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6 Indian Horse Breeds

Oliver Jones

Elegant, exotic, and downright gorgeous, Indian horses are used for pleasure riding, competing, and working. Many of the equines that originate from India are completely native to the region, while others are influenced by other breeds. If you’re wondering what horses hail from India, keep reading to learn about these top Indian horse breeds.

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1. Bhutia

Bhutia horses
Image Credit: Pixabay

This small but sturdy mountain horse comes from Sikkim and the Darjeeling regions of northern India. Similar to Tibetan and Mongolian breeds, the Bhutia has a deep chest, short legs, low withers, a large head, and a straight back. This breed typically stands between 12.3 and 14.3 hands and is grey or bay in color. The Bhutia is used primarily as a workhorse, carrying loads of crops or people from town to town. Their relaxed, willing demeanor makes the Bhutia an excellent partner in light agricultural tasks.


2. Kathiawari

Kathiawari
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Originating in the Kathiawar peninsula of western India, the Kathiawar horse breed was originally intended to be a desert warhorse that could travel long distances without rest. Available in every color except black, Kathiawars are rather rare equines due to the Indian Independence. Today, this breed is used for riding, harness sports, and tent-pegging. Loyal, brave, and resilient, the Kathiawar stands between 14.2 and 15 hands and typically has zebra-striped legs and dorsal striping.


3. Manipuri Pony

A traditional Indian breed, the Manipuri Pony comes from northeastern India. It is an ancient equine breed and appears in Manipur mythology. Developed from crossing the Mongolian Wild Horse with the Arabian, the Manipuri Pony was originally used as a warhorse and ridden by Meitei warriors. These horses were also used to transport British soldiers during World War II. They were the first equines to be used in the game of polo, which was brought to India when the Tartars invaded the country. Elegant and tiny, the Manipuri Pony can reach 13 hands at the shoulder. They are typically bay, chestnut, pinto, or gray. Only about 1,000 Manipur Ponies exist today.


4. Marwari

marwari horse
Image Credit: Bombman, Flickr

A striking but rare breed, the Marwari originated in northwestern India. Ancient Indian legends say that the Marwari horse can be traced back to seven Arabian horses shipwrecked in Marwar, which became the foundational bloodstock for the breed. They are known for their unique inward-curving ears that can rotate 180 degrees, arched neck, and deep chest. The Marwari stands 15.2 hands high and is available in all equine colors. They were historically used as cavalry horses and were praised for their bravery and loyalty in battle. Today, the breed is used for packing, riding, and light agricultural work.


5. Spiti

A small mountain pony named for the Spiti River in the Himalayas, Spitis stand only nine hands high and are known for their convex faces and short legs. Traditionally used as pack animals to carry heavy loads on long mountainous journeys, only about 4,000 Spiti horses existed in 2004. Their unique fifth gait uses laterals instead of diagonals, making the Spiti a comfortable riding companion for long distances.


6. Zaniskari

zaniskari horse
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Zaniskari is a small Indian horse breed from the northern part of the country. It works well in high altitude areas that reach from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level with temperatures plunging to -40 degrees Celsius. An endangered breed, the Zaniskari stands between 11.3 and 13.3 hands. They are typically black, brown, bay, gray, and chestnut. Today, the breed is used for pleasure riding and polo.

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Conclusion

India is home to a diverse number of indigenous equine breeds. From the gorgeous Marwari to the hardworking Manipuri Pony, these unique Indian horse breeds make great partners for both work and play.


Featured Image Credit: Olesya Nakipova, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.