The Altai horse is one of the most ancient breeds of horses found in the world. This horse breed was developed in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia. The Alta’s Kaya, commonly known as the Altai, is named after its place of origin, the Altai Mountains.
They are extremely sure-footed over steep mountain trails.
The Altai has a head with a slightly dished profile, set on a relatively short neck. They have a strong back, a well-developed croup, and short cannon bones. They stand an average of 13.2 – 13.3 hands high, and their coat colors are generally chestnut, bay, black, gray, and sometimes leopard spotted.
Efforts to improve the Altai stock have led largely to the loss of the Appaloosa pattern.
Crossing Altais with other breeds usually results in larger, stronger horses that still retain the healthiness and easy management of the Altai. In the past, the Altai has been crossed with Lithuanian, Russian, and Soviet Heavy Draft horses.
These crossings were made after the revolution as well as under the Soviet government, and then the crossbred horses were bred “in purity.”
In the typical Altai the head is average in length, large and somewhat coarse with small eyes. The neck is short and fleshy, while the back is long and slightly dipped. The croup is well developed, the legs are short and properly set. Occasional defects in conformation include sloping pasterns and bowed hocks.
This breed was reared in the Altai Mountains for many centuries and are well adapted to its harsh environment. A fairly common horse breed, the Altai is one of the oldest breeds that can be found in Siberia today.
Horses have always been important to the tribesmen and nomads in this mountainous region, requiring horses with a strong heart, lungs, muscles, and tendons along with very hard feet.
A sure-footed horse is important, as they must travel over steep mountain trails cut from the rock and cross fast-moving streams and rivers. The development of the Altai has resulted in the creation of a hardy animal that does well fending for itself on pasture year round.
These horses were mainly used by nomadic tribes as mounts and pack horses centuries ago.
Because their area of origin is bleak, cold, and generally harsh, Altai horses had to have a very strong and hardy constitution. The nomads of the Altai Mountains did not give them any special treatment or care. They were mostly allowed to fend for themselves.
This led to the selection of the fittest in the Altai breed. Only the sure-footed, muscular and brawny horses with hardy feet and strong lungs, heart and tendons were able to survive in the mountains and were taken on by the tribes as their riding and pack horses.
In the early 20th Century — specifically after the Revolution — the Soviet Government thought of improving the Altai breed. After collecting many Altai horses, the Russians began a concerted effort to crossbreed the Altai with other existing Russian breeds such as the Orlov Trotters and Don, as well as half-bred horses.
The result of the crossbreeding experiments is the still-hardy, but larger Altai horse. After getting the right mix of form and endurance, the breeders then moved on to breeding more of the hybrid Altai.
In other words, the result of the cross-breeding — the improved Altai breed — was then bred with other Altai horses that were also a result of the cross-breeding experiments.
In the 1970s, the results of further breeding were surveyed and the best among them were collected. Nearly 700 mares were herded in breeding farms and used to perpetuate the best Altai stock.
Today, this breed also still exists in its aboriginal form. That is to say, thousands of the native and pure Altai that have not been subject to the extensive crossbreeding experiments done in the 20th century can still be found in the Upper Altai Mountains.
Altai horses are mainly used for riding and packing heavy goods from one place to the other in harsh terrains. The meat of the Altai Horse is consumed in some countries.