|Distinguishing features||Riding horse bred for endurance; noted for 'metallic' coat of some individuals|
|Country of origin||Turkmenistan|
|Akhal-Teke Association of America||Breed standards|
|International Association of Akhal-Teke Breeding (MAAK)||Breed standards|
|Equus ferus caballus|
The Akhal-Teke (// or //; from Turkmen Ahalteke, [ahalˈteke]) is a horse breed from Turkmenistan, where they are a national emblem. They have a reputation for speed and endurance, intelligence, and a distinctive metallic sheen. The shiny coat of palominos and buckskins led to their nickname "Golden Horses". These horses are adapted to severe climatic conditions and are thought to be one of the oldest existing horse breeds. There are currently about 6,600 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan and Russia, although they are also found throughout Europe and North America.
There are several theories regarding the original ancestry of the Akhal-Teke, some dating back thousands of years. The tribes of Turkmenistan selectively bred the horses, recording their pedigrees orally and using them for raiding. The breed was used in the losing fight against the Russian Empire, and was subsumed into the Empire along with its country. The Akhal-Teke has influenced many other breeds, including several Russian breeds. There has been extensive crossbreeding with the Thoroughbred to create a fast, long-distance racehorse and as a result there doesn't exist any Akhal-Teke anymore without a Thoroughbred ancestor. The studbook was closed in 1932  The Russians printed the first stud book for the breed in 1941, including over 700 horses.
The Akhal-Teke typically stands between 14.2 and 16 hands (58 and 64 inches, 147 and 163 cm). These horses are well known for those individuals who have a golden buckskin or palomino color, a result of the cream gene, a dilution gene that also produces the perlino and cremello colors. A number of other colors are recognized, including bay, black, chestnut, and grey. Aficionados of the breed claim that the color pattern served as camouflage in the desert. Many Akhal-Tekes have a natural metallic sheen to their coat, particularly noticeable in those with cream gene colors. Akhal-Tekes are not thought to carry the dun gene or roan gene.
The Akhal-Teke has a refined head with predominantly a straight or slightly convex profile, and long ears. It can also have almond-shaped or "hooded" 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. 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 is known for its 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.
The quality of the Akhal Teke horses are determined by the studbook manager. For over forty years now this has been the same individual, which has led to continuous criticism and dissatisfaction from breeders all over the world. Depending on type, conformation, pedigree, quality of offspring and achievement in sport, the horses are designated as either Elite or Class I or Class II. There are usually 2 annual grading events in Moscow, Russia called the "International Sport Meeting and World Championship “Heavenly Argamak”" and "Golden Akhal-Teke Cup Shael" where breeders present their best horses to a group of judges. At the World Championship a group of judges evaluate the horses in age and gender categories as well as in various sport disciplines and a halter class.
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, and possibly the direct descendant of the Turkoman horse, a breed believed to be extinct, though a related strain may be bred today in Iran. Other breeds or strains with Turkoman roots also include the Yomud, Goklan and the Nokhorli. 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. But a substantial number of Arabian mares have reportedly been used to improve the breed in the 14th and 19th century. 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.
Tribal people in what today is Turkmenistan first used the Akhal-Teke for raiding. The horses were their most treasured possession since they were crucial for income and survival. They selectively bred their horses, keeping records of the pedigrees via an oral tradition. Horses were managed and trained in very specific ways. Stallions were tethered next to the tent while mares and foals were free to seek forage. The stallions were covered from head to tail with up to seven layers of felt, which kept their coat short and shiny. Before raids they were put on a sparse diet to prepare them for the long ride through the desert with no water and hardly any feed. The horses were called Argamaks (divine or Sacred Horses) by the Russians, and were cherished by those who valued their speed and stamina in the desert and loyalty to their owner. Han emperors from China sacrificed armies to obtain just a few of the precious "Argamaks".
In 1881, Turkmenistan became part of the Russian Empire. The tribes fought with the tsar, eventually losing. In the process, however, 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 around the Akhal oasis (near Geok Tepe). The Russians closed the studbook in 1932 which included 287 stallions and 468 mares. Stallions are not gelded in Central Asia. The studbook was printed in 1941.
The Akhal-Teke has had influence on many breeds, possibly including the Thoroughbred; the Byerly Turk, which may have been Akhal-Teke, an Arabian, or a Turkoman Horse), was one of the three major foundation stallions of the breed. Three other stallions thought to be of Turkoman origin, known as the "Lister Turk", the "White Turk", and the "Yellow Turk" were among a number of minor stallions from the orient who contributed to the foundation bloodstock 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.
