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The Bashkir Horse

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The Bashkir horse is named after the Russian republic of Bashkortostan in the southern part of the Ural Mountains, where the Bashkirians have been breeding horses for more than 1000 years.

The horse is believed to trace its origins to the pre-historical Asian wild horse. The Bashkir horses are brought up in big herds and this is why it still has a lot of the wild horse behaviour. It is hardy, intelligent and quick-witted.

Throughout history, the Bashkir horse has been an important part of the local economy, being used as a draft and utility horse and as a producer of milk and meat. In order to improve the breed as a horse for riding and driving and to increase the yield of milk and meat, a breeding centre was established in 1845. Efforts have been made to keep the breed as pure as possible, but it does have elements of Ardenner and Russian coldblood.

The milk specifically has been an important part of the history of this horse, since the mare's average milk yield is 1500 litres of milk, and the best mares produce up to 2700 litres in seven to eight months of lactation. The milk is used to produce cheese and other dairy products, and of course the alcohol-containing health drink 'Kumiss' (a Russian and Mongolian fermented milk beverage).

The Bashkir is a small, wide-bodied and bony horse. It has a massive head with a straight or convex profile, almond-shaped eyes, and a short and fleshy neck. The back is short, straight and very flexible, the legs short and bony. The average height at withers is 140-145cm.

The most widespread colours are bay, chestnut, roan and mouse grey. A dark eel along the spine and strippings on legs and shoulders - as well as dark ear tips - are common. The exterior can also be very different between two individuals. This is because there are two types of the Bashkir horse, one steppe and one mountain type. Today most of the Bashkir horses are a cross breeding of these types.

The Bashkir horse is tough, and manages long distances without food. It can go almost 140km in a day with no food or rest, and it can also survive temperatures down to -40°C. Another main characteristic is its behaviour when danger is threatening - it does not panic, but freezes and turns towards whatever frightened it, and decides whether it is worth running away from. In most cases, it is nothing life-threatening.

As well as the usual gaits - walk, trot, canter and gallop - the Bashkir horses, like the Icelandic horses, also have the four-beat running walk known as 'tölt'1. Some Bashkir horses even possess the gait 'flying pace', a two-beat gait where front and hind legs on the same side move forward and back at the same time. You can reach speeds of up to 35mph!

The Bashkir horse has a good mentality and is easy to handle, although it might be added that the horses can be very stubborn and have a personality of their own. It is kind to beginners, and very sure on its feet.

Many allergy sufferers seem to cope better with the Bashkir horse than with other breeds. It is not known why, but research is in progress on the Bashkir as well as the American Curly horse, which also seems to be allergy-friendly. The Russian Bashkir and the American Curly are not the same breed, even though they were thought to be, and they are no closer related to each other than any other horse breeds.

If you are allergic and want to find out if you can cope with Bashkir horses you should be careful and bring your allergy medicine. You should also bear in mind that there are many other things in or around a stable that could be causing your allergy .

1In 'tölt' all four feet move in the same pattern as in the walk, with higher action and more speed, and it is incredibly comfortable for the rider.

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