The relationship between mongols and their horses

Article: The Horse in Mongolian Culture | AMNH

the relationship between mongols and their horses

Horses play a large role in the daily and national life of the Mongols; it is traditionally said that . He wrote, "It is a pleasure to see the Mongols in association with their horses, and to see them on horseback is a joy. [T]he strength, swiftness. The Mongol horse is the native horse breed of Mongolia. The breed is purported to be largely .. "Microsatellite Variation in Japanese and Asian Horses and Their Phylogenetic Relationship Using a European Horse Outgroup". In life as in death, modern Mongolian horses are decorated with a blue prayer scarf as a sign of respect. The adorned horse here is an elderly.

The ultimate goal is to produce a race horse that has one-quarter foreign blood and three-quarters Mongolian blood; this proportion is believed to create a horse hardy enough to survive in Mongolia and combine the Mongolian horse's stamina and endurance with foreign speed to produce a new breed with the best qualities of both.

This results in large foals that can be difficult for the small mares to birth. Since Mongolian mares typically give birth on their own without human supervision—and seldom have problems doing so—breeders have little experience on how to deal with the birthing problems that result due to the size of the crossed foals.

To reduce birthing problems, a foreign mare could be bred to a native stallion to avoid the large foal problem, but in practice this reduces the numbers of crossbreed foals that can be produced each year.

In one breeding season, a foreign stallion can impregnate 10 native mares and produce 10 crossed foals, but a foreign mare can only be impregnated by a native stallion once and produce one crossed foal.

One of these breeds was eventually exported to Iceland by settlers, producing the modern day Icelandic horsewhich bears a strong resemblance to the Mongol horse and lives in much the same way, foraging freely off the land during all seasons. The Exmoor, Scottish Highland, Shetland, and Connemara pony breeds have also been found to be related to the Icelandic horse, suggesting that all these northern European breeds had ancestors that grazed on the steppe of Mongolia.

Horse culture in Mongolia and Mongol military tactics and organization Mongol warrior on horseback, preparing a mounted archery shot Mongol horses are best known for their role as the war steeds of Genghis Khan. The Mongol soldier relied on his horses to provide him with food, drink, transportation, armor, shoes, ornamentation, bowstring, rope, fire, sport, music, hunting, entertainment, spiritual power, and in case of his death, a mount to ride in the afterlife. Mongol horses made excellent warhorses because of their hardiness, stamina, self-sufficiency, and ability to forage on their own.

The main disadvantage of the Mongol horse as a war steed was that it was slower than some of the other breeds it faced on the battlefield. Soldiers preferred to ride lactating mares because they could use them as milk animals.

Mongolian horse - Wikipedia

In times of desperation, they would also slit a minor vein in their horse's neck and drain some blood into a cup. This they would drink either "plain" or mixed with milk or water. Each warrior would bring a small herd of horses with him three to five being average, but up to 20 as remounts. They alternated horses so that they always rode a fresh horse. Horse culture in Mongolia Child racing at the Naadam festival.

The horse's forelock is put up into a topknot in the traditional race style. Horse racing is one of the "three manly arts".

Horse racing is the second-most popular event in Mongolia, after traditional wrestling. The native horses have excellent endurance. Though foreign breeds are faster than Mongolian horses, they are usually exhausted by the end of the run, while the Mongolian horses still have wind. Nevertheless, horses have died of exhaustion during the Naadam race on occasion.

Each family selects the best horse from their herd and takes it to the fair to race. However, in recent years, the introduction of fast foreign crossbreeds has changed the sport. This has led to complaints that ordinary people no longer have a chance to win, and that racing has become the province of the elite.

Children are used instead of adults because they are lighter. Mongolians are not so much concerned with the skill and experience of a jockey as the ability of the horse. During the time of Genghis Khan, Mongol horse archers were capable of feats such as sliding down the side of their horses to shield their bodies from enemy arrows, while simultaneously holding their bows under the horses' chins and returning fire, all at full gallop.

The education of a modern Mongolian horseman begins in childhood. Parents place their children on a horse and hold them there before they can even hang on without assistance.

By age 6, children can ride in races; [24] by age 10, they are learning to make their own tack. Materials such as books on horse training or medical care are uncommon and seldom used. Information is passed down orally from parent to child.

A variety of rules for how tack and horses should be handled are known. For example, it was taboo to use the whip as a prop or to touch an arrow to the whip; such crimes were punishable by death.

