About the Breed
"…Then followed ten of the sacred horses,
known as Nisaean, in magnificent harness…
They come from the great Nisaean plain in Media,
where horses of unusual size are bred…"
(Herodotus, The Histories)
This unique breed is not less than three thousand years old. The Akhal-Teke is a direct descendant of the horses of the Massagetae, the Bactrians and the Alans which were famous in antiquity. In ancient Persia these horses were known as Nisaean and several centuries later - as Parthian, but they were always spoken of as the best in the world. In the second century B.C. the Roman historian Oppian wrote of them: "These horses, worthy of the most powerful rulers, are strikingly beautiful in appearance, they move lightly under the rider and lightly accept the bit; the head with its Roman nose is carried high and their golden manes flow majestically in the wind."
There is clear evidence in modern literature on the subject that these horses were instrumental in the creation of such world famous breeds as the Arabian and the English Thoroughbred and in the improvement of breeds of horses in Russia, Europe and the Near and Middle East. In the words of Professor Witt, the Akhal-Teke horse "possesses the last drop of that valuable blood from which all the breeds of well-bred horses have been developed."
In the Middle Ages the horses of the Central Asian civilisations of antiquity passed into the hands of the Turkmens who kept pure the blood of these priceless animals as their qualities surpassed those of all other breeds. After the annexation of Turkmenia to the Russian Empire in l88l the Turkmen horse became known as the Akhal-Teke combining the name of the Teke Turkmen tribe and the Akhal oasis in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag mountains. At that time the horses there were kept singly, as part of the household, surrounded by love and affection and fed light but highly nutritious food such as alfalfa, barley and pellets containing mutton fat. Because the owner depended on his horse for his wellbeing and his very life, no expense was spared in its care and maintenance. As an old Turkmen saying goes: "The owner who rears a good horse turns into a lean dog." But the horse repaid his owner with an exceptional devotion. Mistrustful of strangers, he gave his heart to his one and only friend.
The Akhal-Teke is indeed endowed with legendary qualities. As a participant in the battle of Geok-Tepe testified: "An Akhal-Teke stallion wearing two heavy blankets and wounded by a sabre blow carried away three Teke tribesmen across the quicksand from pursuing Cossacks.."
These horses, renowned for their exceptional speed, strength and beauty, had long since been known as argamaks in Russia where they were highly valued. To possess an argamak was the dream of every prince and the argamak was the most sought-after improver at stud. They were instrumental in the development of the Don and the Orlov riding horse. In the first half of the eighteenth century argamaks constituted a third of the stock at state studs. After the annexation of Turkmenia to Russia many connoisseurs and horse lovers had the opportunity of familiarising themselves with the breed and became its passionate admirers. Valuing the unique qualities of the Teke horse and concerned to preserve the breed which at that time was in decline for historical and economic reasons, the governor of the region, General Kuropatkin, organised at his own expense, the Transcaspian state stables and invited Russian specialists to work there. This marked the beginning of the breeding of Thoroughbred stock in the Transcaspian region and revived interest in the Akhal-Teke throughout the world. Horses from the Transcaspian stables which were shown at exhibitions in Kiev, Pyatigorsk and Paris caused a sensation,and vast sums of money were offered for Teke mares.
Akhal Teke Today
Nowadays, Teke population is widespread around the world - highest per cent of the horses (cca 40%) you can find in Turkmenistan (hard to estimate the proper number, as it is sad fact, that not all breeders register their horses within the studbook and others add blood of English Thoroughbred to increase the speed in races), in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Few hundred horses can be found in Europe and U.S. and some Tekes have been exported Africa (SA, Senegal) and South America (Uruguay).
The studbook is run in Russia by All-Russian Institute of Horsebreeding and same as for other purebred breeds like Arabians and Thoroughbreds, it is "closed" - so only horse whose parents are registered and whose pedigree is confirmed by DNA test, can be inscribed in it.
Russian poet and breeder of Akhal Tekes, Irina Khienkina, described the conformation like "fusion of cheetah, snake and eagle".
Akhal Teke is elegant athlete exuding power and nobility.
The head is dry, fine, long, usually with straight profile, sometimes Roman-nosed, with wide cheeks and long flexible poll. The eyes are big, expressive, often hooded, similar to eyes of eagle or almond-shaped. The nostrils are wide, thin, ears are long, nicely shaped, alert. The head joins the neck at an angle of 45 degrees. The Akhal-Teke has a refined throatlatch, and long, lean neck, which is set high.
Withers is high, long, well muscled. Shoulder is of good slope, long with good muscling and extraordinary free movement. Chest is narrow (when viewed from front), but with deep heart girth.