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, 831 Makh, granddaughter of Thoroughbred Blondelli and great-great-granddaughter of Thoroughbred Junak, and line founder 9 Ak Belek, a direct descendent in the male line of the Thoroughbred stallion Fortingbrass). Due to this fact there doesn't exist any Akhal Teke today whose ancestry doesn't contain a Thoroughbred. Since 1973, all foals must be blood typed to be accepted in the stud book in order to protect the integrity of the breed. From 2014 on, a DNA test based on hair follicles is sufficient if the DNA of the parents is on file. A stallion not producing the right type of horse may be removed. Nowadays, artificial insemination is allowed as well as embryo transfer. The surrogate mother, however, needs to be a pureblood Akhal Teke mare for the foal to be registered in the General Studbook as a pureblood Akhal Teke.
Turkmenistan has a separate agency, Turkmen Atlary, responsible for the breeding, training and maintenance of Akhal-Teke horses. However, the agency's work has been the focus of criticism from the President of the country, who holds the agency responsible for decreasing numbers of horses and inadequate facilities for their breeding, training and management. At present Akhal-Teke horses in Turkmenistan are not registered with any other studbook. The main reason for this are allegations of a heavy infusion of Thoroughbred blood into the breed to create faster horses for racing in Turkenistan. There are estimates that as many as 30% of the horses in the Ashgabat hippodrome were not purebred. This may have also been a main reason for the fabricated charges against the first horse minister of Turkmenistan, Geldy Kyarizov, who tried to avoid and remedy the secretive outcrossing and found himself in severe opposition to fellow breeders.
Turkmen Atlary, in its capacity as the administrative arm of the International Akhal-Teke Horse Association, hosts a meeting of the association once or twice a year upon invitation in Ashgabat. Most of the bigger breeding farms and national Akhal Teke associations as well as Akhal Teke owners and representatives of the horse industry from around the world attend. There is a horse racing organization called "Galkinysh" . In Ashgabat, the Ahalteke equestrian complex, one of the largest in Central Asia, is a horse-breeding center. The former Akhal-Teke horse Holiday, celebrated on the last Sunday in April, has been renamed 'Turkmen Horse Day'
The Akhal-Teke, due to its natural athleticism, can be a sport horse, good at dressage, show jumping, eventing, racing, and endurance riding. A noted example was the Akhal-Teke stallion, Absent, who won the Grand Prix de Dressage at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, while being ridden by Sergei Filatov. He went again with Filatov to win the bronze individual medal in Tokyo in the 1964 Summer Olympics, and won the Soviet team gold medal under Ivan Kalita at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. However, by today's studbook standards he wouldn't be admitted as Akhal-Teke, owing to the Thoroughbred ancestry of his dam Bakkara. Other notable Akhal-Tekes include the 1986 winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Dancing Brave.
Akhal-Teke horses are bred all over the world. In addition to their motherland there are breeders in Russia and Central Asia, in Germany and other European countries and USA, Uruguay and Australia.
There are several genetic diseases of concern to Akhal-Teke breeders. The genetic diversity of the breed is relatively low with an AVK (Ancestor Loss Coefficient ) of 30-50%,[dubious ] which raises concerns for dealing with an increase in carriers of these conditions, and even some risk of inbreeding depression.[unreliable source?] To date, there are no DNA tests for these conditions.
- Naked Foal Syndrome or Hairless Foal Syndrome is most likely an autosomal, lethal recessive gene, though the exact inheritance pattern has not yet been verified. It appears to be similar in clinical signs, though not identical to, junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) found in the Belgian horse and another condition of a similar nature identified in the American Saddlebred. The defect causes foals to be born without any hair coat, mane or tail. In some cases, the front teeth are in at birth or molars grow abnormally from normal jaws. Other symptoms include persistent diarrhea, frequent digestive disorders, and laminitis-like, treatment-resistant rotation of the coffin bones in the hooves. Due the lack of normal skin protection, secondary symptoms include scaly, dry, and inflamed skin, as well as severe cases of sunburn in summer, and frequent pulmonary infections during winter. NFS is always fatal, most foals die within weeks of birth, although some horses have survived up to the age of two years. Early demise is usually caused by digestive problems, whereas older horses need to be humanely euthanized because of severe laminitis-induced pain. Cases were recorded within the Akhal-Teke breed as early as 1938. Some 35 carriers have been ascertained,[dubious ] including 943 Arslan, 736 Keymir, 2001 Mariula, or 1054 Gilkuyruk, but the estimated number of unknown cases is likely higher, as several Russian and Turkmenian breeders have acknowledged that NFS foals are often just reported as stillborn or aborted.
