorrnof any domestic horse, though it can interbreed with domesticated horses tornhybridize and produce fertile offspring. Of the caballine equines, E. ferus,rnonly E. ferus ferus, also known as the European wild horse or "tarpan,"rnshares ancestry with the modern domestic horse.rnrn 

rnrnThe mane and tail of the Mongol horse are very long. Theirrnstrands are often used for braiding ropes; the tail hair can be used for violinrnbows. Mongolian horses have great stamina; although they have small bodies,rnthey can gallop for 10 km without a break. When pulling a cart, a team of fourrnMongol horses can draw a load of 4400 lbs for 50 -60 km a day. Because thernhorses are allowed to live much the same as wild horses, they require little inrnthe way of hoof care. The hooves are left untrimmed and unshod, and fewrnfarriers are in the country. Mongol horses have hard, strong hooves and seldomrnhave foot problems. Sometimes, horses will be branded.rnrn 

rnrnHorses from different regions of Mongolia are considered tornhave different traits. Desert horses are said to have larger feet than averagern("like camel's feet"). Mountain horses are short and particularlyrnstrong. Steppe horses are the tallest, fastest variety of Mongol horses.rnSpecifically, the eastern Khentii Province and Sukhbaatar Province steppernprovinces are widely considered to produce the fastest horses in the country.rnDarkhad horses are known for their strength. A Darkhad horse weighing only 250rnkg can carry a load of 300 kg - the equivalent of carrying another horse on itsrnback. On a broader level, some Mongolian provinces are considered to be morernsuitable for horse rearing than others. The eastern steppe provinces arerninformally known as the "horse provinces" because of theirrnsuitability for horse breeding. The northern mountain provinces are consideredrn"cow provinces", though horses are reared there, as well.rnrn 

rnrnA wide variety of horse colorations are seen. People in therndifferent regions of Mongolia favor different colors of horses and breedrnaccordingly. The Darkhad ethnic group prefers white horses, while the Nyamgavaarnprefer dun, bay, or black horses and shun white-colored animals. Some horsesrnare bred for the preferences of foreign markets. Elizabeth Kendall, travellingrnthrough southern Mongolia in 1911, wrote, "I was struck by the number ofrnwhite and grey ponies, and was told that horses are bred chiefly for the marketrnin China, and this is the Chinese preference." She also observed that thernnorthern Mongolian herds near Tuerin seemed to consist mainly of black andrnchestnut horses.rnrn 

rnrnHerdsmen breed horses primarily for color and speed, butrnalso for conformation, disposition, and lineage. In Mongolia, conformation isrnnot stressed so strongly as it is in Western culture. However, a few traits arernpreferred in a horse. When walking, a horse should leave hind footprints thatrnfall upon or outside the fore footprints. A desirable animal should also have arnlarge head, thick bones, a large barrel, thick legs, be tall (but not so tallrnas to impede winter survival), possess a thick coat for cold resistance, have arnthick mane and tail, and a Roman nose; the latter is considered importantrnbecause dish-faced horses are considered to have difficulty grazing.rnrn rnrn 

rnrnMongol horses are frugal, hardy, somewhat wily, and treadrnsafely in rough terrain. In Mongolia, most animals are kept roaming free, andrnonly a small number of riding animals are caught and tethered. A nomad's herdrnof horses hangs out around the family's dwelling, typically grazing severalrnmiles away. The herd is allowed to choose its own pasturage with littlerninterference from the owners. They may disappear for days at a time, andrneventually the owners go out to look for them. Once a horse has become familiarrnwith carrying a rider, it will be calm, friendly, and very reliable. Becausernnature provides so well for Mongol horses, they cost little to nothing tornraise. They are a practical necessity of everyday life, in which a substantialrnportion of the population still lives as nomads. Herdsmen regard their horsesrnas both a form of wealth and a source of the daily necessities: transportation,rnfood, and drink.rnrn 

rnrnThe horses typically eat nothing but grass and require veryrnlittle water, a trait useful for survival in environments like the Gobi desert.rnA horse may drink only once a day. In the winter, Mongol horses paw up the snowrnto eat the grass underneath. For water, they eat snow.rnrn 

rnrnDuring the winter and early spring, horses lose about 30% ofrntheir body weight. They must regain this weight during summer and fall so as tornsurvive another year. During particularly hard winters ("zuds"),rnhorses may starve to death en masse or die of exposure. Herdsmen can do littlernto save their herds in such conditions. In the bitter winter of 2009 - 2010,rn188,270 Mongol horses perished. Despite their life in semi-feral conditions,rnmost horses live to be 20 - 40 years old.rnrn 

rnrnThe horse is believed to have been first domesticatedrnsomewhere in the Eurasian Steppe. Never have all the horses in Mongolia beenrndomesticated at once; rather, wild and domesticated horses coexisted andrninterbred, so verifiably "true" wild blood no longer exists in thernMongol horses of today. However, although not considered true wild horses inrnthe same sense as Przewalski's horse, some feral Mongolian horses browse thernsteppe alongside their semi - feral domesticated kin. Unlike the mustangs thatrnroam the West in the United States, which are categorized as a non-nativernspecies, feral Mongol horses are living in the same manner and place as whererntheir ancestors had run and lived for hundreds of thousands of years.rnOccasionally, the nomads capture feral horses to add to their herds.

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