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Home > Horses > Mongolian Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Mongolian Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Przewalski's horse_Yerbolat Shadrakhov, Shutterstock

The Mongolian Horse is one of the world’s oldest horse breeds still in existence. Examining, working with, and riding a Mongolian Horse is likely the closest thing people will ever get to riding horses the way they used to be before people started tampering with the species through selective breeding. Here is everything you need to know about the wild and ancient Mongolian Horse.

Care Level: Low–Moderate
Temperature: Cold
Temperament: Calm, hardy, and a little wild
Colors: White, dun, gray, black, brown, red
Lifespan: 20–40 years
Weight: 600 pounds (stallions), 500 pounds (mares)
Height: 13–14 hands (stallions), 11–12 hands (mares)

Mongolian Horses are prized for their rugged attitudes, excellent survival instincts, and ancient pedigree. These horses are some of the most versatile horses on the planet. They are also one of the most numerous if you can believe it. In fact, there are likely more Mongolian Horses in Mongolia than there are people. Despite their numbers, it is rare to encounter a Mongolian Horse outside of Mongolia.

Mongolian Horse Breed Characteristics



What Are These Horses Used For?

In Mongolia, Mongolian Horses have a large number of uses. Many horses are used for riding and transportation. Horseback riding is the primary way that rural Mongolians get around. The horses are also used to carry materials, tools, and items such as yurts, food, and trade goods. Horses are also used by herders to follow and herd their other animals, which can include sheep, yaks, goats, and camels.

In some more remote and traditional places in Mongolia, every part of the horse is used. A horse’s milk can be fermented into a traditional alcoholic beverage. The skin and hide of a horse can be used to make clothing and shelter. Some horses are even slaughtered for their blood and their meat to use in traditional dishes. Since Mongolia has one of the oldest and strongest horse cultures in the world, they have learned to use every part of the horse in a respectful and efficient manner. For example, Mongolian Horses have very long and wild manes which provide hair that is prized for a variety of uses, including rope and even strings for instruments.

Mongolian horse outdoors
Mongolian-horse (Image Credit: User_Latebird, Wikimedia Common CC 3.0 Unported)

Where Did These Horses Originate From?

The Mongolian Horse, unsurprisingly, hails from Mongolia. Mongolian Horses are some of the most ancient horses in existence. Their genetics stretch back as far as 240,000 years ago. The Mongolian Horse is theorized to be the “founding stock” for a number of distinct Asian horse breeds showing that the Mongolian Horse is likely the most ancient out of the bunch.

The Mongolian Horse was widely introduced to the rest of the global horse population during the period of Mongol Conquests in the 13th and 14th centuries when thousands of Mongol warriors rode from the Asian steppes in the Levant and Northern Europe. Traces of Mongolian Horse genes can be found in breeds all over the world due to this period of migration, conquest, and expansion.

Mongolian peoples have been riding and domesticating horses for at least 4,000 years, but some evidence suggests that they could have been domesticated even earlier. Many rural Mongolians still keep their horses in a wild and nomadic fashion, as has been their tradition for generations.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Mongolian Horse

The Mongolian Horse is known for having a very steady temperament. They have strong survival instincts that have been honed over thousands of years of living in the wild Central Asian Steppes. Many Mongolians trust their horses with their lives. They know where to walk to avoid danger, they rarely ever fall, and they are capable of doing a variety of tasks. Mongolian Horses would excel as driving horses or as trail horses due to their instincts and nature.

Appearance & Varieties

Mongolian Horses are very stocky and powerfully built. They only stand between 12 and 14 hands tall and weigh just 600 pounds. The head of the Mongolian Horse is very large compared to its body. Despite its unwieldy appearance and small stature, these horses have unrivaled stamina.

The Mongolian Horse has the highest level of genetic diversity. In fact, Mongolian Horses have nearly double the markers of genetic diversity than some of the least diverse horse breeds, such as Thoroughbreds. This means that there is no distinct breed standard for appearance. Mongolian Horses can appear in a wide variety of different colors, including white, dun, black, gray, brown, or even a patterned mixture. Different tribes, regions, and breeders in Mongolia prize different colors. That means in one region, you might find primarily white horses, while in another area, you might see mostly gray horses.