- Hereditary cryptorchidism exists within the Akhal-Teke breed and affected stallions can be traced through multiple generations. The influential foundation sire, 2a Boinou was a cryptorchid according to experts of the breed. Other verified cryptorchids include 779 Peren, 1248 Orlan, 971 Khalif, Sayvan, Saburbek, and Garayusup. 1069 Kortik produced a cryptorchid. Unlike many European and North American breed organisations, neither Russia nor Turkmenistan bar cryptorchids from breeding. Cryptorchidism is said to be related to health and behavior problems. Affected horses are more expensive to castrate. There are no studbook regulations related to the use of cryptorchid stallions. Breeders balance the risk of cryptorchidism against propagating other desirable qualities. Some national Akhal Teke associations, however, ban Cryptorchidism from breeding.
- The Akhal-Teke is one of many light riding horse breeds that may be prone to cervical vertebral malformation (CVM), commonly called Wobbler syndrome, and to Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD). These conditions are seen in a number of other breeds, including the Thoroughbred. There is likely a genetic component to Wobbler's, but the mechanism has not been clearly identified. There also is a possible connection to Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
Akhal-Teke is presented in the official coat of arms and banknotes of Turkmenistan, as well as on stamps of both the Turkmenistan and other countries.
Monument in International Equestrian Sports Complex
- "Permanent Mission of Turkmenistan to the United Nations, Country Facts". Un.cti.depaul.edu. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
- Metallic Sheen as Observed in Individuals of the Akhal-Teke Breed; By Danielle Westfall, Zoology major, Ohio Wesleyan University Archived December 3, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Cieslak, Michael, et al. "Origin and history of mitochondrial DNA lineages in domestic horses." PLoS One 5.12 (2010): e15311. "Eleven out of these 39 haplotypes were lineages that were confined to a single primitive breed (B/Arabian; D2d/Cheju; G1/Akhal Teke; H/Garrano; H1/Marismeno; H1a/Lusitano; K2b1/Sicilian Oriental Purebred; K3b/ Yakut; X1/Pottoka; X2a/Debao; X3c/Lusitano; X5/Fulani). " Archived April 5, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- 01.10.2012, 1st Report from WATO President Christoph Vogel, The breed of Akhal-Teke is facing a crisis: "In her world census for 2012, Jessica Eile-Keith estimated a world population of about 6’600 Akhal-Teke: Turkmenistan ± 3’000, Russia ± 1’600, Central Asia ± 300, USA ± 450, Western Europe ±1’300. With a total of 6’600 Akhal-Teke, one or two specialisation would be justifiable." Archived December 3, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Auf den Spuren des Achal-Tekkiners Archived April 15, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- International Association of Akhal-Teke Breeding (MAAK); OPEN LETTER TO MAAK MEMBERS. Subject: Akhal-Teke studbook Archived August 2, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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- VIDEO: Amazing equine trek from Ashkhabad to Moscow in 84 days over 4,300km
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- official website of Turkmen Atlary, the State Department for horses in Turkmenistan Archived May 16, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
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- http://thbcc.com/iatha/ IATHA http://thbcc.com/iatha/
- Turkmenistan: Arkadag’s Day at the Races Redux Archived April 8, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Heavenly horses canter around ring
- Президент Туркменистана посетил Ахалтекинский конный комплекс
- Turkmenistan marks Fair and Conference marking Turkmen Horse Day opened in Ashgabat Archived November 8, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Turkmenistan: Land Of The Akhal Teke
- Olympic Games Medals, Results, Sports, Athletes|Médailles, Résultats, Sports et Athlètes des Jeux Olympiques Archived April 8, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- All Breed Database
- "The Akhalteke Horse of Turkmenistan". Embassy of Turkmenistan. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- Yanardag is visible in the video from ~30 sec onward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REl9VDNgrs0
- Breeders from around the world: http://www.akhaltekehorse.org/links.htm Archived April 24, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- AVK is the loss of ancestors of possible ancestors in the pedigree due to some ancestors showing up more than once in the pedigree
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- "The Stavropol Sphinx", Akhal Teke Inform 2006
- e.g. "10th Studbook, tome II, page 160": 2860 Mriya, naked foal (dead) b.2000, by 1201 Kavkas, published in 2005 by VNIIK, Ryasan
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- "Citation: Stallion Garaiusup, black, "Young World Champion 2002" , was granted a Special Prize for the most expressed breed type, but the jury had to move him to the 8th place because of unilateral cryptorchidism and spavin.". Maakcenter.org. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
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- "Akhalteke.info". Akhalteke.info. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
- Во славу ахалтекинского коня
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Akhal-Teke.|
- The European Akhal-Teke Horse Association
- (MAAK) International Association of Akhal-Teke Breeders
- Turkmenistan Akhal Teke government website
- Akhal-Teke Association of America
- Akhal-Teke World association
- Akhal-Teke Switzerland
- Czech Akhal Teke Association
- The French Akhal-Teke Horse Association