The Akhal Teke horse is a rare, exotic breed among horses. These horses are also nicknamed “Golden Horses” due to their shiny coat.
It is difficult to trace the exact history of this horse. But it is estimated that the lineage of the Akhal Teke horse can be traced back to more than 3,000 years. This breed is believed to be the progeny of the Turkoman horse.
The tribal people in Turkmenistan bred these horses. These horses were a source of income for them. They used an oral tradition to keep the record of the pedigrees of these horses. The tribals had strict methods of managing and training the horses.
The Russians called these horses Argamaks. History records talk of Han emperors from China who sacrificed armies to capture some of these horses. These horses were valued for their loyalty and stamina.
Breeding farms for Akhal Tekes were established in 1881 after Turkmenistan became a part of the Russian Empire. This breed owes its name to the Teke Turkmen tribe that inhabited the area near Akhal oasis.
At a certain point in time, the numbers of this breed fell significantly. This happened as they were slaughtered for meat. This eventually led to a ban on their export from the Soviet Union. Now they are used as diplomatic presents by the government of Turkmenistan. They are also auctioned to raise money for horse breeding programs.
There was some cross-breeding between Akhal Teke horse and Thoroughbred. The target was to create a faster long-distance racehorse. The result was Anglo Akhal Tekes. But these breeds were much more delicate than their original Akhal Teke ancestors. They succumbed to the tough climatic conditions of Central Asia.
Turkmenistan has created a separate agency called Turkmen Atlary. This agency is in charge of training maintenance and the breeding of Akhal Teke horses. Turkmen Atlary is the administrative arm of the International Akhal Teke Horse Association.
One of the largest horse-breeding center in Central Asia, the Akhalteke equestrian complex is situated in Ashgabat. There are monuments in different cities of Turkmenistan dedicated to the Akhal Teke horse. They are bred in different parts of the world like Europe, Australia, Uruguay and the US. In 1941 the first stud book for the breed was printed by the Soviet Union. This stud book included more than 700 horses.
The Akhal Teke is a tough breed that can easily endure the harsh climate and survive on minimal food and water. This breed owes its toughness to Turkmenistan. This breed displayed its endurance in 1935 when Turkmen rode 4,000 kilometers from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days. This included a three-day trip through the desert without water. This breed completed the trip in much better shape than the other breeds.
This breed is intelligent, intuitive and extremely loyal. They are quick learners, gentle, and they tend to develop a strong connection with their owners. They can also be spirited, bold and stubborn. These are hot-blooded active horses.
The studbook manager classifies the quality of Akhal Teke horses. They are categorized as Elite or Class I or Class II. The horses are put in various categories based on their achievements in sport, type, conformation, pedigree and the quality of offspring.
The grading events are held twice annually in Moscow, Russia. These events are “The International Sport Meeting and World Championship Heavenly Argamak”. The other event is the “Golden Akhal-Teke Cup Shael”.
Breeders present their horses in front of the judges. The horses are evaluated using various categories like age, gender, halter class and sport discipline at the World Championships.
This horse breed can subsist on a little food since they are desert horses. They need plenty of protein in their diets. They consume barley, pellets of mutton fat, alfalfa and grass.
Breeding And Uses
Tribals used these horses for raiding. They are good as sport horses due to their tough profile. They are popular as a competition horse. Akhal Teke horses take part in competitions around the world.
The breed grows to a height of around 14.2 hands to 16 hands. They weigh about 900-1000 lbs.
It is a slim built horse. The horses in America are smaller than the average size. The horses in Western Europe are larger than average size.
What Breeds Make Up The Akhal Teke Horse?
This breed originates from the Turkoman horse. But there is a dispute about the ancestors of Turkoman. DNA evidence points to a common ancestor for both Turkoman and Arabian horse. During the 14th and 19th century Arabian Mares were used to improve this breed.
Akhal Teke’s ancestry is known to contain a Thoroughbred. The studbook takes care to include only purebred horses.
All foals accepted in the studbook were blood typed since 1973. If the DNA of the parents is on the file then a DNA test based on hair follicles is sufficient for the foal to be included in the studbook. At present artificial insemination as well as embryo transfer is allowed for the breeding of Akhal Tekes. It is compulsory for the surrogate mother to be a purebred Akhal Teke horse. Only then the foal is registered in the general studbook as a purebred Akhla Teke.
Among the breed, three types are recognized. The first type is represented by the Gelishikili, Peren and Kaplan lines. The Karlavach and El Lines represent type 2. Type 3 is represented by Arab and Dor-Bairam lines. In the present day, 17 different lines are known to represent this breed.
They have fine coats and thin skins. They are found in a wide range of colors. Black, Bay and Red are the three main base coat colors in Akhal Teke. There are many variations in this base color caused due to gene modification.
In Akhal Tekes the shade of black varies from raven black to sunburned chestnut color. One dilute gene modifies black to create a smokey black. Two diluted genes result in a smokey cream color. Smokey cream-colored Akhal Tekes may have gray, hazel or blue eyes.
