About animals

Karabakh horse


Author: Alexandra LICHMAN
Magazine number: ЗМ №10 (146) 2014

Since ancient times, the Karabakh khanate was famous for its horses. It was here that a bright and distinctive breed was formed, called the "skittles", or Karabakh, - these light, beautiful, strong horses entered the glorious history of their homeland and left a bright mark on it.

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General characteristics

The most common in the past suits of purebred Karabakh skittles included the whole gamut of golden hues. The most valuable was considered golden-lemon (sarylyar).

No less highly appreciated were the horses of the suit of orange (orange). These are red horses with darker, but not black tail and mane. The color was preserved among the descendants of the ancient breed, which now make up the main arsenal of tribal representatives.

Even during the times when the Karabakh horses were widely spread, gray or black horses were extremely rare among them. Common suits were considered to be bulanaya, bay, golden-red, brown with a mane and tail darker than the body. Some of the horses had white marks: stockings and grooves.

Manners and habits

The upland horse has an energetic, but calm disposition. Modern representatives of skittles are trusting enough to people, even with herd content. At the competitions they show high results in show jumping, which indicates their mind. Ancient sources note the devotion of the horse to its owner.

Breed history

The breeding of the Karabakh horse breed began on the mountain plateau of present Karabakh, namely in the interfluve of Araks and Kura. This horse is recognized as an ancient representative of riding horses, it is obedient, with zeal and courage overcomes obstacles and barriers, it is used for riding with a rider in the mountain plains and hills.

Ever since time immemorial, this horse has been known to all the Armenian people, and the first remains of these animals were discovered and recorded by the era of 2000 BC. e. And already for the period 1900-1700 BC. e. Karabakh horses began to be massively used as a traction pack animal. A little later, horses began to found army cavalry. In history, there is even an opinion that with the help of Karabakh horses the Hyksos conquered in 1710 BC. e. Egypt. And in the 1st millennium BC. e. Armenian horse breeding has become the main business sector for Armenians.

They say that Lermontov’s verse “Demon” is talking about these horses.

Previously, the breeding of Karabakh horses was carried out by Agdam's horse breeding in the former Azerbaijan SSR, and at the time of the 17-18 centuries the breed became widespread and reached a tremendous heyday. The horse of the Azerbaijan Stud Farm has become famous for its aesthetic exterior, average growth rates, and high-class user abilities. With the help of local Caucasian stallions, the suit regularly improved and improved, and for the Don horses, the Karabakh breed became the predecessor of its suit.

In the 19th century, the breed of Karabakh horses was in decline, since cavalry required taller horses. Due to this, Azerbaijan and its Agdam stud farm began to withdraw not only purebred Karabakh people, but also a new type of horse mixed with Arabian horses. And for the period of 1971, the breed had an official pedigree book.

In 1852, a commission from Russia visited the territory of Karabakh, after which Karabakh horses were compared with the Arab legendary horses. There is a legend that only at the expense of Karabakh horses Alexander of Macedon coped with mountain passes. He diluted his cavalry with 20 thousand heads of Karabakh people.

In 1980, the popularity of horses increased, as the improved material and technical base of the Agdam horse breeding allowed a series of auctions and exhibitions of horses in Moscow. After that, countries such as Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland and Italy began to request a large number of horses. The lengthy conflict in Karabakh and military operations affected the number of horses negatively. Horses were constantly moved, which affected the new generation and the state of health of adults. To restore the breed, the Azerbaijani government imposed a ban on the export of horses. Today, about 20 enterprises are engaged in the restoration of the breed, with approximately 200 purebred Karabakh people.


Historically, the breed has always been kept in a herd way. Karabakh horses never lived in stalls: tribal mares remained in the herds constantly. The stallions were circled so that the animals would not run wild, and then again released into the herd.

Inhabited in rather harsh conditions of an alpine climate, the horses adapted to poor nutrition in winter and to low temperatures. The modern approach to keeping provides for free grazing in the warm season, but for the winter, skittles are transferred to stalls in warm stables protected from drafts. Under these conditions, horses need to provide active walks in the air 2 times a day.

For the prevention of diseases, systematic vaccinations are carried out. Animals are routinely examined by a veterinarian 2 times a year. Youngsters need the supervision of a breeder and veterinarian much more often: special attention is paid to the formation of bone and muscle mass.

