Equine Breed Menu

Akhal Teke

Akhal Teke

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Breed Organization
Akhal-Teke Association of America ATAA
Website: http://www.akhal-teke.org
Native Country
Turkmenistan
Other Names
N/A
Average Height
14.3h to 16h
Adult Weight
900-1000 lbs.
Rider Experience Level
Intermediate - Advanced
Breed Description
The Akhal-Teke typically stands between 14.3 and 16 hands (58 and 64 inches, 147 and 163 cm). These horses are famous for those individuals who have a golden buckskin or palomino color with a distinctive metallic sheen. A number of other colors are recognized, however, including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, cremello, perlino, and grey. The Akhal-Teke's most notable and defining characteristic is the natural metallic bloom of its coat. This is especially seen in the palominos and buckskins, as well as the lighter bays, although some horses "shimmer" more than others. The color pattern is thought to have been used as camouflage in the desert. The cream gene that produces buckskin and palomino is a dilution gene that also produces the occasional cremello and perlino. Akhal-Tekes are not thought to carry the dun gene or roan gene.

The Akhal-Teke has a fine head with a straight or slightly convex profile, and long ears. It also has almond-shaped eyes. The mane and tail are usually sparse. The long back is lightly muscled, and is coupled to a flat croup and long, upright neck. The Akhal-Teke possess sloping shoulders and thin skin. These horses have strong, tough, but fine limbs. They have a rather slim body and ribcage (like an equine version of the greyhound), with a deep chest. The conformation is typical of horses bred for endurance over distance.

The breed is tough and resilient, having adapted to the harshness of Turkmenistan lands, where horses must live without much food or water. This has also made the horses good for sport. The breed has great endurance, as shown in 1935 when a group of Turkmen riders rode the 2500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days, including a three-day crossing of 235 miles of desert without water. The Akhal-Teke is also known for its form and grace as a show jumper.


History
The ancestors of the breed may date back to animals living 3,000 years ago, known by a number of names, but most often as the Nisean horse. The precise ancestry is difficult to trace, however, because prior to about 1600 AD, horse breeds in the modern sense did not exist; rather, horses were identified by local strain or type.

According to one theory of origin, the Akhal-Teke were kept hidden by tribesmen in the area where the breed first appeared, the Turkmenistan desert Kara Kum, which is a rocky, flat desert surrounded by mountains. Others claim that the horses are descendants of the mounts of Mongol raiders of the thirteenth and fourteenth century.

The breed is very similar to the now-extinct Turkoman Horse, once bred in neighboring Iran. Some historians believe that the two are different strains of the same breed. It is a disputed "chicken or egg" question whether the influential Arabian was either the ancestor of the breed or was developed out of this breed. It is also possible that the so-called "hot blooded" breeds, the Arabian, Turkoman, Akhal-Teke, and the Barb all developed from a single "oriental horse" predecessor.

Tribesmen of Turkmenistan first used the horses for raiding. They selectively bred the horses, keeping records of the pedigrees via an oral tradition. The horses were called "Argamaks" by the Russians, and were cherished by the nomads.

In 1881, Turkmenistan became part of the Russian Empire. The tribes fought with the tsar, eventually losing. The Russian general Kuropatkin developed a fondness for horses he had seen while fighting the tribesmen, founded a breeding farm after the war and renamed the horses, "Akhal-Tekes", after the Teke Turkmen tribe that lived near the Akhal oasis. The Russians printed the first studbook in 1941, which included 287 stallions and 468 mares.

The Akhal-Teke has had influence on many breeds, possibly including the Thoroughbred through the Byerly Turk (which may have been Akhal-Teke, an Arabian, or a Turkoman Horse), one of the three foundation stallions of the breed. Three other stallions, known as the "Lister Turk", the "White Turk", and the "Yellow Turk" also contributed to the foundation of the Thoroughbred breed. The Trakehner has also been influenced by the Akhal-Teke, most notably by the stallion, Turkmen-Atti, as have the Russian breeds Don, Budyonny, Karabair, and Karabakh.

The breed suffered greatly when the Soviet Union required horses to be slaughtered for meat, even though local Turkmen refused to eat them. At one point only 1,250 horses remained and export from the Soviet Union was banned. The government of Turkmenistan now uses the horses as diplomatic presents as well as auctioning a few to raise money for improved horse breeding programs. Horses are not gelded in Central Asia.

In the early twentieth century, crossbreeding between the Thoroughbred and the Akhal-Teke took place, aiming to create a faster long-distance racehorse. The Anglo Akhal-Tekes were not so resilient however, as their Akhal-Teke ancestors, and many died due to the harsh conditions of Central Asia. After the 2,600 mile endurance race from Ashkabad to Moscow in 1935, when the purebreds finished in much better condition than the part-breds, the studbook management decided to consider all crossbred horses born after 1936, as not purebred. Horses with English Thoroughbred ancestors born prior to that date were allowed to remain inside the studbook (e.g. 044 Tillyakush, grandson of Thoroughbred Burlak or 831 Makh, granddaughter of Thoroughbred Blondelli, and great-great-granddaughter of Thoroughbred Junak). Since 1973, all foals must be blood typed to be accepted in the stud book in order to protect the purity. A stallion not producing the right type of horse may be removed. The stud book was closed in 1975.


Behavior
The Akhal-Tekes are lively and alert, with a reputation for bonding to only one person. Thousands of years of selective breeding have left their mark not only on their physical appearance and efficiency, but also on their behavior. These horses are not only sensible but also very sensitive.

Health
There are several genetic diseases of concern to Akhal-Teke breeders.

Naked Foal Syndrome or Hairless Foal Syndrome
Hereditary Cryptorchidism
Cervical Vertebral Malformation (CVM), commonly called Wobbler Syndrome
Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD)


Function
The Akhal-Teke, due to its natural athleticism, can be a sport horse, good at dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding.


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