Everyone knows the history of the Appaloosa horse, which was bred in North America by the Nez Perce tribe, but how the spotted horse got to the American mainland is still a big question and a topic of heated debate among lovers and admirers of this beautiful breed.
In this article, I would like to share my vision and the results of my research and research, which were carried out with the assistance of my friends ConorWoodman, Scott Engstrom and Dr.Gus Cothran (USA), for which I express my deepest gratitude.
The spotted horse – Chaar (in the Kyrgyz language) has been bred since ancient times by the Kyrgyz nomads, which is considered one of the most ancient nations, with a large and very interesting nomadic culture. The ancient Kyrgyz roamed from one place to another in search of better pastures for livestock. The harsh conditions of nomadic life taught the nomads the selection of domesticated cattle, who could survive in harsh climatic conditions and support long distances of roaming.
It’s no secret that the spotted horse meets all these requirements. The horse served as a transport, a loyal combat friend, nomads used horse milk and meat.
Based on historical data, the territory of the Kyrgyz Khanate was huge from Siberia, Altai mountains to Central Asia. The main center of nomadic culture is the territory of the Altai mountains (Russia), from where nomads spreaded in different directions to Yakutia, Siberia, Kazakh steppes, Tien Shan mountains (Kyrgyzstan) and, of course, to the American land through the Bering Strait. Of course, the nomads needed to have hardy horses, which are spotted horses. Today, studying the spreading area of the spotted horse, we can trace and recreate very interesting historical data of the nomadic people and the connection between them.
I deeply believe that the horse itself could not get to the American mainland, the horse moved there together with the people. Scant studies of American Indian folklore and Kyrgyz folklore indicate that they have common cultural values such as: patterns on carpets, some traditions and beliefs, the similarity of some words. In 2012, genetic studies were also carried out by Professor Gus Cothran (watch the movie true appaloosa), where he finds the similarity of the genotype of the American Appaloosa and the Kyrgyz spotted horse.
Below is the conclusion of Professor Gus Cothran:
The KYRGYZSTAN Horse genetically is one of the central Asian horses that include the Mongolian horse, the Yakutian Horse and the Altai horses. These horses are distinct from the more western/Middle Eastern breeds such as the Arabian, Akhal Teke and Turkoman, although overall these horses are more related to each other than they are to horse breeds from Europe. Of course this statement is based upon the sample of 30 Kyrgystan horses that we sampled in 2012 and does not represent the whole of the horses of this nation or the region. However, the consistency of the relationships based upon geography and history indicates that the horses that we have tested of the type of horses that would be found in the region. The genetic diversity of the Kyrg horse is good, being just slightly higher than the average level for domestic horses, but is indicative of a predominantly closed breeding population and not a mixed group of diverse horse types. About half the horses tested showed the Leopard complex spotting pattern (Lp), known in the USA as Appaloosa, and the genetic mutation that causes the pattern was the same as that seen in Lphorses around the world. Comparison of the genomic region around Lp of the Kyrg horses to that found in other Lp horses from the US and Europe suggest, but does not prove, that the Lp mutation arose in Asia. More work in this area is needed, including sampling Lp horses from other parts of Asia. As well, somewhere around half the Kyrg horses we tested carried the genetic variant of the DMRT3 gene associated with a lateral gait. This variant, popularly known as the Gait Keeper Gene, is widely distributed worldwide but it was interesting to find it here because it is not commonly seen in Asia. Overall, the results of testing the Kyrgyztan horses have provided new insights into the genetics of horses and have shown that more testing of horses from this part of the world could provide valuable information about the genetics of the horse.
Doctor Gus Cothran
Depending on nomads migration, I believe there were mixing of the blood of spotted horses with other breeds of horses. For example, we can notice the difference in the exterior of the Mongolian, Yakut, Altai and Kyrgyz breeds of the spotted horse.
