The Caspian horse, also known as the Khazar Horse, is a small breed, native to Northern Iran.
Although extremely small in size, varying in height from 9 to 11.2hands, the Caspian is not considered a pony due to its conformation, character and other horse-like characteristics. It is thought that the breed is the oldest surviving in the world, with remains of a potential descendant dating back to 3,400 BC found in Iran in 2011. These remains were discovered during an archaeological dig at Gohar Tappeh. The Caspian breed was also found depicted in ancient artforms, shown pulling chariots.
The Caspian breed was thought to descend from a small horse breed from the Mesopotamian period, such as the remains found in 2011. The breed is said to originate from the mountainous regions of Northern Iran, which is why they are so agile, tough and athletic. The breed was first referenced in literature around 600CE.
The breed became extremely popular during the heights of the Persian Empire, used for transportation purposes due to their speed and strength. They were primarily used for pulling small chariots and carts. These Caspian variations were thought to be much smaller than modern day versions. On occasion in recent years, A larger mare and stallion have been reported to produce small foals, like the ancient forms of the breed. It is thought that this lack of height is caused by a recessive gene.
The fourth king of the Persian Empire, King Darius the Great, used the Caspian breed during lion hunts. Although widely popular throughout Persia at the time, the breed almost disappeared from history due to war. There was no further mention of the breed after 700AD until 1965, with many believing they were already extinct.
In 1965, the breed was then “rediscovered” by American born breeder, Louise Firouz, who was searching for small horses to be ridden by children. She found a small number of peasant-owned stock in the region and noted they were of high-quality and a “well-bred oriental horse”. She purchased a stallion there and then and soon began a breeding programme. Louise’s efforts led to the redevelopment and a renewed interest in the breed.
Experts believe modern forms of the breed were formed from the quality foundation stock of the Persian Empire. The breed is still found in its native Northern Iran to this day. The Iran/Iraq war of the late 1980’s contributed to a decrease in populations, while some pure forms of the breed were exported to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US during these times.
The breed is now considered rare, one of the rarest in the world, with no definitive population numbers.
Picture below - Caspian Horse Society
Characteristics and uses -
As mentioned, the Caspian breed is a very small horse breed, usually standing between 9-11.2hands tall.
A breed with many small/short characteristics, including a short head, short ears and a small muzzle. Caspian horses do, though, have large eyes and nostrils. In general, the Caspian breed is a slim breed, with a long, graceful neck, a high-set tail and good withers.
A strong and hardy breed, Caspian horse have both strong legs and hooves. In fact, their hooves resemble those of a donkey, because they are oval shaped. Generally, the Caspian breed is a grey/black/bay/dun or chestnut colour, with some white markings allowed on the legs and head.
A hardy, intelligent and docile breed, Caspian horses are now mainly raised for leisure riding purposes, ridden by children usually. They are still also used as cart ponies to this day in their native Iran. The breed also has extraordinary jumping abilities, which is why they are also now entered in show jumping and eventing competitions.
One of the world’s most ancient breeds, with links to remains found in 3,400BC, the Caspian Horse was once deemed extinct by experts, thankfully, however, it defied all odds and survives to this day.
Main picture Credit - Bob Langrish Photography