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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Karabakh   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The Karabakh is a rare Azerbaijani saddle horse breed, which is named after the region of Nagorny Karabakh where it was developed. It is the national animal of Azerbaijan.

Karabakh horses roamed the mountains of Azerbaijan hundreds of years ago. During the 18th century, they were crossed with Arabian, Akhal-Teke, and Turkemenian horses. This crossbreeding is what gave the Karabakh horse the conformation and metallic coat that it has today. The Karabakh became known for its impressive endurance and decent speed, and breeders from other countries started to import Karabakh horses in order to improve the local stocks. Furthermore, Karabakh horses played a role in the development of new horse breeds, the most famous of which is the Russian Don (see the 'Don' for more info.)

The breeding of Karabakh horses continued until 1826, when the Russo-Persian war erupted. During the war, stud farms were destroyed and breeders had to flee to Iran. Following the war, the interest in Karabakh horses was lost because of their small size; Karabakh horses were about 14hh tall on average, making them significantly shorter than other cavalry breeds. As a result, the numbers of Karabakh horses declined steadily, and by the 20th century only a few dozens of pure Karabakh horses were left.

During the 20th century, there were several attempts to restart the breeding of pure Karabakh horses, but to no avail. Moreover, the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which started in 1988, didn't help the breed either, as breeders had to constantly relocate with their horses. This is why, during the 1990s, the numbers of Karabakh horses were so low that the breed was the brink of extinction.

Luckily, in 2007, the Azerbaijani government began a conservation plan to save the Karabakh breed. As such, new stud farms for Karabakh horses were established, and genealogical research which include genetic profiling of Karabakh horses was initiated. In addition, the government also banned the exportation of Karabakh horses. Furthermore, in 2013, the Azerbaijani conservation plan received additional support when UNESCO declared that the Azerbaijani game Chovqan is an "Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding."

Chovqan (also spelled 'Chovgan') is a horse-riding game that was developed around 2,000 years ago, and which is often regarded as the ancient version of polo. In this game, the players, who are divided into two groups, are equipped with wooden mallets, and ride on Karabakh horses. The aim of the game is to use the mallets to hit a leather ball through the opponent's goalposts. Because only Karabakh horses are allowed in Chovqan, and because the Chovqan is an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the conservation of the Chovqan game includes the conservation of the Karabakh breed. That said, the breed is still rare and considered to be threatened.

Karabakh horses are lightly built horses who have long and thin necks, legs, and bodies. They have an energetic spirit, excellent endurance, and decent speed. Today, they are usually used for endurance racing, and in Chovqan games.

Karabakh horses come primarily in the colors of bay, chestnut and, to a lesser extent, grey and dun. In addition, the coat always tends to be light. As such, Karabakh horses don't come in sooty, and will be penalized if they have coats that are too dark in color. Furthermore, the coat of Karabakh horses often has a metallic sheen, and horses who lack it will be penalized as well. Karabakh horses stand between 13.1hh and 15.1hh.

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