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Akhal Teke: Facts, Colors, & Uses of This Unique Horse Breed

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When I first saw an Akhal Teke, I was taken aback by its coat’s stunning color. I wasn’t familiar with the breed, so I decided to do some research to learn about this fascinating horse.

The Akhal Teke is a horse breed with roots that trace to the earliest domesticated horses. Through selective breeding, the Akhal Teke developed into a beautiful, versatile, and athletic horse breed. They’re used for racing, dressage, pleasure riding, and many other equine activities.

Many horse lovers are familiar with the metallic sheen of the Akhal Teke horse. But there’s a lot of interesting facts about these horses you may not know. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll gain an appreciation for this rare horse breed.

Akhal Teke facts

The Akhal Teke is one of the oldest horse breeds.

Akhal-Teke, the “Golden Horse,” is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. The breed can trace its pedigree back to the first domesticated horses.

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These horses are the only remaining strain of the ancient Turkoman horse. The Turkoman horse breed originated on the Eastern slopes of central Asia between 3000 and 4000 BC.

Akhal Teke’s are descendants of Turkoman horses.

The Turkoman’s ancestors are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait from North America to settle in central Asia 10,000 years ago. The Akhal-Teke horse exhibits many of the traits of its ancestors.

To survive in the desert, the central Asian people lived a nomadic life. The people and their horses migrated many miles through the desert seeking food and shelter. Their horses endured extreme heat and survived on minimal grass and water.

Turkoman horses were vital to the nomads’ survival, and so they treated their steeds with great respect and care. These nomadic people rode their horses to move across deserts and quick-strike raids on other tribes.

Horse and man relied on each other and developed a special bond, both physically and emotionally. The Turkoman horse strived with the nomads and evolved into a rugged horse with high endurance, physical power, and sensitive nature.

These valued traits have passed through the centuries to present day Akhal-Teke horses.

“Akhal” is an oasis in the foothills of the Kopet Dag mountains.

The name Akhal-Teke is a combination of the location where the horses originated and the people responsible for maintaining the breed. The term has its roots in ancient Persia, known today as Turkmenistan.

akhal teke,

In the Kopet Dag Mountains’ foothills, there sits a long oasis called the “Akhal.” The tribe of people who inhabit the area surrounding the sanctuary is the “Teke” tribe.

This tribe bred and raised Turkoman horses for centuries. Their special horse breed became the Akhal-Teke and lived undiscovered for centuries in the central Asian slopes, where their breeding remained pure.

Russia established an Akhal Teke registry in 1885.

However, the Russians annexed Turkmenistan and established an Akhal-Teke registry in 1885, and the Studbook was closed in 1932. After the establishment of the breed registry, the Russians began to introduce the breed to the world.

Today the Czech Republic, Russia, Estonia, Italy, and Switzerland have established distinct Akhal-Teke lineage. This unique breed has been crossed with other breeds to add endurance, speed, and durability.

Akhal Teke contributed to Thoroughbred bloodlines.

One successful cross resulted in the development of the thoroughbred. Byerley Turk was a Turkish stallion captured during unrest in Budapest and brought to England.

He became the warhorse of Captain Byerley, who fought in Ireland in 1689 during King William’s War. Through crosses with local English mares, the Byerley sire established himself as a founding sire of the thoroughbred breed.

Akhal Tekes are rare.

Akhal-Tekes are a “threatened” horse breed. The Endangered Species Act defines a threatened species as “any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Akhal-Tekes have had a resurgence in popularity over the last few decades. Currently, there are estimated to be over 6500 of the breed worldwide. The highest populations are in Turkmenistan and Russia. The breed is growing in popularity in the United States.

Akhal Tekes has a wide-ranging sales price.

It depends on the horses’ age, pedigree, sex, training, and condition. A top quality Akhal-Teke horse could sell for as much as $100,000.00. However, you can find some nicely bred yearlings and foals from $5,000.00 and up. Click this link to check prices at  Akhal-Teke Association of America.

Akhal Teke’s aren’t typically good for beginners.

Akhal-Teke’s have a good temperament but do require a skilled equestrian to keep their minds occupied. They can be high strung horses not best suited for a person learning to ride.

Akhal Teke’s are the pride of Turkmenistan.

In Turkmenistan, the Akhal Teke horse appears on the coat of arms, banknotes, and postage stamps. The country also has statutes dedicated to the breed.

How Akhal Teke is pronounced.

When I first saw how the breed name was spelled, I wasn’t sure I was correctly pronouncing it. So I found a website that pronounces words so I could hear them.

