Horses play a large role in the daily and national life of the Mongols; it is traditionally said that . He wrote, "It is a pleasure to see the Mongols in association with their horses, and to see them on horseback is a joy. [T]he strength, swiftness. The Mongol horse is the native horse breed of Mongolia. The breed is purported to be largely .. "Microsatellite Variation in Japanese and Asian Horses and Their Phylogenetic Relationship Using a European Horse Outgroup". and talked to me of Mongolian horses the whole way there and back, and his .. relationship between horse and horseman is different in Mongolia that America.
Then the horse is taught to respond to the pull of the reins. This practice is not common in the rest of Mongolia however; wood is too scarce to be wasted on fencing. A herdsman must first catch the horse he wants; to do this, he mounts a special catch-horse which has been trained for the purpose. Carrying an urga, a lasso attached to a long pole, he chases after the horse he wants and loops the urga around its neck. The catch-horse helps the herdsmen pull back on the looped horse until it grows tired and stops running.
At this point another rider will come up and put a saddle on it and mount. The horse will run and buck until it recalls its earlier training and allows itself to be ridden.
Mongol horses are best known for their role as the war steeds of Genghis Khanwho is reputed to have said: The Khan's army, weapons, war tack and military tactics were built around the idea of mounted cavalry archers, and to a lesser extent light and heavy cavalry.
In the Secret History of the Mongols, Genghis Khan is recorded as urging his general Subutai to pursue his enemies as though they were wild horses with a catch-pole loop around their neck.
Mongol horses needed little water  and did not need to be fed daily rations of grain, as many European breeds did. Their ability to forage beneath the snow and find their own fodder allowed the Mongols freedom to operate without long supply trains, a factor which was key to their military success. Mongol horses were bred to survive in harsh conditions, making it possible for the Mongols to mount successful winter campaigns against Russia.
The excellent long distance endurance of the Mongol horse allowed warriors to outlast enemy cavalry during battle; the same endurance granted the Mongols a communications advantage across their widely spread out fronts, since messages had to be conveyed by horse. The main disadvantage of the Mongol horse as a war steed was that it was slower than some of the other breeds it faced on the battlefield. However, this drawback was compensated for by the fact that it was typically required to carry less weight than other cavalry horses.
Although the Mongol horse is almost a pony, it acquired a fearsome reputation among the Mongols' enemies. Matthew Paris, an English writer in the s, described the small steeds as, "big, strong horses, which eat branches and even trees, and which they [the Mongols] have to mount by the help of three steps on account of the shortness of their thighs. Each warrior would bring a small herd of horses with him 3 - 5 being average, but up to 20 as remounts.
They would alternate horses so that they always rode a fresh horse. The Mongols did not make a practice of eating their conquered enemies. Soldiers preferred to ride lactating mares because they could use them as milk animals.
Horse culture in Mongolia
In times of desperation, they would also slit a minor vein in their horse's neck and drain some blood into a cup. This they would drink either "plain" or mixed with milk or water. Matthew Paris, an English writer in the s, wrote scornfully, " For they are inhuman and beastly, rather monsters than men, thirsting for and drinking blood Ibn al-Athir observed, "Moreover they [the Mongols] need no commissariat, nor the conveyance of supplies, for they have with them sheep, cows, horses, and the like quadrupeds, the flesh of which they eat, naught else.
As for their beasts which they ride, these dig into the earth with their hoofs and eat the roots of plants, knowing naught of barley. And so, when they alight anywhere, they have need of nothing from without. During the conquest of the city of BukharaGenghis Khan's cry, "Feed the horses! Animals like gazelles were taken with bow and arrow from the backs of horses, while other game was rounded up by mounted riders.
Armies would also hunt for food while on the march, an activity which could wear out the horses. Genghis Khan, concerned that his soldiers would use up the strength of their horses before reaching the battlefield, instructed general Subutai that he should set limits on the amount of hunting his men did.
Elizabeth Kendall observed, "These Mongolian wolves are big and savage, often attacking the herds, and one alone will pull down a good horse or steer. The people wage more or less unsuccessful war upon them and at times they organize a sort of battue.
Men, armed with lassoes, are stationed at strategic points, while others, routing the wolves from their lair, drive them within reach. The Mongols used many tools meant specifically to attack mounted riders. The spear used by warriors had a hook at the end which was used for dehorsing opponents and snagging the legs of enemies' horses.