But why, I emphasize that it was the Kyrgyz’s who were the first to breed this horse? Why not Kazakhs or Mongols? Here I rely on the data of the ancient Kyrgyz folklore, where the spotted horse is praised and all its qualities are were very clearly described. In the epic “Manas” the horse of the hero was a spotted horse. Epic “Manas” is the largest in the world, included in the Guinness Book and included in the list of masterpieces of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind by UNESCO. It is very difficult to determine what period this epic belongs to, the first mentions of the epic date back to the 16th century.
In 1994, the UN General Assembly approved aresolution to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Manas epic. Also, a lot has been said in Chinese history about the connection of the spotted horse with the nomadic people who lived in Central Asia.
Summarizing the above, I believe that the Altai region was the center the spotted horse. The first breeders of the spotted horse were the Kyrgyz nomadic people.
I would also like to draw your attention to how the spotted horse is called in different languages:
In Kyrgyz: Chaar
In Kazakh: Shubar
In Russian: chubaraya
In Altai: Chookyr
Unfortunately, in modern Kyrgyzstan the spotted horse Chaar, along with horses of the Kyrgyz breed, have met many losses and hardships.
Many horses during Tsarist Russia were exported to Russia for the purpose of crossing with other horse breeds, in order to improve their cavalry. Many horses were taken to the front during the Second World War, where almost all of them were died. Already during the Soviet Union, in the days of collective and state farms, Russian zootechnicians began to develop a new breed, “Novokirgizskaya”, which was distinguished by its high growth, crossing local horses with horses of other breeds brought from Russia.
The Soviet Kyrgyz people began to gradually forget about the Chaar horse, under the propaganda of the Soviet government, they became more and more interested in horses of a different breed, higher, faster for short distances, but at the same time, these horses demanded more attention, feed, warmth (since they were not adapted to an independent lifestyle like spotted horses). Gradually, everyone forgot about the spotted horse Chaar, its high qualities and how it helped the nomads in their difficult life. The spotted horse has disappeared into many herds, where horses of different breeds are mixed.
Only occasionally can you now find the spotted horse Chaar in different regions, in different herds.
Today the spotted horse Chaar is not registered anywhere in Kyrgyzstan, no one is engaged in professional breeding of this breed in the country.
Based on my personal ten years of experience in breeding and researching of this horse, I can say that this horse is very hardy, tolerates harsh climatic conditions well, has the “Jorgo” move (Indian shuffle), carries various diseases well than other breed, can survive on grazing on poor pastures or in winter time, height ranges from 138 cm to 160 cm, has a full range of colors inherent in the Appaloosa breed, feels good during long rides over rough terrain.
I see preservation of the Chaaru Suluu horse breed, as part of the cultural traditions, historic heritage, and biological diversity of Kyrgyzstan.
Chaar horse is a richness of Kyrgyz culture, which is intertwined with many aspects of life of people in mountainous areas.
One may ask why it is important for the culture. The culture is about shared meaning that enable people’s communication and collaboration. Culture includes a vast universe of things – language, religious beliefs, literature, movies we watch and music we listen to, but also ways we behave in family and in the public, take care of children and parents. In this sense, culture is the foundational basis for development, it enables development. And having a joint heritage, as for instance the Chaar breed, is a way to strengthen the identity of Kyrgyz people, and to reinforce the pride and strengthen the social capital of communities.
At the same time, culture is a driver for development. The cultural and historical heritage can be harnessed for tourism and converted into economic wealth by promoting unique identity, traditions, and cultural products and services of a region, towards generating jobs and revenue. Investing in the conservation of assets – like the Chaar horse breed, promoting cultural activities and traditional knowledge and skills developed by Kyrgyz people – may boost interest of foreign tourists to the country, be one of ‘cherries on a cake’ that distinguishes Kyrgyzstan from others. By this it can support alleviate the poverty, and contribute to sustainable incomes of people in mountains.
It is critical to emphasize, that preserving natural species is not only about money. Historical legacy has a value of its own, for the identity of people, for the way people lived in mountainous areas, raised their children etc. In the same manner we can speak about other distinctive elements of culture, like wider horse-breeding culture, fascinating cuisine, yurts and others.
It has also an inherent – not measurable by money – ecological importance for preserving the uniqueness of biological diversity.