Our latest post was about “Under the Spell of Horses”, a documentary on one of India’s indigenous equine breeds, the Marwari. So, it’s time for a close look into this special species.
Origins – Background
The Marwari is the indigenous breed of the Indian region of Marwar, or Jodhpur, as most people know it. It comes from the crossbreeding of native Indian ponies with Arabian horses. According to the Indian tradition, an Arabian ship carrying seven Arabian horses sank off the west coast of India and the horses were led to Marwar to be used as a bloodstock foundation for the Marwari horses.
The systematic breeding of the Marwari began in the 12th century AD by the Rathores, who ruled both Marwar and the skilful Rajput cavalry. They trained the horses to be immensely responsive in the harsh conditions of the battlefields and to execute a number of complex riding manoeuvres. The Indian cavalry that helped the British in World War I consisted of Marwari horses.
But the British colonisation was the cause of a the dramatic decline in the number of these equines, as the settlers preferred other breeds. Besides, they mocked the Marwari horses for the characteristic shape of their ears and considered the breed “too native” to ride. The downgrading of the breeding standards and the abolishment of the cavalry were decisive factors as well. Further, in the 1950s, many aristocrats lost their lands, hence being unable to keep these horses.
The first organised attempt to rescue the Marwari breed began during the reign of Maharaja Umaid Singhji of Jodhpur, in the years between 1918 and 1947. The ruler himself was engaged in this effort, which happened at a time where extinction was in sight for the breed. In 2007, precisely sixty years after Singhji’s death, the Indian government, in partnership with the Marwari Horse Society of India proclaimed the first Marwari stud book and registrations officially began in 2009.
Physical characteristics and temperament
The most obvious characteristic of Marwari horses is the special shape of the ears, which are naturally turned inwards. The height depends on the topographical origin of each horse, and can be from 14 to 17 hands. The figure is of well-rounded shape, with muscular thighs and shoulders and a deep chest. The coat comes in all known colours; that said, the grey colour is in particularly high demand, because it is considered to bring good luck to the owner, while black and other dark shades are avoided, because they are believed to bring bad luck.
The Indians claim that Marwari horses are brave and tough, as well as highly capable of adapting and prospering in most environmental conditions. Additionally, Marwari stallions have an arrogant-looking appearance.
To learn more about the breed standards of the Marwari, you can visit the website of the Indigenous Horse Society of India.
The Marwari is worshipped as a deity in India and performs in a number of traditional events and festivals, including weddings. During these events, their bodies and tack are heavily decorated and they perform complex dancing movements without a rider.
Apart from the support of the Indian cultural heritage, the Marwari is used in packing and agriculture. They are used in equestrian sports as well, especially in dressage and polo.