Mongolian Horse
Koń mongolski w Parku Narodowym Gorchi-Tereldż 10 (Image Credit: Marcin Konsek, WikimediaCommons CC 4.0 International)

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Things to Know When Owning a Mongolian Horse:

Habitat & Stable Requirements 🌾

Mongolian Horses prefer a flat cool environment. They have evolved over thousands of years as a horse that lives on the open range. That means they are not suited to a barn or stable environment. You should not keep a Mongolian horse in a stable or stall. Period. They should be allowed to roam and range on adequate land for them. They should be provided with a minimum of one acre per horse that is stocked with natural grass.

Food & Diet Requirements 🥕

Mongolian horses lived and evolved on the cold arid steppes of Mongolia. That means that they require very little food and water to survive. Mongolian horses do best on natural wild grass and scrub forage. They only need a small amount of water per day to meet their needs. Mongolian Horses can eat rough hay to supplement their grass if needed. Mongolian Horses do not need grain or supplements to thrive.

Exercise 🐎

Mongolian Horses have a ton of stamina, and they like to range. As discussed, you should not put your Mongolian horse in a stall, stable, or barn. You should always keep them on pasture or, better yet, on a ranch or range. They are similar to American Mustangs in that respect. They will exercise themselves and do not need help from people to get their energy out as long as they have adequate land to wander on.

mongolian horse eating on a field
Image By: Katiekk, Shutterstock

Training 🐴

Mongolian Horses are trainable, but they are most familiar with natural and native Mongolian training methods. It is unclear if a Mongolian Horse would respond well to Western training methods used on horses like Thoroughbreds or Quarterhorses. The Mongolians have managed to train their horses to perform every task imaginable, so it is doable.

Grooming 🧽

Mongolian Horses do not require much in the way of grooming. You might want to comb out their manes because the mane can get very long. Otherwise, these horses have a natural coat that will regulate itself. Mongolian Horses will shed after the winter months are finished, and warm weather is on the horizon.

Lifespan & Health Conditions 🏥

Mongolian Horses are some of the healthiest horses in the world due to their genetic profile. A strong and healthy Mongolian horse can live up to 40 years which is almost a full decade longer than most other horses are expected to live. Mongolian Horses are prone to common health issues like colic and laminitis that other horses can suffer from.

If you manage to remove a Mongolian Horse from its natural habitat in Mongolia, you will have to watch for injury due to assimilating to a new environment and watch for potential toxic plant ingestion. Mongolian horses are intimately familiar with Mongolia, but they will be strangers almost anywhere else.

Minor Conditions
  • Injury
  • Toxic plant ingestion

Serious Conditions
  • Colic
  • Laminitis

Male vs. Female

The female Mongolian Horse is just a bit smaller than her male counterpart. Mares will measure a hand shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than the male. Males also have larger heads in comparison to the females. Since these horses are compact, telling the difference between the two based on size alone can be challenging.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Mongolian Horses

1. These Horses Were Used by Ghengis Khan to Conquer the World

The Medieval Mongols were known as some of the most adept horseback riders and warriors in the world. The Mongolian Horse would have been the animal that carried thousands of fearsome Mongolian archers into battle and terrified the rest of the world for decades.

2. Mongolian Horses Have the Highest Level of Genetic Diversity of Any Horse Still in Existence

Mongolian Horses have twice as much genetic diversity as some other horse breeds. This gives them an unrivaled level of different appearances and health compared to other breeds. That is why many Mongolian horses can easily live into their mid-30s or even to 40 when other horses cannot.

3. There Are More Horses Than People in Mongolia

There are roughly 4 million horses in Mongolia, and the vast majority of them are natural Mongolian horses. The human population of Mongolia is just 3.3 million. That means there are over 700,000 more horses than people in the country, which is unheard of in today’s modern world.

Mongolian horse face close up
Image By: nurmukhamed battur, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Mongolian Horses are amazing animals. They have lived and thrived in their natural environments for tens of thousands of years. They have grown close with the people of Mongolia, and the two have a very loving and respectful relationship. Mongolian Horses are a part of the very fabric of Mongolia, and if you are fortunate to interact with one or even own one, you are in for a real treat.

Featured Image Credit: Pises Tungittipokai, Shutterstock

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