By PetMD Editorial on Jan. 3, 2010

The Karabakh is one of the oldest saddle-horse breeds in the world. Originating from Azerbaijan, particularly between the rivers of Kura and Araks in the Nagorno Karabakh region in South Caucasus, this horse breed is a favorite for pack and riding duty. It is also used in inter-breeding programs to improve other horse breeds. The Karabakh is a result of mixing various well-known breeds such as the Turkmenian, the Arab and the Persian.


Physical Characteristics


Long-term mountain breeding endowed the Karabakh with special characteristics. Karabakh horses are small but compact; they have well-developed muscles and tendons, a straight back, a medium but high-set neck, well-defined withers, a medium-length but wide and muscular croup, and hard, surefooted hooves set in strong, well-formed legs.


The Karabakh has large, alert eyes, a small muzzle, a broad and well-formed forehead, dilating nostrils, and a small head. Its chest is deep; its skin is made up of soft hair; its mane, tail and forelock are usually sparsely covered with hair. There is usually no hair in areas near the ears, the muzzle and the eyes, as well as on the insides of the legs. It comes in various colors such as gray, sorrel, chestnut, bay, or lemon with a unique silver and golden sheen.


Personality and Temperament


Judging by their appearance, Karabakh horses are graceful animals. They are alert and brave, but they are generally good-natured and non-aggressive. Their lively temperament combined with their ready obedience makes the Karabakh one of the top choices as a mount and pack horse. The Karabakh is known for it surefootedness and ability to handle mountainous terrain; it is brave enough to handle narrow paths that can scare other horses.


History and Background


Before the 19th Century, the Karabakh Khanate was one of the busiest horse-breeding centers in the Caucasus region. The Karabakh was used extensively to improve the stock of neighboring countries. At this time, Karabakh horses were usually bred in mountainous regions; this helped endow them with the unique characteristics for which they are known.


Despite its importance in inter-breeding programs, the Karabakh breed experienced a decline during the first half of the 19th Century. This was partly a result of Iranian raids which damaged the farms that bred the Karabakh. The decline was also partly due to the relatively small build of the horse, rendering it useless for military work and sporting events.


The numbers further declined, even with ensuing efforts to save the breed from extinction. It was not until in the late 1940s, when a handful of purebred Karabakh horses were placed in an Azerbaijan farm, that the Karabakh propagation efforts showed positive results.

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