|Conservation status||FAO (2007): not at risk:61|
|Country of origin||India|
|Distribution||Zanskar valley of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir|
The Zaniskari or Zanskari is a breed of small mountain horse or pony from Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir state in northern India. It is named for the Zanskar valley or region in Kargil district. It is similar to the Spiti breed of Himachal Pradesh, but is better adapted to work at high altitude. Like the Spiti, it shows similarities to the Tibetan breeds of neighbouring Tibet.:197 It is of medium size, and is often grey in colour. The breed is considered endangered, as there are only a few hundred alive today, and a conservation programme has been started in India.
In 1977 the population of Zaniskari horses was estimated at 15,000–20,000. The breed was listed as "not at risk" by the FAO in 2007.:61 However, it has been endangered by indiscriminate cross-breeding with other horses and it is thought that only a few hundred pure-bred animals now remain, mainly in the valleys of Ladakh, including the Zanskar Gorge from which the breed takes its name. The Animal Husbandry Department of Jammu and Kashmir operates a farm at Padum, Zanskar, for the breeding and conservation of the breed. The population has declined rapidly due to mechanisation and to increases in the number of roads in its native area. However, the population did not in 2006 show signs of any significant genetic bottleneck.:199
A genetic analysis of five Indian horse breeds in 2007 found the Zaniskari to be close to the Manipuri, Spiti and Bhutia breeds, and more distant from the Marwari. A study of all six Indian breeds in 2014 grouped the Zaniskari with the Bhutia, Manipuri and Spiti breeds, and found it to be most closely related to the Spiti.
The Zaniskari is strong, compact and well built, and is particularly adapted to work in the hypoxic environment of Ladakh.:60 Height is usually between 120 and 140 centimetres (11.3 and 13.3 hands); thoracic circumference is 140–150 cm (55–60 in) and body length about 95–115 cm (38–45 in). The most usual horse coat colour is grey; bay, brown, black and chestnut also occur.
The Zaniskari is particularly adapted to work as a pack animal in the high altitudes and challenging conditions of its native region, which lies between 3000 and 5000 m above sea level, and where temperatures may reach -40 °C. It is strong and sure-footed, and has good stamina. The Indian army in Ladakh uses it as a pack-beast. It is also used for riding and for polo.:57–58
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- Rahul Behl, Jyotsna Behl, Neelam Gupta, S.C. Gupta, S.P.S. Ahlawat, Mahesh Ragnekar, Z. Ahmed (2006). Genetic characterization of Zanskari breed of horse. Journal of Genetics 85 (3): 199-203. doi:10.1007/bf02935331.
- Rahul Behl, Jyotsna Behl, Neelam Gupta, S.C. Gupta (2007). Genetic relationships of five Indian horse breeds using microsatellite markers. Animal 1 (4):483–488. doi:10.1017/S1751731107694178 (subscription required)
- A.K. Gupta, Mamta Chauhan, Anuradha Bhardwaj, Neelam Gupta, S.C. Gupta, Yash Pal, S.N. Tandon, R.K. Vijh (2014). Comparative genetic diversity analysis among six Indian breeds and English Thoroughbred horses. Livestock Science 163, May 2014, Pages 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2014.01.028 (subscription required).