Wool is cleaned daily, removing dirt and dying hairs. For cleaning use scrapers, hard gloves with special pads. Particular attention is paid to the hair of the mane and the tail: they need to be combed out and washed 2 times a week with special shampoos. To avoid garbage, thorns, etc., during a walk in the mane, it is recommended to braid hair in a braid.

After walking or working, it is recommended to wash the hooves well, removing all dirt. After hygienic procedures, it is necessary to dry the crumb area and arrows well so as not to provoke the development of fungal infections. Every 1.5-2 months, inspection, clearing and trimming of hooves is carried out.

The basis of Karabakh nutrition with herd content is fresh grass. In winter, horses are fed with hay, concentrated feed and grain mixtures. Sports and work horses, mares are provided with concentrates, grain and vegetables, making individual rations.

The use of Karabakh horses

Most often, Karabakh horses were used by people under the saddle, as horses easily coped with mountain roads, while maintaining agility and speed. For example, overcoming mountain bumps for a horse was a simple matter, an accelerated step could reach a speed of 10 km / h. And about the working capacity and hard work of these animals there are legends and praising odes. You can compare these breed indicators with such noble breeds as Arabs, Akhal-Teke and powerful Russian breeds. Such conclusions were not taken from scratch, more than once conducted comparative tests and competitions.

The unique difference of the Karabakh horses is that on flat ground the horses are inferior in running speed, but here in the overcoming of distances in the mountains for them is a common thing, there is not a single horse equal to them. Today, the breed is carefully guarded by the Azerbaijani government. Despite this, the Karabakh stallions were regularly used in crossbreeding, after which the horse breeding received new unique breeds. For the Caucasus, the significance of the Karabakh people is comparable with the attitude of England to a thoroughbred horse breed. The Karabakh people made a significant contribution to such horse breeds as the Deliboz breed, the Strelets', presumably Oryol horse and Trakenen breeds. In addition, with the help of the Karabakh horse, the Don breed, which was bred for a rather long time, was improved. And thanks to the oriental notes and pedigree, Russian Donchaks look on a par with purebred breeds.

Modern equestrian sports often demonstrate the skills and abilities of Caucasian horses. Speaking of Karabakh, these horses skillfully cope with jumping, often winning competitions. In addition, the noble nature of horses contributes to the fact that horses with special zeal and pleasure compete with worthy equal opponents.

Interesting Facts

  1. Of the many exhibitions and demonstrations, many competitive competitions for Karabakh horses ended in victories. The horse received gold medals and certificates several times, in 1866-1867, then in 1869, 13 years later again in 1982, and also in 1897.
  2. A description of the character and power of the Karabakh horse can be found in Lermontov’s poem entitled “Demon”.
  3. The breed was exposed to extinction several times, in particular after the occupation of Karabakh by the Armenian army. Horses were constantly transported through the territory of Azerbaijan. For a long time, the export of Karabakh people abroad was prohibited at the state level.
  4. The glorious golden color of the Don horses is an exceptional merit of the Karabakh horses participating in the improvement of the Russian breed.

How much is a Karabakh horse

Nobody can tell exactly the price of one Karabakh. It is very difficult to get this horse today, because due to military operations and the occupation of the Armenian army of Karabakh, the horses were evacuated and the breed was badly damaged. Today, the Azerbaijani authorities are making a lot of efforts to maintain the breed, preserve its integrity and thoroughbred. Exporting horses is almost impossible.

Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Karabakh horses were sold abroad for amounts from 2,000 to 14,000 dollars and more. In general, pricing depends on the location of the horse supplier, the age and gender of the horse, health status, number of awards and victories, as well as documentary support for the animal.

Karabakh breed today

It is no secret to anyone how many difficulties and destructions Mountainous Karabakh suffered after the occupation of the Armenian army and prolonged hostilities. A whole breed of horses had to leave their native places and urgently evacuated to other parts of the country. Today, all the forces of Azerbaijan are aimed at restoring and preserving the breed, which is considered the country's national heritage.

Today, the Karabakh horse is compared with the best eastern breeds, for example, with the Arabian breed. The eastern flavor of the Karabakh people, the beauty of the exterior and unique features have made the horse popular around the world. Already more than one breed has improved due to the Karabakh stallions. But for the time being, the main task of Azerbaijan is to preserve the best qualities of the Karabakh people after evacuation and to develop the livestock. The whole world empathizes with these horses and is waiting for the restoration and population of the breed with hope.