Akhal-Teke is pronounced (ack.hull.tech.e). Let me know if my attempt at describing the pronunciation is similar to the pronunciation you hear at this site. Click the link to listen to Akhal-Teke pronounced. https://forvo.com/word/akhal-teke/

Akhal-Teke breed characteristics

The Akhal-Teke breed evolved in the desert slopes of central Asia. The horses display characteristics necessary for the survival of an animal in areas with extreme climate conditions.

Conformation

akhal teke,
By Kerstin Stange – Private Photography, Public Domain,

The head of the Akhal-Teke is long and narrow.

Akhal-Tekes have a long thin head with long narrow ears, and their nostrils are large and lip thin. Eyes are large and may look oriental. Their necks are long and slim.

Then the ability to hold their head high and their long ears served them well to see, smell, and hear predators over open plains.

Colors of Akhal Teke

Most people think of Akhal Teke as a golden horse with a metallic sheen. But in reality, Akhal Teke horses come in a wide range of coat colors, and all seem to have a special glow.

The most common Akhal Teke colors are bay, dun, chestnut, black, gray, and palomino. The coat hair of an Akhal-Teke is fine, and their manes and tails are sparse.

akhal teke,horse breed,

Is the fine hair the reason the horse’s coat shines? The horses get their sheen from the hair’s peculiar structure, which creates a glossy polish overlay of its base coat.

Their reflective color, thin skin, and sparse hair serve them well in the desert’s hot climate. Their coats helped to keep them cool and also camouflaged them from predators.  

But there is a downside to their thin coats. Akhal-Tekes are susceptible to a disease called naked foal syndrome, which results in foals born with little to no hair. Most foals born with this condition die before they reach three years of age.

Akhal-Tekes are long-legged with short cannon bones.

Akhal-Tekes have long legs, with short cannon bones and long pasterns, and they have small, hard, and round hooves. Their hooves may be little, but they are hardy, which is a vital trait because a horse with weak feet is worthless. 

Akhal-Tekes are not tall horses.

They are a medium-sized horse breed, and their average size is between 14.3 and 16 hands tall. They have a long back with a level top-line. Their withers are prominent, and the horses have nicely sloped shoulders. Their hip displays strength, and their tails are set low. The chest is narrow but with a deep girth.

Overall, an Akhal-Teke displays speed, beauty, and power. From a physical point of view, they’re low maintenance horses that develop without a special diet.

The Akhil Teke is a smart and sensitive horse.

Akhal-Tekes spent generations with humans that created a special bond between man and horse not seen in other breeds. This bond developed a need for attention, which is more common between humans and dogs.

Akhal-Teke horses are full of energy. But just like an intelligent dog, they need to be challenged and trained. They will learn quickly, so be ready to advance your teaching methods. They are loyal to their owners, and it takes time and patience for one to adapt to a new master.

Because Akhal-Tekes are high spirited horses, they develop best with riders that allow them to run and have fun. They don’t like to be kept in stalls for extended periods and do best with wide-open spaces.

What are Akhal Teke’s used for?

The Akhal-Teke is versatile and excels in numerous equine activities.

Horse racing

Akhal Tekes are superb racehorses, they are quick horses with exceptional endurance. They’ve been used in horse racing for over 3,000 years. The horses are still raced today in parts of Russia.

An Akhal-Teke stallion was one of the foundation studs of the thoroughbred breed, so it is no wonder that these horses make good racehorses.

Endurance racing

Akhal Tekes excel in endurance racing; this is what most are bred to do. After Stalin took control of Russia, he decided the horses were of no use to his country, didn’t care if the breed went extinct.

To prove to Stalin the utility of Akhal Tekes and save the breed, a small group of Turkmens rode their horses 2,500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days.

The ride went through 300 miles of desert with little water. The breeds’ display of strength, courage, and endurance won over Stalin and the country.

Dressage

Akhal-Teke excels in dressage and has even won an Olympic gold medal in the sport. They have the temperament and conformation for the sport. They are responsive and athletic and want nothing more than to please their rider.

Dressage presents the Akhal-Teke with challenges they require to stay focused and satisfied after endurance racing dressage is the best-suited sport for Akhal-Tekes.

In Rome’s 1964 Olympics, an Akhal-Teke named Absent won the gold medal and was one of the first modern-type dressage horses. Since Absent made his mark on the dressage world, many other Akhal-Teke’s have followed with successful careers.

Showjumping

Akhal-Teke’s excel in jumping competitions; they are naturally competitive and enjoy the sport. However, the warmbloods seem to keep them out of the top ranks of jumping breeds.

From 1999-2001 representatives of the Akhal-Teke breed either won or placed in the World Cup jumping competition qualifiers.

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