They also used whistling arrows to frighten opposing horses. Mongols had no qualms about shooting the mounts out from under other cavalrymen; there was even a particular type of arrow especially designed for the purpose.
The Mongols preferred to use a whip to urge their horses on during battle, while their European opponents preferred spurs. The whip provided them with a tactical advantage because it was more safe and effective than spurs: The animal in question had had a white-speckled muzzle.
When Jebe was captured later, he admitted flat out to the Khan's face that he had fired the arrow in question. Genghis Khan admired the man's courage, and instead of killing Jebe, he took him into his own army. Many years later, when Jebe had become a general, Genghis Khan became concerned that his subordinate had ambitions to replace him. To allay the Khan's suspicions, Jebe sent him a gift of 1, horses with white speckled muzzles.
Pian de Carpine described the procedure as follows: After that they put their saddles and other hard things on it, and the men likewise sit on it. Then they tie the boat thus made to the tail of a horse, and a man swims along ahead leading it; or they sometimes have two oars, and with them they row across the water, thus crossing the river.
Some of the poorer people have a leather pouch, well sewn, each man having one; and in this pouch or sack they put their clothing and all their things, and they tie the mouth of the bag tightly, and tie it to the tail of a horse, then they cross as stated above.
A similar system of horse-expedited mail was still practiced in Mongolia as of Elizabeth Kendall described it as follows: The Mongols who are employed for the work go through from city to city in seven days, galloping all the way, with frequent changes of horses and, less frequent, of men. The mane of a stallion is never cut, though the manes of geldings are.
After a stallion dies, the owner may save the mane. The first foal of the year will also have a blue scarf tied around its neck; this foal is believed to represent the strength of the year's crop of foals.
When a Mongol rider passes an ovoo, they may offer some of their horse's tail hairs before proceeding. The horse is generally never ridden, though on rare occasions the head of the household may do so. Historically, horses were sacrificed on special occasions; it is recorded that 40 horses were sacrificed at the funeral of Genghis Khan.
There was also kumis mare's milk for the deceased to drink. In "The Secret History of the Mongols," it is recorded that Genghis Khan sprinkled mare's milk on the ground as a way to honor a mountain for protecting him.
Before battle, the Mongols would sprinkle mare's milk on the ground to ensure victory. Sprinkled milk was also used for purification; envoys to the Khan were required to pass between two fires while being sprinkled with mare's milk to cleanse them of evil devices and witchcraft. William of Rubruck noted in that, "If he [a Mongol master of the house] were to drink [liquor while] seated on a horse, he first before he drinks pours a little on the neck or the mane of the horse.
Milk may also be sprinkled after people who are leaving on a journey. To show respect, they may take the horse's skull and place it on an oovo, a pile of rocks used in the shamanic religion.
Article: The Horse in Mongolian Culture | AMNH
Others believe that when a horse is killed for food, its skull should be left in the field because of the sanctity of the horse. It is considered disrespectful for a horse's skull or hooves to be stepped upon; for this reason, such remains may be hung from a tree. Horses are believed to have spirits that can help or hurt their owner after death. When a deceased horse's spirit is content, the owner's herd will flourish; if not, then the herd will fail.
The wind horse is depicted on the official Mongolian coat of armswhich features a winged horse. In one story, a Mongolian Robin Hood figure stole livestock from the rich and gave them to the poor.
One day he was being pursued by lawmen on horseback, and he came to a river his horse could not cross. It looked like he would soon be caught, but seeing a mountain in the distance, he prayed to it for help and his horse rose from the ground and flew over the river to the top of the mountain.
In this tale, a shepherd named Namjil the Cuckoo received the gift of a flying horse; he would mount it at night and fly to meet his beloved. The grieving shepherd made a horsehead fiddle from the now-wingless horse's skin and tail hair, and used it to play poignant songs about his horse.
So the first horsehead fiddle was assembled, with horse bones as its neck, horsehair strings, horse skin covering its wooden soundbox, and its scroll carved into the shape of a horse head.
Mongolian horse - Wikipedia
Horses are common characters in Mongolian folklore. The frequently recurring motif of the young foal who becomes separated from his family and must make his way in the world alone is a type of story that has been described as endemic to Mongolian culture. InHaslund wrote, "Of forty-two Mongolian songs which I noted down in my years in Mongolia no less than seventeen are about horses. They have titles like: The horse may be born at the same time as the hero or just before him.