Historical reference

The Karabakh horse was formed as a breed from the 17th to the 18th century in the Karabakh khanate (Azerbaijan). This region of the country has long been famous for its frisky and hardy horses, and skittles (the local name for the Karabakh horse) are rightfully considered the pride of its inhabitants.

The khans of Karabakh, respecting the traditions of their ancestors, have always been very interested in breeding horses. Several famous factories were concentrated in the region, in which the best horses of Transcaucasia were bred. Moreover, exclusively herd breeding was practiced at such plants, which suggested the following features:

  1. All mares were kept in herds on free pasture almost all year round.
  2. The herd included purebred females of Karabakh, as well as crossbreeds.
  3. The stallions were kept separately, providing them with thorough care and strict selection according to a number of criteria. For mating, only the best representatives of the pedigree line were used.
  4. Foals born also grew up in the herd in the most natural conditions.

To breed Karabakh horses, several varieties were used at once. In fact, the best representatives of the indigenous horses of Karabakh formed the basis of the breed. Subsequently, to improve the exterior and working qualities of the animals used, well-known Turkmen horses, Arab and Iranian horses were used.

As a result of centuries of breeding work, it was possible to get a horse that struck with the refinement of forms, obedient, bold character, agility and endurance. In addition, since the breed was developed in mountainous conditions, it coped even with the most extreme trails and sections of mountains without much difficulty.

Local khans highly valued the Karabakh stallions and tried to keep the breed clean. That is why her livestock remained small, and representatives were never sold. Such horses were only brought as a gift by special order of the khan. It was the most honorable award for merit and a valuable gift, showing the highest respect. Sometimes these animals were given to Russian princes, and one of the representatives of the breed caused indescribable delight with Queen Elizabeth II, to whom the steed was also given as a gift.

Breed development after joining the Russian Empire

At the beginning of the 19th century, Karabakh was annexed to the Russian Empire. This event marked the beginning of the wide distribution of the breed in Russia. In 1869, several of its representatives were immediately declared to participate in the All-Russian exhibition. As a result, three of them received prizes and aroused great interest among Russian horse breeders. In addition, the stately stallion Alletmez has been identified as a producer for local stud farms.

Two years earlier, the Karabakh horses also participated in the European exhibition in France. Here, one of the Karabakh stallions for the exterior and dressing got the second place, which also contributed to the growing interest in the breed.

It is worth noting that despite successful performances at exhibitions, Russian breeders did not allow such horses to serve in the army. In their opinion, too low growth of the Karabakh completely ruled out the possibility of using such horses in the cavalry. But still, the owners of the stud farms could not ignore a number of other significant advantages of the pedigree line. Therefore, they were widely used to improve the well-known Russian and Azerbaijani cavalry horse varieties, among which:

  • Rostopchinskaya,
  • Don
  • Streletskaya
  • delibose
  • Kabardian.

At the same time, these breeds owe their Karabakh horses their best qualities.

Crises in breed development

It is worth noting that the process of formation and application of the breed line was not always cloudless. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries horse breeding experienced a serious blow. Cars and other equipment were actively developing, as a result of which riding horses began to lose their popularity.

Reduced interest in skittles led to the fact that they were often uncontrollably mixed with outbred horses. As a result, some pedigree traits for which the variety was highly valued were erased.

In 1948, there were only 30 individuals remaining skittles. Realizing that the breed was actually lost, Azerbaijani breeders decided to restore it. For this, a specialized stud farm was formed in the village of Gay Tepe. The main problem breeders encountered in the restoration was the lack of thoroughbred Karabakh stallions. They managed to find only one representative of the variety, which became the stallion Sultan. To improve the quality of the breed, Arabian horses were also used. In the future, to improve the characteristics of living creatures, various English horse breeds were also used.

But, despite some successes of breeders in the restoration of the breed, its stock again fell significantly in the 1990s. The reason for this was the war in Karabakh. With the outbreak of hostilities, horses were immediately rushed from the factory in Gay Tepe. But the evacuation among them was far from being experienced by all, which is typical; mostly horses that had the blood of English ridings died.

To date, the situation with the pedigree line has more or less stabilized.

Exterior and color

The exterior of the skittles is elegant and dry. But it is worth noting that today's type of breed line is slightly inferior in effectiveness to the original standard.

These graceful animals are quite low. The average height of the horse is 138-154 cm. The weight of the horse does not exceed 350 kg. Of the features of the physique, the following are distinguished:

  • a small rectangular case with a slightly arched back and powerful chest,
  • short neck with a graceful curve
  • the head is proportional to the size of the body, involves a wide, slightly convex forehead and expressive eyes,
  • legs well developed, straight, with strong hooves,
  • the tail drops to the level of the hock,
  • medium-sized mane.

