Breed Profile: Akhal-Teke - The Horse Owner's Resource

Breed Profile: Akhal-Teke

The Akhal-Teke is a desert horse with some unique characteristics. Learn more about it in these breed profile written by Jessica Eile Keith.
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History of the Akhal-Teke

The Akhal-Teke is a race horse that can trace its origins back to 2400 BCE in Central Asia.

The breed is the only remaining pure strain of the Massaget Parthian and Nisean horses that around year 0 where called the Turkmen horse. Horses of the same type and of the same golden colors like the modern Akhal-Teke are mentioned by the writers of the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Antique Greek historian Herodotus.

The Akhal-Teke breed has preserved type, purity and performance abilities of its ancestors into modern times thanks to the geographically isolated area of the harsh Kara Kum desert where the horses have been bred by the Akhal-Teke tribe since ancient times. The Akhal-Tekes are still being bred for speed and stamina by the Turkmen and one of the most famous stallions of modern times, Yanardag, is a part of the national emblem. The most popular sport in Turkmenistan is horse racing, a sport as old as the ancient Turkmen horse itself.

The Akhal-Teke is a direct ancestor to the first horse to be selected for speed by man and is considered the purest breed of Central Asia. Due to its purity and athletic abilities Akhal-Tekes have been used in the development of other breeds such as Arabian, English Thoroughbred, Trakhener, Don, Budyonny, Karabair, Orlov Rostopchin and the modern Russian Warmblood.

Breed Description

The overall impression is a light and elegant athlete with high head carriage and long, slim body.

Head and neck

A dry head with broad cheeks, straight or convex nose line, Small often characteristically hooked muzzle with thin, firm lips, the eyes are big and often hooded reminding of the eyes of a bird of prey.

The neck is long and high set. The head is set onto the neck at a sharp angle.

Body

Withers are long and well muscled, the chest not too deep. Long and straight back. Croup broad and long with well developed muscles that stretches to the hock. Low set tail with little hair.

Legs

Straight, strong and dry legs with solid joints. The hooves are small and hard.

The height range is 15 to 16 hands.

Mane and tail are scarce and sometimes the forelock is missing, no feathering on the legs. The coat is thin and silky.

The Akhal-Tekes come in a wide variation of colors, shades of black, bay, chestnut, buckskin, palomino, cremello, perlino and grey. Many of the colors are combined with the metallic sheen that is a unique and ancient trait of the breed.

The movements are long, elastic and comfortable for the rider. The horse moves with highly carried neck and almost immobile pelvis that is unique for the breed, the hind legs move with powerful suspension.

The typical gait gives an impression of a light, effortless flying trot.

The Akhal-Tekes have a confident and powerful jump over fences, the breed is very agile and pulls up both front- and hind legs well.

The Akhal-Tekes are energetic horses with a high grade of workability. They are friendly to people, with an exceptional ability to bond with their trainers and quick and observant learners.

The Akhal-Teke is an athletic all round horse and is used in all classical sports, endurance riding and racing.

The stamina and constitution of the Akhal-Teke has been proven by the so called probeg where groups of Akhal-Tekes in 1935 and 1988 were ridden from Ashgabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, to Moscow, Russia, a distance of 2 672 miles (4300 km) in 84 days.

Mares and stallions bred in Turkmenistan and Russia are performance tested on the race- track.

The breed has the following records in flatracing:

6 furlongs (1200 m) - 1.16,7 min.

8 furlongs (1600 m) - 1.43,6 min.

12 furlongs (2400m) - 2.41,6 min.

The black Akhal-Teke stallion Absent won individual gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics under S. Filatov at the age of 8, he again under Filatov, won the individual bronze in Tokyo in 1964 and won the Soviet Team gold medal under I. Kalita at the 1968 Mexico Games. Absent died at an age of 23.

Many Akhal-Tekes have been champions in show jumping in the Soviet Union.

The official puissance record is held by the stallion Polygon who jumped 7' 4.5" (2.25 m). The length record is held by the stallion Perepel who jumped 28' 9" (8.78 m).

The main stud farms for Akhal-Tekes are found in Turkmenistan, Kazakhastan and Russia. Russia is the home of the mother studbook for the breed. The studbook has been closed since 1935.

The breed's popularity is increasing in the west and although in small numbers, the breed is established in many European countries and in the USA.

Sources: Publications from The Russian Horse Breeding Institute (VNIIK), Ryazan, Russia

Speed and the Thoroughbred - The Complete History by Alexander Mackay-Smith ISBN -1-56416-192-9

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