Name of breed: Kathiawari
Country of origin: India
Breed origin: A breed of horse from the Kathiawar peninsula in Western India, the origins of the breed are unknown although it is closely related to the Marwari horses of Rajasthan. Originally bred as a desert war horse for use over long distances in terribly rough terrain and on minimal rations, the breed has been influenced by imported Arab horses and possibly by the Mongolian horse as well.
Traditionally in India, households of nobility specialised in their own strain of horses, naming their lines after a foundation mare. These noble houses selectively bred horses that were hardy, could endure the extreme desert temperatures and could survive on minimal rations. They bred wiry, sleek horses ideal for war, and the Kathiawaris were noted for their loyalty and bravery in battle, often defending their riders even when wounded themselves.
Distinguishing features: Most commonly chestnut, the Kathiawari horse is found in all colours except for black. Dun horses of the breed often have the primitive markings – a dorsal stripe and zebra stripes on the legs. Like many desert breeds, the Kathiawari can exist on minimal rations and water.
Like the Marwari horse, one of the Kathiawari horse breed’s most distinctive features is its inward-turning ears – they actually have the most extremely curved ears of any horse breed. It is believed that at some point during their history, breeders focused on preserving these curving ears, possibly to the detriment of other more important physical characteristics.
As well as the usual gaits of walk, trot, canter and gallop, the Kathiawari also has a lateral pace called the revaal. They are known for their high spirits, intelligence and affection.
Modern day Kathiawari: Originally used as a cavalry mount, today the Kathiawari is used for riding or as a harness horse. They are also often used as sport horses, particularly for the sport of tent-pegging, and sometimes by the Indian police forces.
Image credit: Manu Sharma Photography