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Extinction by NAIS




















































 

Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995

THE AKHAL-TEKE

Today's Akhal-Teke (pronounced AK-HAL TE-KE) horse is very different from other breeds because it has been bred for three thousand years in an isolated area of the world. Known as "the greyhound of horses," this breed gets its name from the Akhal area in Turkmenistan, a country that borders the Caspian Sea, Iran, and Afghanistan. The Tekes were the tribes that originally developed this breed, which has remained unchanged for almost three thousand years. Its body is long and tube-like, its back is long, and the rib cage is narrow. It has a long, narrow neck, which sometimes gives the appearance of being attached to its shoulders at the wrong angle (ewe neck) and a fine, elegant, long face. Viewed from the side, the horse's neck and head may resemble a cobra snake ready to strike. The nose is straight or sometimes just a bit dished with long, alert ears and large eyes whose eyelids are thick and hooded as a protection against blowing sand. All four legs are long and thin but muscular, and the hooves are small but very hard. Unlike any other horse breed, the Akhal -Teke's rear pasterns have the same length as the front pasterns, and the fetlocks do not grow hair. It has wide nostrils for deep breathing. His particular build enables him to "slide" over the ground in a flowing manner so that he provides a smooth ride. At the jump, he tucks his front legs and like a deer, can clear an obstacle from a standstill. They are able to run about 80 miles between watering holes, survive many days on the run without much food, and their shiny, metallic-covered skins help them be less visible to any perceived enemies. In fact this horse appears to survive on just about any kind of food. In the past when grass was scarce in the desert, the Turkmen hand-fed their horses with sheep fat, eggs, barley, and a fried-dough cake known as quatlame. Because of these abilities to survive under the harshest conditions, the Akhal-Teke horses helped the Teke tribes escape conquest by the Roman armies of ancient times. When the Turkmen or Tekes migrated to Central Asia about 1000 AD, their prized Akhal-Tekes even made it possible for them to conquer most of the area that we now call the Middle East.

The Akhal-Teke, like the Arabian and the Thoroughbred, is considered a hot-blood. It will not submit to shouting or harsh punishment, and it may not be a good choice for a nervous rider who becomes easily irritated. It prefers the wide-open spaces and consistently excels in the modern endurance contests because it can endure hunger, heat, cold, and thirst longer than any other breed of horse, including the Arabian. It often develops a dog-like devotion and loyalty to one owner. Some owners swear that the horse can understand their thoughts and is very sensitive and intelligent.

The Akhal-Teke comes in a variety of colors: chestnut, bay, gray, palomino, black, perlino, cremello, and dun. Although the black color does not show any metallic quality, the gray is silvery, and the remaining colors all have a gold shimmer. Although light-colored palominos were once forbidden as breeding stock because of their weak eyesight in glaring sunshine, they are now highly favored. Although the Akhal-Teke does not have loud pinto spotting, it can be a roan or sabino or it can be a rabicano, a solid-colored horse with a multi-colored tail. The color that Turkmen like the best is dun (similar to buckskin) with black knees and black tail. The dun has tiny eyebrow-like stripes above its black eyes, and its ears have black fringes.

One of the most famous Turkmenian legends centers around an Akhal-Teke named Gyr-at, translated as Gray Horse. Another legend insists that an Akhal-Teke won a racing-match against a falcon in flight. These legends have been preserved as oral history, stories passed down from father to son for generations. Likewise, Teke breeders of ancient times did not write down the pedigrees of the horses, but instead passed on oral records of the Akhal-Tekes' bloodlines. Unlike the early Beduin tribes in Arabia, who most valued the female or dam lines, the Tekes valued the male or sire lines most highly. The Turkmen further honored their horses by adorning them with silver or camel-hair "necklaces." The Akhal-Teke in the drawing is wearing four such necklaces.

The Russian Empire brutally conquered Turkmenistan in 1869. Almost immediately serious Russian breeders and military leaders became interested in the wondrous Teke-Akhal horse as a way of conquering more land for Russia. They established a formal Teke-Akhal studbook in 1885, the year that the foundation stallion, Boinou, was foaled. Under the influence of Russian breeders, 18 different sire lines were established. Today, there are 17 sire lines in Russia, 12 of which descend from Boinou. By 1997 the Russian Stud Book listed only 290 stallions and 1194 mares. Although Akhal-Tekes are now bred in the United States and other parts of the world, they are still considered very rare and command very high prices.

Diane Jones
Windt im Wald Farm  

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