The Misaki is one of eight native Japanese horse breeds, though it is probably the rarest.
The small horse breed is now listed as critically endangered with only approximately 120 specimens remaining in 2007. The breed lives its life in the wild, residing in the natural setting surrounding the National Monument On Cape Toi. This area was declared a national monument in 1953 and the area attracts many tourists, looking to catch a glimpse of the wild horses.
In honour of the breed, it was named a Japanese National Natural treasure over 65 years ago in 1953. As mentioned, the fundamental characteristic of the Misaki breed is their small stature. Generally, the breed stands at an average height of 132cms at the withers, or between 12.2 and 13.2 hands, making them the size of a pony. They are usually a bay or black coloured animal, with some chestnut brown specimens also. White markings are extremely rare, however.
It is not known the exact origins of the Misaki breed, though it is thought that the breed derived from stock brought from different parts of the Asian continent.
The first importations of this type were said to have taken back by the 6th century if not before. The breed was originally used for farming purposes, as a pack animal, as their small size meant they were not equipped for draught work. They were also used by the Japanese during war, that was until the late 16th century when firearms became widely distributed.
Recent genetic testing done on Japanese and Mongolian horse breeds have determined that the Misaki breed is closely related to other breeds such as the Yonaguni, Tokare and Noma breeds.
The Misaki breed were always small in stature, with remains dating back to 1185-1333 showing that they ranged in height from 110 to 140cms at the withers. It wasn’t until 1697 that the breed was first recognised in historical records, as several feral horses in the area were gathered to help develop a pool of breeding stock. This was done by the Akizuki family of the Takanabe clan.
Numbers of the Misaki breed began to decline as the years progressed, with only 53 specimens recorded in 1973. This number had increased to at least 120 today, though the breed remains listed as critical-maintained by the FAO.
One of Japan’s and the world’s rarest breeds with just over 100 remaining in existence. The Misaki came to Japan over 2,000 years ago and we can only hope it is here for another 2,000 more.