It possesses great strength, speed, magic, and intelligence. The horse may have the power to magically change its shape; it provides the hero with counsel, and can even predict the future. As regards the latter ability, one plot development that occurs repeatedly is the disaster that results when the hero disregards his horse's advice. In other epics the hero cannot defeat his monstrous manggus foe without asking for help from his horse. The horse may even use its magical powers to assist the hero in courting his beloved.
We have not yet found any epic in this nomadic tradition that is without a steed and the assistance it provides. The most famous horse from the epic is AranjagaanJangar 's mount. Aranjagaan was sired by a seven-year-old Heavenly Horse who came down to mate with a mortal mare by a lake. There is intertextual conflict about this later in the epic, where Aranjagaan's father is described as an ordinary horse who was ridden by Jangar's father.
Aranjagaan's capabilities are described in epic style: He had a huge tail and ears. He had hooves the size of a sheep pen and a butt as hard as cast iron.
As soon as he was born, he hissed and frightened away wolves, which had stalked near the stall. At the age of one, he joined a war.
At two, he fought wars north and south. He was in his prime at the age of seven. Aranjagaan hissed excitedly, making tree leaves, grasses and stones thunder and even frightening boars dozens of baraa away. His power seemed to radiate from within him. One leap forward would bring his rider hundreds of meters away.
His power would hold anyone in great awe. His red brilliance was fiery and dazzled everyone who saw him. Even Aranjagaan's roaring shook enemies and weakened their knees. Even the nameless horses like Altan Gheej's crimson mount have poetically glorified capabilities. The crimson horse is described as having a tail 80 feet long and ears like pestles. It can run at a full gallop for two months straight and swim across a sea for 25 days. Moligen Tabuga's scarlet horse is described as being as large as forty-nine seas.
Sanale's red horse has ears like iron bars.
These sizes and abilities are typical for all epic steeds in the Jangar. In particular, the size of the tail, ears, and hooves are praised, though occasionally one will find the horse's legs described as tree trunks, etc. Indeed, the motif of the divinely born horse is repeated in the epic, as when the history of Aletan Kale's wondrous buff and white horse is given: The heavenly horse met and mated with a beautiful female horse at the bank of Kas Lake.
Then the heavenly horse licked her face and flew away, leaving a heartbroken companion. The female horse gave birth to the buff and white horse with endless expectations. When Jangar is struck with a poisoned arrowAranjagaan realizes what has happened and carefully carries Jangar to safety.
To keep his swaying master from toppling off, the horse skillfully leans back and forth, even going so far as to crouching down his forelegs or hindlegs when ascending and descending hills to keep his back level.
When they arrive at a house, he lays down to let his rider gently fall off. On another occasion, Aranjagaan runs to a place where a battle is occurring and begins to fight, riderless, alongside the hero. During fights, the epic narrative typically switches back and forth between describing the combat of riders and the actions of their horses, i. In battles, the poets describe the horse as a self-willed actor.
There are few descriptions of rein-pulling or leg guidance; rather, the impression is that the horse chooses how best to carry on the fight as it works in concert with its rider. The horses bite and kick enemies, and will even bite enemy horses. During a battle, Sanale's red horse "provided him with inexhaustible power. It kicked the enemies eighteen thousand times from the left and then eighteen thousand times from the right so that the spears, broadswords, and arrows were broken.
It fought like a huge eagle extending its wings. In a long-running battle, Altan Gheej's crimson horse is "beaten black and blue and scabbed all over. With eyes covered by blood, the horse was nearly trapped by the enemy several times. Seeing the situation was urgent, Altan Gheej whipped the horse to the sea and swam for awhile. The blood was cleaned and the wounds healed up magically. When Hongor's livid horse sees Hongor equipped for war, it kicks and snorts with excitement.
The horses often have adventures of their own, like getting caught in a whirlpool and escaping by grabbing a branch in their teeth and hauling themselves onto shore. Herdsmen regard their horses as both a form of wealth and a source of the daily necessities: The horses typically eat nothing but grass and require very little water, a trait useful for survival in environments like the Gobi desert.
A horse may drink only once a day. For water, they eat snow. During particularly hard winters " zuds "horses may starve to death en masse or die of exposure. Herdsmen can do little to save their herds in such conditions. In the bitter winter of - Mongol horses perished. The horse is believed to have been first domesticated somewhere in the Eurasian Steppe. Never have all the horses in Mongolia been domesticated at once; rather, wild and domesticated horses coexisted and interbred, so verifiably "true" wild blood no longer exists in the Mongol horses of today.