Bay color has variations like light golden bay, black bay or mahogany bay. One dilute gene modifies bay to produce buckskin color. Two dilute genes are responsible for the perlino shade. The bay colored Akhal Tekes often has red or gold highlights.
Buckskin colored Akhal Tekes when bred with a bay colored one produce perlino or cremello colored foals. Buckskin color has variations like golden buckskin, dark buckskin and smokey buckskin.
A single dilute gene modifies red to produce palomino color. When two dilute genes modify red the result is cremello. Akhal Tekes can also be of golden chestnut or liver chestnut.
Grays are another common color among the Akhal Tekes. Some may turn completely white with age.
A mention of roan color is found in ancient studbooks. There is no evidence of the existence of this color among the present Akhal Tekes.
Usually, the horse’s hair shaft has an opaque center. The Akhal Teke’s hair does not have this opaque center. Due to this, it refracts light giving the skin a glowing appearance.
The cream-toned horses have a golden glow while the gray-toned ones have a silvery glow. Some people claim that their color pattern doubles up as their camouflage in the desert.
What Do They Look Like?
They have a smooth gait. They often have white markings on the face and legs. The horse has large expressive eyes, long, narrow highly set ears and a small pretty head. The eyes can sometimes be almond-shaped. They have long and narrow head.
This breed has flat knees and well-defined tendons in the legs. Their joints are huge and their tiny hooves are extremely strong. The forearms and gaskins are long with smooth muscles.
This breed has a long body, narrow chest, sparse tail and fine legs with no feathering. The muscles are well-defined, and they tightly wrap around the bone giving the horse a lean appearance. Their withers look prominent. This horse has strong features peculiar to the breed.
What Are They Used For?
This breed of horse has been used as state gifts. They are a status symbol in Russia. At present, they are used for the following activities.
- Pleasure riding horse
- Long-distance racing
Where Do They Live?
The Akhal Teke horses originated in Turkmenistan but now they have gained popularity throughout the world. Countries like Switzerland, Estonia, Italy Russia and the Czech Republic have established Akhal Teke lineage. The largest populations of this breed can be found in Russia and Turkmenistan.
The Akhal Teke was brought to the United States in 1979. This breed is gaining a lot of popularity in the United States. The Akhal Teke Association of America was founded in 1983. It maintains separate registries for crossbreed and pure bloods. Several organizations across the world are supporting this breed. MAAK, the International Association of AKhal Teke Horse Breeding was founded in 1995.
It is estimated that there are only around 6,600 Akhal Tekes in the world. These can be found in Russia, Europe and North America.
How Long Do They Live?
These horses have a lifespan of 20 years. They are vulnerable to genetic illnesses.
- These breeds are susceptible to cervical vertebral malformation or wobbler syndrome. They also tend to suffer from Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis.
- Naked Foal Syndrome or Hairless Foal Syndrome. This is a monogenic autosomal, lethal recessive gene found in this breed. Since 1938 foals are being born with this condition. Foals with this defect are born without tail, hair or mane. Some foals have abnormal jaws or front teeth. The foals also suffer from recurring digestive disorders and frequent diarrhea. They also have problems like inflamed, dry skin and sunburns. This syndrome is fatal and foals die within weeks of birth.
- Akhal Teke stallions also suffer from Hereditary cryptorchidism. This affects many generations and causes health and behavior problems.
How Fast Are They?
When it comes to speed the Turkmen horses are among the fastest breeds. They can run at speeds of 30-35 miles per hour. They are extremely popular at racing events.
This breed has a long and easy gallop and free sliding trot. The Akhal Tekes does not swing its body while moving. Its pace is flexible and smooth with upright patterns.
How Much Do They Cost?
If you are looking to buy a purebred AKhal Teke then they are difficult to find. They are extremely rare and not easily found throughout the world. Their prices can range anywhere between $10,000 to $100,000.
Their price depends on their pedigree, age, training and health. Akhal Tekes with a prominent metallic shine are more expensive.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Akhal Tekes are sensitive, restless and excitable. They are not good for beginners. Handling an one can be tricky. They don’t like being handled by strangers. They prefer a single owner.
An experienced rider can train these horses using gently spoken words, small gestures and appreciative glances. Akhal Tekes don’t like to be shouted at. When handled roughly they can turn defensive due to their stubborn nature. You need to provide them with regular care and attention to develop a bond with them.
Their shiny coat requires regular bathing and grooming sessions. The grooming sessions can also be the time to bond with the horse. Once you develop a bond with this breed they remain devoted to you for a lifetime.
These intelligent horses are capable of guessing their owner’s mental state. They can even guess mental commands issued to them by their owner. Any confusion in your mind will only unsettle them.
The graceful and elegant Akhal Teke is the pride of Turkmenistan. They are found on the postage stamp, banknotes and official coat of arms in Turkmenistan.
They are among the oldest horse breeds alive. It is difficult to find an Akhal Teke in some parts of the world.
Owning an Akhla Teke can be a matter of pride. You have to be prepared to spare time and energy towards building a bond with this rare breed. But their love and loyalty will make it worth the trouble.