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.
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.
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. 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.
In 2007, a study was published that examined genetic variation among five Indian equine breeds—the Zanskari, Manipuri, Marwari, Spiti and Bhutia. Based on analysis of microsatellite DNA, the Zanskari was found to have the greatest genetic distance from the Marwari, and a much closer genetic distance to the other three breeds. The distance from the Marwari was not only genetic, but seen in physical characteristics, particularly height and environmental adaptability. The physical differences were attributed to differing ancestries: the Marwari horse is closely associated with the Arab, while the four other breeds are thought to have descended at least in part from the Tibetan pony. None of the breeds in the study were found to be closely genetically associated with the Thoroughbred.
These are the horse breeds and types considered in India to be wholly or partly of Indian origin.
Many have complex or obscure histories, so inclusion here does not necessarily imply that a breed is predominantly or exclusively Indian.