Horses – The Spirit of Mongolia – Tuesday’s Snapshot

The Eighth Wonder of the World – 2013 Wild Treks Research Trip
January 23, 2014
It’s the year of the horse!
February 1, 2014



Tuesday’s Snapshots – highlighting images from the EL team and our guests based on a Mongolia theme. This weekMongolia’s horses.


‘They gallop like the wind and their power is that of a mountain avalanche.’ (Song Dynasty Annals)
One of the most traditional instruments in Mongolia is the Morin Khuur; the horse head fiddle. The fiddle’s significance extends beyond its function as a musical instrument – it was traditionally used as an integral part of rituals and everyday activities of nomadic Mongolians and to this day, the Morin Khuur repertory has retained some tunes (tatlaga) specifically intended to tame animals. The design of the Morin Khuur is closely linked to the all-important cult of the horse and when played, it can produce sounds similar to the noises that a horse makes.
Mongolian horses live in herds, led by a stallion who guides the horses to water, shelter and safety. The horses are hardy and adapted to living out in temperatures that can reach -45c. The Mongol horse is small (1.3 metres at the shoulder) and relatively light (between 300-350kg on average). Unlike westerners, Mongolians do not give their horses names. It is enough to designate them by the colour of their coat and their character. 

The young, one or two-year old horse is examined at the end of summer or in early autumn. It is broken at the age of two. In the springtime, the herds are inspected and young males are castrated. This is also the time when the horse’s mane is cut. Only stallions keep a long mane.

Mares are generally not ridden in Mongolia. Instead they are used for breeding and producing Mongolia’s national beverage  – airag (fermented mare’s milk).  

Horse racing is one of the Three Manly Sports of the Naadam Festival. The races are a test of speed, stamina and strength. In Mongolia, it is the horse and not the jockey that wins the race. Child jockeys are chosen as they are lighter – their role is not to force the horse but only to guide it to the winning post. 

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