9 Popular Indian Horse Breeds

indian horse breeds
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India has always had an ancient history with horses and has always remained a unique breeding ground for various horse breeds.

Indian horse breeds have unique characteristics such as high endurance and distinct appearance.

These horses play an important role in the rural Indian economy. This includes riding, transportation, and agricultural work.

However, some of these horses are endangered, rare, or at risk in some other way. Read on to learn more about each unique breed.

1. Spiti

The Spiti horse, a small mountain pony with its name taken from the Spiti river, is indigenous to northern India.

Although little is known about their ancestry, they are closely connected to the Zanskari breed and have common characteristics with the Mongolian and Tibetan breeds.

Primarily, Spiti ponies are only bred in their native region along the Spiti River using traditional breeding techniques. As a result, there are only about 4,000 Spiti ponies.

A group of surrounding communities keeps the mares and stallions apart. The mares are bred annually to one stallion; the stallion used varies each year.

Most Spiti ponies are bay, black, piebald, or grey in color and range in height from 9 to 12 hands. They have small, deep-chested physiques with thick coats. These sturdy ponies are dependable options for both everyday riding and use as pack horses.

2. Bhutia

Bhutias are Indian horse breeds that originate from Darjeeling and Sikkim. These horses from the north resemble Tibetan or Mongolian horse breeds quite a bit. They love to reside in the mountains and are often smaller in size.

This breed has a toughness that comes naturally from its surroundings, which is uncommon in other breeds. They are a sure-footed breed that adjusts to changing environmental conditions pretty well.

In addition, Bhutia horses typically have legs that are stronger than usual but shorter than average, which helps them adapt to changing mountain environments.

Although some can be a little taller, most typically range from 12 to 13.2 hands. This breed offers the traditional horse look with a deep chest, straight back and shoulders, and a well-set tail.

3. Marwari

The Marwari is one of the most famous and unique Indian horse breeds. The breed is indigenous to the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region, developed in the 12th century as a powerful cavalry horse from local ponies and Arabian horses.

Marwari horses are known for their distinctive ears. Their ear tips meet because their ears bend towards the top. In addition, these horses have athletic physiques and high-set necks.

They come in all colors, except for piebald and skewbald, and range in height from 14 to 16 hands. These horses have many uses, including endurance, dressage, and polo.

In India, these unique horses are extremely well-liked for parades and ceremonies. They can survive hot desert conditions and are tough, athletic horses with good endurance.

The export of this unique breed was prohibited for many years by the Indian government. However, India eased the restriction and permitted the export of a few horses between 2000 and 2006.

Furthermore, in 2008, India started permitting Marwari horses to travel overseas for exhibition for up to a year as “temporary exports.”

4. Kathiawari

Also among the Indian horse breeds is the Kathiawar. This horse is named after the peninsula where it lives in Western India.

It has exceptional endurance, surviving on little food or water when traveling over difficult terrain, hot weather, and long distances. Many Marwari horses from the same region are closely linked to this breed.

The Kathiawari horse’s origin is uncertain, though. Indigenous horses were known to exist on the peninsula, where this breed was found as early as the 16th century. 

The foundation of the breed may have been laid by conquerors bringing Arab horses that interbred with indigenous stock; nevertheless, the breed was later developed locally to suit the climate.

5. Manipuri

Also on this list of Indian horse breeds is the Manipuri. It is a rare pony breed from Manipur. They are thought to be decedents of Arabians, Mongolian Wild Horses, and other pony stock.

The Manipuri pony has an athletic body, a wide chest, and a light head. They are between 11 and 13 hands tall and available in almost every color.

In ancient times, Manipuri ponies were favored as warhorses and have been bred for ages in northern India. Additionally, the first breed used in polo was a Manipuri.

The British were interested in Manipuris as polo ponies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In order to enhance the breed for polo, they were even bred with Arabian blood.

6. Zanskari

This is also among Indian horse breeds originating from Zanskar valley in Kargil. They’re quite similar to Spiti horses. However, Zaniskari horses are better at adjusting to greater elevations than Spiti horses.

With an average height of 11–13.3 hands, this breed is impressively strong and compact for its size. Their maximum body length is 45 inches. The most common color is grey, although other options include chestnut, brown, black, and bay.

Even though this breed is not officially considered endangered, it is estimated that only a few hundred purebred horses are left in existence.

Many indiscriminate breeding procedures have been developed as a result of local village horse demands in order to preserve existing lifestyles.

India has also made an effort to build more roads in the area, which has reduced the necessity for many people to own riding or workhorse. Like some other Indian horse breeds, the athletic and responsive ones are used for polo.

Agricultural workers or adventurers who frequently travel to or work in high elevations prize zaniskari horses as pack animals. It is a breed that can endure temperatures as low as -40C and is sure-footed. 

7. Bhimtadi

The Bhimthadi horse is a rare Indian breed on the verge of extinction. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the breed was created by mating native ponies with Arabian and Turkic breeds.

Bhimthadi horses are often bay, roan, or brown in color and have a light, muscular physique. Their suede includes driving, traveling, and pack work.

At one time, Indian kings were fervent admirers of bhimthadi horses. They were frequently used to take on the Mughal army as warhorses. These little horses were well respected by the Martha army.

There are currently only about 100 horses left, despite efforts to rescue this breed after their numbers drastically declined under British administration. 

8. Chummarti

Although this type of horse is thought to have its roots in the Chummarti valley of Tibet, it is more common in Himachal Pradesh. They’re also among the unique Indian horse breeds on this list.

It is a horse that resembles the Spiti and frequently serves similar functions. However, the average Chummarti horse is small, growing to a maximum height of fewer than 13 hands.

This small mountain horse enjoys its native Himalayas and can live through scorching summer days and frigid weather at high altitudes. As a breed, they are well-muscled and have a strong bone structure.

In addition, it’s one of the few breeds in the world with five distinct gaits. It trots on its laterals rather than diagonals, making the trip comfortable.

Most of this breed are trained to work in packs, and breeding techniques are based on long-held, generational family secrets.

9. Sikang

Last on this list of Indian horse breeds is the Sikang horse. Sikang horses differ in height and color, but they’re known for being obedient.

The Sikang horses’ history is quite fascinating, although they are not yet recognized as a formal breed. Despite their highly mechanical equipment, US forces used animals nearly as much as any other nation during WWII.

Over 2,000 horses were led to Sikang during one mission. Unfortunately, not every horse could navigate the treacherous trail, which included three gorges, and the cavalry left others behind.

Those who made it through the abandonment came together to establish semi-feral herds similar to the Mustangs in the US West. A few were recaptured and retamed.

Their power, endurance, and higher stature were desirable qualities; therefore, they were crossed with native horses to provide the groundwork for a potential new breed of Indian horses in the future.

Furthermore, these horse breeds have contributed to laying the foundation for the equestrian industry in the APAC region.

They have produced willing, independent, and intelligent horses thanks to their special strengths and high stamina.

Conclusion

There you have it – 9 different Indian horse breeds. These unique horse breeds make excellent partners for both labor and enjoyment. Thanks for reading!

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