In Genghis Khan's time, strict rules dictated the way horses were to be used on campaign. The Khan instructed his general Subutai, "See to it that your men keep their crupper hanging loose on their mounts and the bit of their bridle out of the mouth, except when you allow them to hunt. That way they won't be able to gallop off at their whim [tiring out the horses unnecessarily].

Having established these rules--see to it you seize and beat any man who breaks them. Tack design follows a "one size fits all" approach, with saddles, halters, and bits all produced in a single size. Mongolian tack is very light compared to western tack. It has a high pommel and cantle and short stirrups.

Riders frequently stand in the stirrups while riding. Horse culture in Mongolia The Mongols have many stories and songs about horses. Legendary horses include magical flying steeds, beloved horses that visit in dreams, and a rich body of folklore about equine protagonists.

The horse has long played a role as a sacred animal, and Mongols have a variety of spiritual beliefs regarding them. The mane is believed to contain a horse's spirit and strength; for this reason, the mane of stallions is always left uncut.

Mare's milk has been used in ceremonies of purification, prayer, and blessing since antiquity. In modern times, it continues to be used in a variety of ceremonies associated with racing. Historically, horses were sacrificed on special occasions; 40 horses were sacrificed at the funeral of Genghis Khan. Horses are believed to have spirits that can help or hurt their owner after death.

When Jebe was captured later, he admitted flat out to the Khan's face that he had fired the arrow in question. Genghis Khan admired the man's courage, and instead of killing Jebe, he took him into his own army. Many years later, when Jebe had become a general, Genghis Khan became concerned that his subordinate had ambitions to replace him.

To allay the Khan's suspicions, Jebe sent him a gift of 1, horses with white speckled muzzles. Pian de Carpine described the procedure as follows: After that they put their saddles and other hard things on it, and the men likewise sit on it.

Then they tie the boat thus made to the tail of a horse, and a man swims along ahead leading it; or they sometimes have two oars, and with them they row across the water, thus crossing the river. Some of the poorer people have a leather pouch, well sewn, each man having one; and in this pouch or sack they put their clothing and all their things, and they tie the mouth of the bag tightly, and tie it to the tail of a horse, then they cross as stated above.

A similar system of horse-expedited mail was still practiced in Mongolia as of Elizabeth Kendall described it as follows: The Mongols who are employed for the work go through from city to city in seven days, galloping all the way, with frequent changes of horses and, less frequent, of men.

The mane of a stallion is never cut, though the manes of geldings are. After a stallion dies, the owner may save the mane. The first foal of the year will also have a blue scarf tied around its neck; this foal is believed to represent the strength of the year's crop of foals. When a Mongol rider passes an ovoo, they may offer some of their horse's tail hairs before proceeding. The horse is generally never ridden, though on rare occasions the head of the household may do so.

Historically, horses were sacrificed on special occasions; it is recorded that 40 horses were sacrificed at the funeral of Genghis Khan. There was also kumis mare's milk for the deceased to drink. In "The Secret History of the Mongols," it is recorded that Genghis Khan sprinkled mare's milk on the ground as a way to honor a mountain for protecting him. Before battle, the Mongols would sprinkle mare's milk on the ground to ensure victory. Sprinkled milk was also used for purification; envoys to the Khan were required to pass between two fires while being sprinkled with mare's milk to cleanse them of evil devices and witchcraft.

William of Rubruck noted in that, "If he [a Mongol master of the house] were to drink [liquor while] seated on a horse, he first before he drinks pours a little on the neck or the mane of the horse. Milk may also be sprinkled after people who are leaving on a journey. To show respect, they may take the horse's skull and place it on an oovo, a pile of rocks used in the shamanic religion.

Others believe that when a horse is killed for food, its skull should be left in the field because of the sanctity of the horse. It is considered disrespectful for a horse's skull or hooves to be stepped upon; for this reason, such remains may be hung from a tree.

Horses are believed to have spirits that can help or hurt their owner after death. When a deceased horse's spirit is content, the owner's herd will flourish; if not, then the herd will fail. The wind horse is depicted on the official Mongolian coat of armswhich features a winged horse. In one story, a Mongolian Robin Hood figure stole livestock from the rich and gave them to the poor.

One day he was being pursued by lawmen on horseback, and he came to a river his horse could not cross. It looked like he would soon be caught, but seeing a mountain in the distance, he prayed to it for help and his horse rose from the ground and flew over the river to the top of the mountain.

