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Home > Horses > Akhal Teke Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Akhal Teke Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Akhal Teke Horse on desert

Over 400 equine breeds exist, but perhaps none are as unique as the Akhal Teke horse. It is unlike any other animal you’ve seen. It captures the imagination with its exotic, golden appearance, its mysterious origin story, and its rarity. This animal has an undeniable presence. And since humans domesticated horses about 4,000 years ago1, the Akhal Teke was likely part of the initial breeding stock. Let’s check out some more info about this unique breed down below.

Breed Overview

Care Level Advanced
Temperature Warm, dry climates
Temperament Intelligent, sensitive, energetic
Colors Bay, dun, black, chestnut, gray, light bay, cream
Lifespan 20 years
Weight 1,000 pounds (stallions), 900 pounds (mares)
Height 15–16 hands (stallions), 14.3–15.2 (mares)

The Akhal Teke horse is one of the oldest equine breeds in the world, with a history stretching back more than 3,000 years. Its precise lineage is murky, given the lack of breed recordkeeping. Nomadic people selectively bred the horse for stamina in the trying climate of central Asia, or today’s Turkmenistan. Its sleek appearance and storied past have made this animal one of the most beautiful and athletic horses. The Akhal Teke horse evolved to tolerate extreme climatic conditions. It also adapted to the challenges of sparse food and water.

Today, this legendary horse is extremely rare, with an estimated global population of only 7,000 animals. About 3,000 are registered in the United States, and most are part of a growing pool of breeding stock.

Akhal Teke Horse Characteristics

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

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What Are Akhal Teke Horses Used For?

The intelligence and athleticism of the Akhal Teke make it a natural in the show ring, whether it’s endurance riding or dressage, or anything in between! It is an excellent choice for pleasure riding on long treks as well. The Akhal Teke horse is also a fast animal. After all, early selective breeding contributed its genetics to modern-day racers and thoroughbreds.

The Akhal Teke has made several Olympic appearances, further proof of its endurance and intelligence. The Akhal-Teke Association of America (ATAA) has done an excellent job of promoting the breed with events such as its Case Memorial Competition Awards. It focuses on the Akhal Teke’s athleticism, which provided the incentive for people to selectively breed the animal.

akhal teke breed horse running in gallop in the sand paddock with metal fence
Image By: arthorse, Shutterstock

Where Did The Akhal-Teke Horses Originate From?

The habitat of its purported native land, the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan, is a blend of arid conditions, salt marshes, and rugged terrain. A unique feature is the Darvaza gas crater, which residents call the “Door to Hell.” The harsh climate challenged the Akhal Teke horse, but it survived the obstacles.

The Akhal Teke horse is a rare animal. Breeding programs exist in the United States, Russia, and member countries of the European Akhal-Teke Horse Association. Nevertheless, you’ll likely find it challenging to find a horse for sale. You can easily expect to pay north of $10,000 for one.

Sadly, the lack of genetic diversity and the small breeding population make heritable conditions more common in the Akhal Teke horse than in other horses. The required testing includes screening for Naked Foal Syndrome (NFS), a fatal disease that typically takes foals within a few weeks of birth.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Akhal Teke Horse

The Akhal Teke horse is an elegant animal that you can’t fail to notice. It’s not like any other you’ve seen. Its stamina is evident at first glance. It’s a loyal companion and, not surprisingly, often bonds with one person. The Akhal Teke is intelligent yet sensitive; however, it’s best suited to experienced equestrians who can appreciate its unique qualities and who have tons of horse-handling experience.

People selectively bred this animal to handle the harsh conditions of its native land. While it might not be crossing the desert, it still retains these qualities that made the Akhal Teke horse such a valuable companion animal. This horse doesn’t like being penned up without any outlet for its soaring energy. It is also a free spirit in every sense of the word.

