Caspian horse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Country of originIran and surrounding regions
Distinguishing featuresSmall horse breed founded in 1965 from stock believed to be of ancient origins; now bred in several other countries
Breed standards

The Caspian is an Iranian breed of pony or small horse of Oriental type.

The breed was created in 1965 by Louise Firouz, an American living in Iran, from a base stock of a small number of small horses found in the Elburz Mountains in Amol.[1][2][3] In 2011, the remains of a small horse dating back to 3400 B.C.E. were found at Gohar Tappeh, Iran, giving rise to claims that today's Caspian originates from the oldest known breed of the domestic horse.[citation needed] It is also one of the rarest horse breeds and its population status is critically endangered.[1]


The Caspian is said to originate from the mountainous regions of northern Iran, which explains how the breed is tough, athletic, and nimble.[4] Indeed, the oldest known specimen of a Caspian-like horse was found in 2011, in a cemetery dating back to 3400 B.C.E., in the archaeological dig at Gohar Tappeh in the province of Mazandaran in northern Iran, between the cities of Neka and Behshahr. Small horses were depicted in ancient art where they appeared in scenes pulling chariots.[5]: 148 

The Persian Empire required land transport on a huge scale. They were the first people to breed horses especially for strength and speed. That these horses were very small by modern standards is shown by a miniature golden chariot, a toy or perhaps a votive offering, found in the so-called Oxus Treasure,[6] discovered in the extreme east of the empire but apparently made in central Persia. The vehicle was obviously built for speed. Its wheels are taller than the horses, which are themselves of lesser height than the two passengers – and not because of the status of the passengers. Neil MacGregor likens this vehicle to a Ferrari or Porsche amongst cars – fast and luxurious.[7] King Darius (the Great) trusted his life to the little horses during lion hunts, and honored them on his famous Trilingual Seal.[6]

As seen on the bas comfortes on the great staircase at Persepolis, the Persian Shah demanded tributes of only first class animals.[8]


A bay Caspian bucking.

The Caspian generally stands about 120 cm (11.3 h) at the withers. It has concave profile and a vaulted forehead; the back is straight and short, the croup level and the tail is set on high.[5]: 148 

The Caspian Horse is extremely hardy, with strong hooves that rarely need shoeing unless they are consistently worked on very hard or stony ground. Their base coat colors are bay, chestnut, and black and other color modifiers include grey and dun. White markings may appear on the head and legs, but minimal white or no white markings are usually favored. Some lack chestnuts or ergots.[9]

Genetics and phenotype[edit]

There are experts who classify the Caspian horse as one that does not directly fall into the four ancestral types, namely the Northern European, Northern Steppe, Southern Steppe, and the Iberian/Mediterranean, making it unique and an important link to ancient horses.[4] It is this reason the Caspian is considered to be one of the rarest breeds of horses, along with the Akhal Teke.[4]

Research has shown that Caspian and Turkoman horses occupy positions in phylogenetic analysis that has given rise to a hypothesis that they carry genetics that are ancestral to all other oriental type breeds studied to date.[10]


  1. ^ a b Perkins, Laura. "Conservation Priority List". The Livestock Conservancy. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  2. ^ [s.n.] (7 July 2008). Obituary: Louise Firouz: Horse breeder who discovered the Caspian Horse. London: The Times.
  3. ^ "Louise Firouz". The Daily Telegraph. 31 May 2008. Archived from the original on 15 November 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Willekes, Carolyn (2016). The Horse in the Ancient World: From Bucephalus to the Hippodrome. New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781784533663.
  5. ^ a b Jessie Haas (2017). The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia, second edition (e-book). North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. ISBN 9781612126791.
  6. ^ a b Both c. 500 BC, British Museum, London
  7. ^ Neil MacGregor A History of the World in a Hundred Objects: Ch. 26, Oxus Chariot Model.;pp 165-`170 (2010)
  8. ^ The Horses of Persepolis, Royal Horse Society, Iran, & Firouz L, Light Horse, Vol.20, No.22, Aug. 1969
  9. ^ Firouz, Louise. Light Horse. April 1966.
  10. ^ E. Gus Cothran, Ph.D., Animal Genetics, Texas A & M University. (Initial studies took place at Kentucky University, 1990).

Further reading[edit]

  • Osteological and Historical Implications of the Caspian Miniature Horse to Early Horse Domestication in Iran, Firouz, Louise, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Imperial Horse Society of Iran
  • The Caspian Miniature Horse Of Iran, Firouz, Louise, Field Research Studies, Florida 1972
  • The Caspian Horse, (Dalton, Brenda), Allen Guides to Horse and Pony Breeds, (2000), ISBN 0-85131-797-9.
  • The Caspian Horse, Dalton, Brenda, ISBN 978-0-9549362-2-8 Reprinted in paperback 2009 – Plausible Publishing
  • Horses, their role in the History of Man, E. Hartley Edwards, Willow Books, 1987
  • The Ark, Alderson, Lawrence, Rare Breeds Survival Trust
  • Riding Through Revolution, Louise Firouz with Brenda Dalton, Advanced Global Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9549362-2-8.

External links[edit]