The Bashkir Horse
Not to be confused with the American Bashkir Curly, the Bashkir horse is a Russian breed which originated from the southern foothills of the Ural Mountains. Its name is derived from the Bashkirsky region, where it has been bred by the Bashkiri people for a great many centuries. This collection of people settled in the area near the Volga and Ural Mountains in the seventh century, before the arrival of the warring Mongols.
As it was used as a cavalry mount for the Russian Army in the late 1700s, stud farms were established by the midpoint of the following century. The Bashkirsky region is extremely bleak and inhospitable, having long winters where the temperatures can drop as low as 40 degrees below freezing. Surprisingly, the Bashkir can survive out in the open even in these conditions, and is known to dig through over a metre of snow just to find food.
The Bashkir functioned too as a provider of meat and horse milk among the locals. As strange as it might sound, even today the Russians consider kumis (a fermented dairy drink made from mare’s milk) to be a health product. Apparently during the fermentation process, horse milk loses all lactose properties, and thus people who are lactose intolerant can drink it quite safely. In addition to this, Bashkir horse hair can be woven into cloth to make warm clothing.
The Bashkir breed differs a bit from region to region. The horses which come from the steppes are taller and lighter, whereas the variation bred in the mountainous areas is smaller and generally used as a draft horse, although it can also function under saddle or harness like its slighter relative. It is a rather pure breed and today can only be bred with other Russian breeds like the Don. Crosses with Thoroughbreds were attempted in the past, but the resulting horses could not cope with the climate and thus the experiment was called off.
The head of the Bashkir is enormous in proportion to its diminutive body and lack of height (it rarely is taller than 14hh). Its neck is short and rather fleshy and its body is very stocky and wide. It predominantly comes in the colours of chestnut, bay and brown, although roans, mousy greys and duns are not entirely uncommon. Markings are acceptable; the Bashkir horse is known for often having a dorsal stripe down its back and zebra stripes on its legs.