In this tale, a shepherd named Namjil the Cuckoo received the gift of a flying horse; he would mount it at night and fly to meet his beloved.

The grieving shepherd made a horsehead fiddle from the now-wingless horse's skin and tail hair, and used it to play poignant songs about his horse.

Mongolian horse

So the first horsehead fiddle was assembled, with horse bones as its neck, horsehair strings, horse skin covering its wooden soundbox, and its scroll carved into the shape of a horse head. Horses are common characters in Mongolian folklore. The frequently recurring motif of the young foal who becomes separated from his family and must make his way in the world alone is a type of story that has been described as endemic to Mongolian culture.

InHaslund wrote, "Of forty-two Mongolian songs which I noted down in my years in Mongolia no less than seventeen are about horses.

They have titles like: The horse may be born at the same time as the hero or just before him. It possesses great strength, speed, magic, and intelligence. The horse may have the power to magically change its shape; it provides the hero with counsel, and can even predict the future. As regards the latter ability, one plot development that occurs repeatedly is the disaster that results when the hero disregards his horse's advice.

  • Horse culture in Mongolia

In other epics the hero cannot defeat his monstrous manggus foe without asking for help from his horse. The horse may even use its magical powers to assist the hero in courting his beloved. We have not yet found any epic in this nomadic tradition that is without a steed and the assistance it provides.

the relationship between mongols and their horses

The most famous horse from the epic is AranjagaanJangar 's mount. Aranjagaan was sired by a seven-year-old Heavenly Horse who came down to mate with a mortal mare by a lake. There is intertextual conflict about this later in the epic, where Aranjagaan's father is described as an ordinary horse who was ridden by Jangar's father.

Aranjagaan's capabilities are described in epic style: He had a huge tail and ears. He had hooves the size of a sheep pen and a butt as hard as cast iron.

Article: The Horse in Mongolian Culture

As soon as he was born, he hissed and frightened away wolves, which had stalked near the stall. At the age of one, he joined a war. At two, he fought wars north and south. He was in his prime at the age of seven. Aranjagaan hissed excitedly, making tree leaves, grasses and stones thunder and even frightening boars dozens of baraa away. His power seemed to radiate from within him. One leap forward would bring his rider hundreds of meters away. His power would hold anyone in great awe. His red brilliance was fiery and dazzled everyone who saw him.

Even Aranjagaan's roaring shook enemies and weakened their knees. Even the nameless horses like Altan Gheej's crimson mount have poetically glorified capabilities.

the relationship between mongols and their horses

The crimson horse is described as having a tail 80 feet long and ears like pestles. It can run at a full gallop for two months straight and swim across a sea for 25 days.

Moligen Tabuga's scarlet horse is described as being as large as forty-nine seas. Sanale's red horse has ears like iron bars. These sizes and abilities are typical for all epic steeds in the Jangar. In particular, the size of the tail, ears, and hooves are praised, though occasionally one will find the horse's legs described as tree trunks, etc. Indeed, the motif of the divinely born horse is repeated in the epic, as when the history of Aletan Kale's wondrous buff and white horse is given: The heavenly horse met and mated with a beautiful female horse at the bank of Kas Lake.

Then the heavenly horse licked her face and flew away, leaving a heartbroken companion. The female horse gave birth to the buff and white horse with endless expectations. When Jangar is struck with a poisoned arrowAranjagaan realizes what has happened and carefully carries Jangar to safety. To keep his swaying master from toppling off, the horse skillfully leans back and forth, even going so far as to crouching down his forelegs or hindlegs when ascending and descending hills to keep his back level.

When they arrive at a house, he lays down to let his rider gently fall off. On another occasion, Aranjagaan runs to a place where a battle is occurring and begins to fight, riderless, alongside the hero.

During fights, the epic narrative typically switches back and forth between describing the combat of riders and the actions of their horses, i. In battles, the poets describe the horse as a self-willed actor. There are few descriptions of rein-pulling or leg guidance; rather, the impression is that the horse chooses how best to carry on the fight as it works in concert with its rider.

The horses bite and kick enemies, and will even bite enemy horses. During a battle, Sanale's red horse "provided him with inexhaustible power. It kicked the enemies eighteen thousand times from the left and then eighteen thousand times from the right so that the spears, broadswords, and arrows were broken.