Appearance & Varieties

Golden bay Akhal-teke horse runs gallop on the meadow
Image By: Makarova Viktoria, Shutterstock

The Akhal Teke Horse is a medium-sized animal with a deep chest and well-defined legs. It has a slender build and a narrow head that reinforce the image of its stealth and endurance. Any color is accepted. However, the most desirable are gold and ones exhibiting the cream dilution trait, such as perlino and palomino.

The metallic sheen of the horse’s fine coat combined with these colors makes the animal appear as if it is glowing, earning it the moniker “Golden Horse.” Its sleek image is further cemented by the official breed standard of the ATAA. Weakness and heaviness are deemed faults.

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Things to Know When Owning an Akhal Teke Horse

Habitat & Stable Requirements 🌾

A 12’ by 12’ stall will provide adequate room for a horse of this size. Of course, the more time they spend inside, the larger the accommodation. However, this breed is an active animal that you should ride often. Make sure that the windows, partitions, and any fixtures are higher than 7 feet to limit the horse’s access to them.

Food & Diet Requirements 🥕

The Akhal Teke horse evolved to subsist on a meager diet, given their origins. We recommend feeding your pet a well-balanced diet that includes a rich protein source. Sun-cured forages are excellent choices to ensure your horse gets adequate nutrition. Ensure that plenty of clean, fresh water and access to pasture grasses are always available.

Exercise 🐎

The Akhal Teke horse is an animal born to run, not unlike a Greyhound or cheetah. These animals were selectively bred for speed and stamina throughout their history. You’ll find the horse an ideal steed for trail or pleasure riding. The breed’s athleticism also makes it an excellent choice for the show ring, whether for showjumping or dressage.

Akele-Teke-brown-horse-in-mountain
Image By: arthorse, Shutterstock

Training 🐴

The Akhal Teke horse is meant for experienced equestrians who can handle its independent yet fiercely loyal disposition. The breed is sensitive to harsh words or reprimands. It requires a gentle yet firm hand when training. It also has a reputation for being a one-person companion, which isn’t surprising, given its history of long-distance transportation.

Grooming 🧽

You can follow a regular equine grooming routine with the Akhal Teke horse. Check the animal’s hooves daily for any signs of infection or injury. You should also brush your horse thoroughly once or twice a week to bring out the animal’s unique sheen.

Lifespan & Health Conditions 🏥

The Akhal Teke horse has a shorter lifespan than many other equine breeds. We can’t help but wonder if it burns the candle at both ends with its speed and endurance. However, there’s no denying how captivating this horse is and why someone would be proud to own one regardless of any health problems.

Minor Conditions
  • Colds
  • Colic
  • Gastric ulcers
Serious Conditions
  • Naked Foal Syndrome (NFS)
  • Cryptorchidism
  • Cervical vertebral malformation

Male vs Female

Male and female horses will both make delightful pets. It’s essential to bond with this animal daily since it can become excitable if neglected. Both sexes also have the same penchant for loyalty to one person. Nevertheless, daily mental stimulation is imperative for an animal as intelligent as the Akhal Teke horse.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Akhal Teke Horse

1. The Akhal Teke Horse Has Low Genetic Diversity

The global population of this breed pales in comparison to more well-known animals. Unsurprisingly, its genetic diversity is low, which is evident in its major health concerns.


2. The Akhal Teke Horse Is the National Symbol of Turkmenistan

The connection is a natural one, given that the country is the breed’s place of origin and where it was developed into the beautiful animal it is today.


3. The Akhal Teke Horse Has Royal Connections

It’s no wonder that the Akhal Teke horse would garner royal attention. The breed’s history has stories of several members of the nobility, including Alexander the Great and King Darius.

new horse shoe dividerFinal Thoughts

The Akhal Teke horse is an impressive animal. It is a survivor despite the challenges of the climate of its native land. This breed isn’t for everyone. It’s one that requires an experienced individual who can manage its unique characteristics and challenges. However, if you’re looking for a loyal horse with seemingly unwavering endurance and stamina, the Akhal Teke horse is a worthy choice.


Featured Image Credit: Olga_i, Shutterstock

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