Though estimates vary, it’s believed there are more than 350 horse breeds in the world. All over the globe, pedigree, geography and other factors have created a weird and wonderful assortment of horses many people – and some horse enthusiasts – may not even know exist. Here are five of the most exotic and interesting.
“Grand statutes of the Akhal-Teke appear all around the capital of Turkmenistan.”
1. The Knabstrupper
Zebras are typically joked about as being what might happen if a horse and a tiger were crossed together. But in fact, you don’t have to look at a whole lot of other species to make that comparison, because the Knabstrupper is like a zebra that’s, well, still a horse.
According to the now defunct American Knabstrupper Association, Knabstruppers are descended from a Spanish mare purchased by a Danish butcher in 1812 and bred with Fredricksborg stallion. Since the breed’s establishment, it’s had fluctuating numbers, although as of 2009, it’s been going strong. This is good, because aside from its gentle temperament and work ethic, its striking black-and-white striped coat makes it a truly unique breed.
2. The Gypsy Vanner
There are numerous different kinds of Gypsy Vanner breeds, all of which are characterized by their thick, wavy manes and gorgeous leg feathering. According to the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, the breed is considered – at least by its enthusiasts – to be the “perfect caravan horse,” chiefly because of its beauty.
The preceding half a century saw an ongoing breeding effort to create it, and it was finally declared an official distinct breed on its own in 1992. The Blue Roan variety of the Gypsy Vanner is considered to be the most rare.
3. The Akhal-Teke
Few horses are considered so prized, they are a symbol of national identity. Yet that is the case with the Akhal-Teke, which the president of Turkmenistan himself – the country in which the breed originated – calls “a symbol of a striking harmony, beauty, gracefulness and incomparable swiftness.” Grand statutes of it appear all around the nation’s capital, the breed is regularly buried in its own special cemetery, and it even has its own ministry.
It’s not hard to see why. Turkmenistan tribesmen bred Akhal-Teke in the 19th century specifically for agility and speed, and seeing the light glimmer and dance on their fine, thin coats is something any horse lover should experience at least once. No matter where you are, it’s a breed that’s sure to turn heads.
4. The Bashkir Curly
Seeing a Bashkir Curly foal for the first time in the winter, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a lamb. As its name suggests, the breed is known for its curly coat, which becomes particularly long in the winter time.
It’s not known exactly how the Bashkir Curly horse came to be, though Oklahoma State University’s Department of Animal Science noted the modern iteration of the breed came into existence in 1898, when a boy and his father spotted the strange horse on a mountain range in Central Nevada. Since then, no effort has been spared to keep the breed from going extinct, even though the curly coat is only transmitted half the time, and varies in length and coverage.
5. The Norwegian Fjord
The Norwegian Fjord is practically horse royalty. Declared “one of the world’s oldest and purest breeds” by the Norwegian Fjord Registry, it’s believed to have been domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Archeological excavations suggest it was selectively bred as far back as two millennia ago, originally by the Vikings.
Although its an adaptable and durable breed, the Norwegian Fjord is set apart by its unique two-tone mane. In shows, it is typically styled into a variety of fun forms, including a beautiful, patterned mohawk.