Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kyrgyz horses

Jim and I are intrigued by Central Asia, and curious what we can learn as livestock producers from producers in other regions of the world, especially people who run sheep in wolf country. Recently we were doing research on Kyrgyzstan and saw an interesting reference to the small and stout horses they use in that country, called Kyrgyz Ate. These horses were on the verge of extinction, but a program has been put in place for their restoration, and now festivals are held to showcase these animals. The founder of the program was quoted as saying: “Some shepherds in the high altitudes still had this type of horse that is stronger, more economical, that can fight wolves.”

A horse that fights wolves? Kyrgyzstan has one of the highest densities of wolves in Central Asia, with an estimated population of 4,000 wolves. Without firearms, shepherds would run down wolves, clubbing them to death from atop their steeds.

Although we looked for more information, we found just a few other references to these horses guarding their livestock flocks and horse herds. A Social Sciences article by Nicolas Lescureux talked about the relationship between Kyrgyz stockmen and wolves, and this French researcher summarized the various ways wolves and humans interact and change behaviors in response to those interactions. He noted that the stockmen use a variety of methods to reduce the amount of wolf depredation on their herds, and added, “the ability of a stallion to protect its herd against wolves is a greatly appreciated criterion.”

Apparently wolf depredation on horse herds is rather common in both Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. While sheep and goats may be corralled at night in winter, horse herds remain out on pastures, proving vulnerable to wolves. As an aside, the Kyrgyzs insist their horses are different than horses found in Mongolia.

After reading these enticing little morsels of information, our interest in Central Asia continues to increase. Oh what they know that we would like to learn …


LabRat said...

So not only are they the angry, spherical little horses you always see Genghis Khan pictured astride, they also kill wolves.


Steve Bodio said...

Great post!

Funny though--the Mongols, Kazakhs, and Kyrgiz all think their horses are different and their own superior. I have ridden the first two and can't see any difference whatsoever.

Of course they say the same about their sighthounds (;-))

When I get back to blogging I'll show a photo of a festival in Kyrgizstan that proves every intergrade of dog from Taigan to Tazi exists-- pretty sure same goes for horses.

Retrieverman said...

I wonder if these might have a touch of Takhi or Przewalski's horse in them.

A few years ago I read a story about some very predatory large dogs that decided to attack a mare with a foal. Two of these dogs were wolf-dogs, although their claimed high content was questionable.

The mare fought these dogs all over her pasture. They kept coming for her foal, and she let them have it. It wasn't long until the dogs decided to stop fighting the foal and go after the mare instead. The dogs actually killed the mare, disemboweling her as they tore at her soft underbelly with their jaws.

When I was growing up I was given a pony for my fifth birth day. She was stabled with my grandfather's old "work" horse, which rode inspecting oil and natural gas wells. This horse was a cross of Arab and Tennessee walking lines and was a bit of scrapper. He had been nearly impossible to break.

One day, a pack of six bluetick coonhounds descended upon the pasture. These dogs are very poorly trained animals that had developed a reputation as livestock worriers. They spotted my pony grazing at the far end of the pasture and took off after her.

They chased her to the barn, where the old work horse had been taking his afternoon siesta. Upon hearing the pony's cries, he came charging from his slumber. He then proceeded to stomp the nearest hound-- not so hard that he hurt the dog but enough to scare it. Stomped five hounds in this manner, and the remaining two soon realized that it would be a better idea to get the heck out of there.

And they did.

Anonymous said...

I had a Spanish Mustang once upon a time that hated dogs and would lay his ears back and attack, unprovoked. I was told this was an instinctual behavior from generations past, but never quite believed it, until he went after my own dogs and I had to keep them in the truck when we rode. If you know what I mean when I say "snake-head" then you can visualize the scene.

Annie in VA

Anonymous said...

Annie in Va.--that brings back some memories! I used to have some friends who had a Quarter horse-X-Mustang cross, that I would ride through the mountains whenever(frequently) I visited them. She was quite spirited and had an "iron mouth" in regards to paying much attention to the bit--riding her was always exciting and interesting because you never knew WHAT this horse was going to do next! As often happens when horse riding, every house you pass with loose dogs(which in this area was every house!), will have them charging out to chase off intruders--something that can easily panic many horses. Not THIS horse! Female though she was, she would "snake neck"(I quickly learned to let her have her head on these occaisions) and chase those dogs all over creation, so much so that many of them soon learned to leave us alone! I found neighborhood-dog-chasing on horseback to be quite the sport!....L.B.