It fought like a huge eagle extending its wings. In a long-running battle, Altan Gheej's crimson horse is "beaten black and blue and scabbed all over. With eyes covered by blood, the horse was nearly trapped by the enemy several times. Seeing the situation was urgent, Altan Gheej whipped the horse to the sea and swam for awhile.

The blood was cleaned and the wounds healed up magically. When Hongor's livid horse sees Hongor equipped for war, it kicks and snorts with excitement.

the relationship between mongols and their horses

The horses often have adventures of their own, like getting caught in a whirlpool and escaping by grabbing a branch in their teeth and hauling themselves onto shore. The poet does not fail to describe the horse's exhausted collapse on the bank, the rider's concern, and the horse's subsequent recovery as it stands up, joyfully shakes its mane, and begins cropping grass.

Mongolian poets consider it important to describe a horse's feelings and actions as well as those of the human characters. For example, when Jangar stops to drink at a cool stream and delights in the beauty of nature, the poet also notes that Aranjagaan grazes and enjoys a roll in the grass.

the relationship between mongols and their horses

On another pleasant excursion, Aranjagaan's rider begins to sing, and Aranjagaan moves his hooves in time with the song.

Heroes and horses converse with one another on a regular basis. The hero will urge and rebuke his horse, demanding more speed, as when Altan Gheej says to his crimson horse after 50 days and nights of running, "Aren't you known as a 'flying arrow' or a 'blue eagle'?

Why haven't you crossed over your enclosure after so many days? If so, when can we arrive at our destination? Where is your mighty power? How can you get adrift like this?

For example, when Sanale is fleeing a devil, his sweating, exhausted horse says, "My master, I have tried my best and cannot run faster. Please get rid of the devil, or else we will both have trouble. Sanale, ashamed, apologizes to the horse. The red horse replies impassively, "Drinking delays and drinking hard kills. They will rub their horse's nose affectionately and care for them in times of hardship.

When Sanale was forced to flee into the Gobi desert, he and his horse became exhausted with hunger and thirst. The horse saw a plant that it recognized as poisonous, but couldn't resist eating it. Immediately it collapsed in agony. Weeping, Sanale grasped the horse's neck and told it that he had nothing to give it but his own flesh, but that they must go on or their enemies would kill them.

The horse was deeply moved at his master's concern and cried. It heroically managed to rise and bear Sanale away. When the horse later collapses, Sanale tries to help it stand.

the relationship between mongols and their horses

Eventually, afraid that his pursuers will harm the weakened horse, Sanale hides it in a cave while he fights them off. During an exhausting battle, Sabar's maroon horse gasps, "Master, we have fought for seven days, and I feel dizzy and giddy due to lack of food and water.

Can we just rush out and find something to eat? When introducing a new hero, the poets inevitably include a description of the hero's prized steed.

One of the descriptions of Sanale, for instance, is that "he rides a crimson horse rarely seen on the steppes. The poet describes Jangar's beautiful clothes, then adds that Aranjagaan was fitted with a golden halter and long silver reins.

Because of their value, horses are also important in peace negotiations; for example, Jangar seeks to buy peace from Sanale by offering him the twelve best horses in his herd.

The horses, Aranjagaan in particular, are also subject to ransom demands by covetous enemy Khans. On various occasions, hostile Khans demand Aranjagaan as tribute to avoid war. One of the threatened consequences for a defeated enemy is to have all his horses driven off by the victor.

The horses play key roles throughout the story, providing information and assisting the heroes against enemies against enemies. Sanale is almost seduced by a hungry devil disguised as a beautiful temptress, but his horse snorts and blows up her skirt, revealing shaggy legs.

Altan Gheej's crimson horse is hitched to the eaves of an enemy Khan's palace and pulls until the entire palace collapses.

Sabar's maroon horse magically finds out that Sabar's homeland is being attacked and conveys a message from Jangar to Sabar, asking him to return and save him. The fact that horses serve as meat animals in Mongolian culture is not ignored in the epic. Sanale warns his red horse that if their enemies catch them, they will eat him and make his equine skin into boots. The heroes carry dry horse meat as provisions as they ride off. During a critical moment in a battle, Hongor says to his horse, "You are my dearest brother, a rare horse.

You have never been beaten. If you fail today, I will skin you and eat your meat! On another occasion, a different hero warns Aranjagaan that the horse will suffer a similar fate if he doesn't arrive in time to help in a critical battle.