The back is long, but should be strong, croup well muscled, strong, with low set tail.
Akhal-Tekes have short cannon bones and low-set hocks, while the forearm and gaskins are long and smoothly muscled. Legs are dry, with tendons well defined. Joints are large, dry. Hooves are usually small.
The skin is thin, the coat is very fine and silky. The mane is poor, and not too long, the forelock is sometimes missed.
The average size is around 159 cm, but you can meet smaller, same as taller horses (today´s tendency is to prefer taller horses).
There is variety of colors within the breed - bay, buckskin, sorrel, black, grey, palomino, cremello and perlino - usually with the typical metallic shine. Large white spots on the body are not desireable.
The movement is soft, elastic and fluid, very comfortable for rider.
Akhalteke is the horse of very high intelligence and sensitivity, vigorous and "hot-blooded". Akhalteke is called as "the horse of one-master" for the special bond he could create with his owner.
Use of Akhal Tekes
The Akhalteke is the oldest racehorse of the world. Nowadays, it is the second fastest breed behind English Thoroughbred.Except racing (races are still the official performance tests for Tekes, but they are organized only in Russia and Turkmenistan), Teke is typical all-arounder who can be used to some level in any sport. Of course if you look for top sport specialist, you have to search for desirable conformation x movement qualities suitable for certain discipline.
Some cultures, like Chinese, use Tekes as symbol of wealth, prosperity and fortune and breed them for their unique beauty.
Regulary, in different countries around the world, are organised breed championships with the aim to select the best representatives of the breed in the term of type and conformation.
Teke and its influence of other breeds
The Turkmen horse was so much superior to other contemporary breeds, that he was widely used for improving them. Akhalteke influenced Arab horse (according to lover and breeder of Arab horses, Carl Raswan, Arabian strain "Muniqi" developed with contribution of Akhalteke), English Thoroughbred (the Turkmenian roots had the stallions Darcy Yellow Turk, Darcy White Turk, and probably Byerley Turk), Trakehner (through famous stallion Turkmen Atti and later Djeiran), and of course many Russian breeds, as Karabair, Lokai, Kabardin, Don (in 1839, 800 Akhaltekes were used in breeding of Don) and Orlov horses (through stallions Gussein-Khan, Ialangush-Khan, Shah, Drakon, according to Prof. V.O.Vitt, the famous Sultan wasn´t the Arab, but Akhalteke).
Teke Interesting Facts
- golden or metallic shine of the coat which gives the attribute "golden" to the breed
- first breed who was the direct cause of the war (104 B.C. - Chinese emperor Wu-Ti got a hankering for acquiring horses from Fergana)
- unbeatable endurance record - in 1935 the group of Akhal Teke and Iomut horses overcame the distance of 4128 km from Askhabad to Moscow in 84 days
- 1945 - Akhal Teke stallion Tarlan won endurance race at the distance of 500 km (he defeated Thoroughbreds, Dons, Karabairs and Kabardiners)
- 1945 - for the Victory Parade at Red Square in Moscow, the marshal Zhukov chose to ride Teke stallion 26 Arab (also participant of Askhabad-Moscow ride, succesful sport horse and later founder of own line and sire of Olympic winner in dressage, Absent)
- 1956 - golden buckskin stallion Melekush was presented by Nikita Khruschev to Queen Elisabeth (in 1993 Melekush was followed by stallion Maksat to Great Britain, this time as a gift to prime minister John Major)
- 1960 - black stallion Absent (26 Arab-Bakkara) won golden medal at Olympic Games in Rome in dressage. He participated in two consecutive Olympic Games, where he placed 3rd, 4th respectively and was announced as the "Horse of the Century" by sport journalists
- 1991 - after declaration of independence of Turkmenistan in 1991, Akhal Teke horse became the part of state emblem (till 2000 it was stallion Karader, extraordinary race horse, who was later replaced by Champion of the breed Yanardag)
- 1997 - stallion Mansur (Dornazarbek-Medeya) won Russian championship in eventing
- 1998 - stallion Kandar (Senetir-Kushka) was announced as the Horse of the Year by USEF (U.S. riding federation) for his succesful starts in eventing
- 2000-2001 - stallion Arslan (Abdulrakhman-Selbiniaz) led the World Cup ranking of Central Asian region in show jumping
- 2006 - as the part of the exhibition of Millionaire Fair in Moscow were also Akhal Teke horses
- 2010 - heavenly horses returned to China - for Chinese elite they represent the symbol of prosperity (in 2014 China organized international conference and Akhal Teke exhibition, with presence Turkmen and Chinese presidents and Akhal Teke breeders from many countries)