The exterior of the skittles

All modern representatives of the Karabakh breed are divided into two types:

  1. Massive. Such animals are distinguished by strong short limbs, a squat body, short stature and a tight physique.
  2. Easy. This type of horse has a light exterior and long dry legs. They are used exclusively for riding.

Initially, the prevailing number of skittles had three suits. The first suggested a golden bay color. The second color golden-red in Karabakh was often referred to as curen. And the most rare among these colors was Naryng. This color combined a completely golden coat on the body, limbs and head with a brown mane and tail.

Reference. These colors of horses have become the reason that in the homeland of all Karabakh horses they call the word "Sarylyar". Translated from Karabakh, it means "golden."

In the course of further development of the pedigree line, the number of suits that are characteristic of it increased significantly. The most common among them are:

  • bay
  • Bulan
  • golden red
  • yellow with various shades
  • black
  • gray
  • redhead.

During the years of the Russian Empire

The son of Ibrahim Khan was not interested in breeding skittles and gave away most of the breeding core of his father's factories. The breed began to gradually disappear and was considered lost after the Persian invasion in 1826. It was possible to save a few representatives thanks to the work of the daughter of Ibrahim, Princess Utsmieva.

At the end of the 19th century, the Karabakh horse breed was included in the herds of the horse farm A. Platov, the creator of the Don horse breed. It is believed that the color characteristic of the Donetsk people is inherited by them from the Sarylars of Karabakh. As evidenced by the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, producers originating from the horses of Ibrahim Khan were used in the formation of the Kabardian, Deliboz, Upper Oryol, Trakenen and other breeds.

At the beginning of World War I, horses unsuitable for cavalry gradually began to disappear. But even in difficult times for development, the horses retained individual signs of eastern blood and the golden-red color of the orange.

In the years of the USSR

They tried to restore the breed after the end of World War II. Aghdam stud farm was established in 1949. To form the core of breeding animals on the territory of Shushinsky, Agdam, Yevlakh and other regions, 27 mares and the only Karabakh horse (Sultan) with obvious signs of a lost breed were selected.

Stallions of Tersky and Arab blood were supposed to return to the offspring the growth that purebred Khan skittles had. For the new factory type was characterized by high agility. In races on flat terrain, the restored and improved breed showed a result of 2 minutes 9 seconds at 1600 m. At the end of the 50s, the USSR government presented the queen of Great Britain with a pet from the Agdam factory, the son of the Sultan, the stallion Zaman, and during the 80s, representatives breeds were sold to European countries.

In the Azerbaijan Republic

In the early 90s, the Karabakh conflict created a new threat to the existence of horses. Due to hostilities and the ensuing decline in the economy, horses were kept in inappropriate conditions, often transferred to new places. This influenced reproduction, and the number of thoroughbred representatives greatly decreased.

The use of horses of the Karabakh breed today

Today, the Karabakh horses are bred under the strict protection of the Azerbaijani government. These hardy animals are still used for horse riding. Many competitions and comparative races have shown that such animals are practically not inferior in speed to purebred Arabian horses and Akhal-Tekes. But if such races are held on rough mountainous terrain, then all rivals of the skittles immediately remain far behind.

Due to the listed advantages and working qualities, Karabakh is often used in equestrian sport. The most acceptable discipline for them is jumping. Also, animals are widely used to improve the quality of many well-known pedigree lines.

It is worth noting that obedient horses perfectly proved themselves in horseback riding. A trained animal unquestioningly carries out the commands of even inexperienced riders. Massive type of pedigree line is used for transportation of goods in the mountains. Also, Karabakhs act as an integral element of folk festivals and holidays in the region.

Reference. Today in Azerbaijan there are two large state stud farms and several private enterprises specializing in breeding of Karabakh horses. As for the number of stock of purebred skittles, to date, breeders have managed to increase their number to 200 animals.


The Karabakh horse is a beautiful, intelligent, obedient and extremely hardy animal that acts as a real pride for Azerbaijani breeders. Such horses appeared at the end of the XVII century, and their history suggests several periods at once, when the breed line was on the verge of extinction. But despite this, the Karabakh breeders still managed to save it. Thanks to their work, skittles are still popular in sports competitions and everyday life.