Yakutian horse

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Yakutian horse
Conservation statusFAO (2007): not at risk[1]: 99 
Other namesYakut
Country of originYakutia (Russia)
  • 450 kg
  • Male:
    140 cm
  • Female:
    136 cm
In summer
In winter

The Yakutian (Yakut: Саха ата, Sakha ata) or Yakut is a native horse breed from the Siberian Sakha Republic (or Yakutia) region. It is large compared to the otherwise similar Mongolian horse and Przewalski's horse.[2]: 340  It is noted for its adaptation to the extreme cold climate of Yakutia, including the ability to locate and graze on vegetation that is under deep snow cover,[3] and to survive without shelter in temperatures that reach −70 °C (−94 °F).[4]

The horses appear to have evolved from domesticated horses brought with the Yakuts when they migrated to the area beginning in the 13th century, and are not descended from wild horses known to inhabit the area in Neolithic times.[4]

Varieties and characteristics[edit]

The breed averages 140 centimetres (13.3 hands) in stallions and 136 cm (13.2 h) in mares,[5][2]: 340  and shares certain outward characteristics with other northern breeds like the Shetland pony, Fjord horse and Icelandic horse, including sturdy stature, thick mane and heavy hair coat,[4] their coat ranging from 8 to 15 centimeters.[6]

There are several subtypes of the Yakutian horse.[7] The Northern type is the purest bred Yakut, and is sometimes called the Middle Kolyma or Verkhoyansk horse. It is usually bay, gray or light dun in color, with primitive markings including a dark dorsal stripe and zebra-pattern stripes on the legs. Stallions measure 139 cm (13.3 h) at withers on average, mares are 137 cm (13.2 h). This variety is considered to be the most valuable. The second variety is the Smaller Southern type, which is also considered a pure but less valuable breed. Average height is 135 cm (13.1 h) in stallions and 132 cm (13.0 h) in mares. The third variety is the Larger Southern type, which is the result of cross-breeding with other breeds, and is widespread in central Yakutia. This type measures 141 cm (14.0 h) in stallions and 136 cm (13.2 h) in mares.[2]: 340 

Adaptation to the Siberian environment[edit]

In Siberia, annual temperatures fluctuate between +38 and −70 °C (+100 and −94 °F) and winter may last for 8 months.[7] Yakutian horses are kept unstabled year-round, and in the roughly 800 years that they have been present in Siberia, they have evolved a range of remarkable morphologic, metabolic and physiologic adaptations to this harsh environment.

  • While smaller than modern highly derived horse breeds, they are larger than other primitive horse breeds (Bergmann's rule);[2]: 340  at the same time they have a compact build with a stouter trunk and legs that are relatively short in proportion to the horse's size (Allen's rule).[4]
  • Their winter coat is extremely dense[4] and reaches a hair length of 8 cm (3.1 in).[2]: 340 
  • Their metabolism adjusts to seasonal needs. In fall they accumulate large fat reserves, in winter the metabolic rate is lowered, and in spring they show an increased carbohydrate metabolism, making use of the freshly sprouting grass.[4]
  • They show an increased production of antifreezing compounds.[4]
  • They may further avoid frostbite by reducing the volume of circulating blood during times of extreme cold, as indicated by an increased responsiveness of their genetic networks involved in oxidative stress responses, vasodilation, and blood coagulation.[4]

Genetically they show indications of convergent evolution with other inhabitants of the Far North like mammoths regarding their adaptation to the extreme cold.[4]


The Yakutian horse is used primarily for its meat, which is considered a delicacy by locals due to a plentiful fat layer. Their milk is also used, mostly for making Kumis. Despite their small stature, the Yakut is valued for its riding capabilities.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed October 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e N.G. Dmitriev, L.K. Ernst (1989). Animal genetic resources of the USSR. FAO animal production and health paper 65. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9251025827. Archived 13 November 2009. Also available here, archived 29 September 2017.
  3. ^ Anatoly Mikhailovich Khazanov (1995), After the USSR: ethnicity, nationalism and politics in the Commonwealth of Independent States, University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 0-299-14894-7, retrieved 20 April 2009, ... The Yakut horse has the ability to uncover grass that is under as much as 50 centimeters of snow (and the snow cover lasts in the country for seven to eight months a year) ...
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Librado, Pablo; et al. (23 November 2015). "Tracking the origins of Yakutian horses and the genetic basis for their fast adaptation to subarctic environments". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 112 (50): E6889–97. Bibcode:2015PNAS..112E6889L. doi:10.1073/pnas.1513696112. PMC 4687531. PMID 26598656. contemporary Yakutian horses do not descend from the native horses that populated the region until the mid-Holocene, but were most likely introduced following the migration of the Yakut people a few centuries ago. Thus, they represent one of the fastest cases of adaptation to the extreme temperatures of the Arctic. Popular science write-ups:
  5. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations / Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS): "Yakutskaya/Russian Federation". Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Якутская лошадь: хозяйственная и вкусная". Сахапарламент.ру - Все о законах, парламентаризме, законодательных инициативах, народных депутатах и действующем законодательстве (in Russian). 27 August 2021. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  7. ^ a b Alexeev, N.D., N.P. Stepanov [n.d.] Yakut Horse: Breed Types, Economical and Biological Features". NGO Sakha – World XXI Century, w/o date. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2017.

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