However, although not considered true wild horses in the same sense as Przewalski's horse, some feral Mongolian horses browse the steppe alongside their semiferal domesticated kin. Unlike the mustangs that roam the West in the United States, which are categorized as a non-native species, feral Mongol horses are living in the same manner and place as where their ancestors had run and lived for hundreds of thousands of years.
Occasionally, the nomads capture feral horses to add to their herds. History[ edit ] The split between Przewalski's horse and E. Tests have shown, that among all horse breeds, Mongol horses feature the largest genetic variety, followed by the Tuwinian horses.
This indicates that it is a very archaic breed suffering little human-induced selection. The data also indicate that many other breeds descend from the Mongol horses.
So, breeders have focused on created crossbreeds between foreign horses and native Mongolian stock. The ultimate goal is to produce a race horse that has one-quarter foreign blood and three-quarters Mongolian blood; this proportion is believed to create a horse hardy enough to survive in Mongolia and combine the Mongolian horse's stamina and endurance with foreign speed to produce a new breed with the best qualities of both.
This results in large foals that can be difficult for the small mares to birth. Since Mongolian mares typically give birth on their own without human supervision—and seldom have problems doing so—breeders have little experience on how to deal with the birthing problems that result due to the size of the crossed foals. To reduce birthing problems, a foreign mare could be bred to a native stallion to avoid the large foal problem, but in practice this reduces the numbers of crossbreed foals that can be produced each year.
In one breeding season, a foreign stallion can impregnate 10 native mares and produce 10 crossed foals, but a foreign mare can only be impregnated by a native stallion once and produce one crossed foal. One of these breeds was eventually exported to Iceland by settlers, producing the modern day Icelandic horsewhich bears a strong resemblance to the Mongol horse and lives in much the same way, foraging freely off the land during all seasons. The Exmoor, Scottish Highland, Shetland, and Connemara pony breeds have also been found to be related to the Icelandic horse, suggesting that all these northern European breeds had ancestors that grazed on the steppe of Mongolia.
Horse culture in Mongolia and Mongol military tactics and organization Mongol warrior on horseback, preparing a mounted archery shot Mongol horses are best known for their role as the war steeds of Genghis Khan.
The Mongol soldier relied on his horses to provide him with food, drink, transportation, armor, shoes, ornamentation, bowstring, rope, fire, sport, music, hunting, entertainment, spiritual power, and in case of his death, a mount to ride in the afterlife. Mongol horses made excellent warhorses because of their hardiness, stamina, self-sufficiency, and ability to forage on their own.
The main disadvantage of the Mongol horse as a war steed was that it was slower than some of the other breeds it faced on the battlefield. Soldiers preferred to ride lactating mares because they could use them as milk animals.
In times of desperation, they would also slit a minor vein in their horse's neck and drain some blood into a cup. This they would drink either "plain" or mixed with milk or water.
Each warrior would bring a small herd of horses with him three to five being average, but up to 20 as remounts. They alternated horses so that they always rode a fresh horse. Horse culture in Mongolia Child racing at the Naadam festival. The horse's forelock is put up into a topknot in the traditional race style. Horse racing is one of the "three manly arts". Horse racing is the second-most popular event in Mongolia, after traditional wrestling.
The native horses have excellent endurance. Though foreign breeds are faster than Mongolian horses, they are usually exhausted by the end of the run, while the Mongolian horses still have wind. Nevertheless, horses have died of exhaustion during the Naadam race on occasion.
- Article: The Horse in Mongolian Culture
- Mongolian horse
Each family selects the best horse from their herd and takes it to the fair to race. However, in recent years, the introduction of fast foreign crossbreeds has changed the sport. This has led to complaints that ordinary people no longer have a chance to win, and that racing has become the province of the elite. Children are used instead of adults because they are lighter.
Mongolians are not so much concerned with the skill and experience of a jockey as the ability of the horse. During the time of Genghis Khan, Mongol horse archers were capable of feats such as sliding down the side of their horses to shield their bodies from enemy arrows, while simultaneously holding their bows under the horses' chins and returning fire, all at full gallop. The education of a modern Mongolian horseman begins in childhood. Parents place their children on a horse and hold them there before they can even hang on without assistance.
By age 6, children can ride in races;  by age 10, they are learning to make their own tack. Materials such as books on horse training or medical care are uncommon and seldom used. Information is passed down orally from parent to child. A variety of rules for how tack and horses should be handled are known.