Time to saddle up

Fetima Guliyeva
Historian

      We have seen of another year, the year of the wise snake, embracing that of the horse, a generous gift of nature, an animal that has proven its faithfulness to man over the millenniums.
      The horse has always taken a special place in the life of
Azerbaijan people. It was at the end of the 5th millennium B.C. that people started domesticating horses in the ancient Azerbaijan. The bones of domesticated horses were unearthed in archeological excavations in Alikomtapa settlement of Jalilabad province of Azerbaijan.
      The horse was believed to be sacred in the state of Manna, an ancient Azeri realm in the 9th century B.C. There were required special rituals to bury horses.
      Assirian sources say that our ancestors, Manna and Midia tribes had plentiful herds of strong pedigree horses. Diadorus from Sicily wrote that hundreds or thousands of horse herds were being bred in Midia especially for military purposes.
      According to ancient Greek geographer Strabonus tribes in Atropotena, an ancient state in
Azerbaijan, could take the 10,000 strong cavalry to the battlefield. The ancient settlers in our country, Albans, managed to resist the renowned Roman commander Pompeus in 67 B.C. owning to their 22,000 strong cavalry.
      The contemporary Azeri runners, especially the horses of Karabagh, root back to ancient times. The medium-sized, brown and gold-brown horses shined among other breeds. Horse breeding specialist S. P. Urusov noted that
      "Karabagh horses played as a tremendous role in the development of horse-breeding in
Asia as English horses did in Europe".
      Some data available show that there were around 150,000 horses in the
Azerbaijan of the 19th century. For example. Karabagh Khan (feudal ruler) Ibrahim possessed a horse herd numbering 3,000-4,000.
      People in Karabagh used to sell horses to Euroepan countries. In one of these massive sales, an English company purchased as many as 60 mares from the horse breeding enterprise of Mehdigulu Khan of Karabagh in 1823.
      The renowned painter Vershaghin was struck to see the grandiosity and beauty of horses in his tour of Shusha, a key town of
Karabagh. Later on taking the magnificence onto his paintings, he wrote that he had seen the best horses of the world in the horse enterprise of Jafargulu Khan in Shusha".
      After the demise of Mehdigulu Khan her daughter, the famous poetress Khurshud Banu Natavan persued her father's business on. Earning fame for Karabagh horses. The Khan's herds admired nearly all expatriates traveling to Karabagh, including the son of the great Alexander Dumas.
      The Khan horses won a gold medal in an international show in
Paris in 1867 (Chan). In another series of success Karabagh horses were honored in the all-Russian show in Moscow in 1869, as the Meymun breed won a silver medal and a cash award, the Tokhmag breed won a bronze, while the Selbinaz received a certificate.
Dilbaz horse      In 1949, the horse breeding enterprise was revivaled in Agdam and the Karabagh horse breed Zaman was presented by the Soviet government as a gift to the English Queen Elizabeth the second in 1956. Horse specialist Juanita Berlin wrote that that horse would be admired very much by the English people.
      Another fact testifying to the popularity of Azeri horses is that the horse breeding enterprise in
Moscow has sold over 150 Azeri breeds to the Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Germany over the recent years.
      All 120 thoroughbred Karabagh horses were fortunately salvaged from Agdam several days before the Armenian occupation in 1993. The horses are currently bred in winter pastures of Lanbaran between Barda and, Aghschabad provinces.'
      These facts illustrate that horses have been not just of military and economic importance for Azerbaijanis, but also part of their life.

Chan (goldmedal)  

P.S. Especially noteworthy among local horses is the gray-colored Dilbaz breed, which has been acclimatized to mountainous conditions and can carry over 200 kilograms of cargo.

Azernews 9 yan. 2002