Equines in India


According to the National Commission on Agriculture (1976), horses in India can be placed broadly in two classes viz. the slow moving pack ponies and the fast running saddle horses used for riding or for drawing carriages. The indigenous breeds of horses/ponies include Marwari, Kathiawari, Manipuri, Spiti, Bhutia and Zanskari. Among these, Marwari and Kathiawari are considered as 2 distinct breeds or types although they have several characteristics in common.Kathiawar (Gujarat) and Rajasthan are the homes of Kathiawari and Marwari breeds, respectively. These breeds have been selected both for utility and beauty. Bhutia, Spiti and Zanskari ponies, mainly found in the

hilly areas of Himalayan ranges are slow moving horses. The Manipuri horses having qualities of both hill and plain breeds of horses have been bred over centuries in the Manipur area of the northeast. Manipuri horses reputed for their intelligence are used for polo and racing. Three other breeds of India namely Deccani, Chummarti and Sikang are considered to be on the verge of extinction.

The exotic breeds of horses introduced in India include English thoroughbred, Water, Arab, Polish, Connemera and Halflinger. The Arab, the first to be introduced,is believed to have contributed substantially for the evolution of Kathiawari, Marwari, Sindhi, Malani and Manipuri horses. It is believed that all the indigenous breeds of the horses are rapidly deteriorating in quality as a result of lack of organized systematic breeding and availability of good specimen animals. Unless huge financial commitment is made, there is a possibility of the breeds losing their identity even in their home tract. 


1. Marwari Horses

The Marwari breed is derived from the Marwar region of the Rajasthan - the natural habitat of the breed. The Marwar region includes Udaipur, Jalor, Jodhpur and Rajasamand districts of Rajasthan and some adjoining areas of Gujarat. The Marwari horses are reared mainly for riding and sports and no attempts are being made to prepare them as thoroughbred race animals. The predominant body colour is brown where as other body colours are roan, chestnut, white and black with white patches. The Marwari horses have 130-140 cm long body, 152-160 cm height, 166-175 cm heart girth, 60 cm face length, 22 cm face width, 18 cm ear length and 47 cm tail length without switch. The Marwari horses are longer and taller than Kathiawari horses.

2. Kathiawari Horses

The superintendent of Gaekwar Contingent in 1880 suggested that the Kathiawari breed may have sprung from the wild horses of Kathiawar (a sort of Quagga, Bombay Gazette, Kathiawari, foot note, page 97). The breeding tract of the breed is Saurashtra province ofGujarat which comprises of Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar Junagarh and Amreli districts of Gujarat. The most prominent body colour in Kathiawari horses is chestnut followed by bay (body chestnut, Foreleg up to knee and fetlock are black, Keshwali black, Hairs of tail and neck are black), grey (complete white colour) and dun (light chestnut). The physical characteristics of Kathiawari horses are concave profile, long neck, short leg and squared quarters. Face is dry and short, triangular from pale to forehead and small muzzle, big nostrils, edge of nostril is thin; small, fine and curved upright ears on 90 degrees axis that can rotate at 180 degrees, broad forehead and large expressive sensitive eyes. Tail is long, not bushy, curved well and touching to the ground, foot round and broad. Kathiawari horses have on an average 119 cm long body, 147 cm height and 160 cm heart girth. The average ear length is 15 cm. The average face length and width are 53 and 21 cm, respectively.

3. Spiti Horses

The Spiti horses are distributed in Spiti valley and adjoining areas of Kullu and Kinnaur divisions of Himachal Pradesh. These horses are smaller in height. The Spiti ponies have two strains, Spiti pure and Konimare. The Konimare ponies are comparatively taller. They are capable of thriving in cold regions under adverse conditions of scarcity of food, low temperature and long journeys at high altitude. The Spiti horses are used for riding and as pack animals. The predominant body colour is grey (complete white) followed by black, black flay bone (white body with black patches), brown and bay. The Spiti horses are hardy and surefooted. Body is well developed with fairly strong bones. The legs are thick and covered with long coarse hairs. The mane is longer having 20 to 30 cm long hairs. Solid and compact body, convex face, erect ears, black eyes, straight back, long and straight tail, alert looking and short height are some of the important breed characteristics. The horses are nervous in temperament. The Spiti horses have on average 97 cm body length, 127 cm height, 150 cm paunch girth, 15 cm long ear, 49 cm face length and 20 cm face width. It has been observed that females have shorter body, height, heart girth and paunch girth.

4. Zanskari Horses

Zanskari horses are available in Leh and Laddakh area of Jammu and Kashmir. The predominant body colour is grey followed by black and copper. The horses are known for their ability to work, run adequately and carry loads at high altitude. Horses are medium in size, well built and 120 to 140 cm high. The Zanskari horses have predominant eyes, heavy and long tail and uniform gait. The body hairs are fine, long and glossy. Only a few hundred horses at present exist in the Zanskar and other valleys of Laddakh. Large scale breeding with non descript ponies has endangered this breed. The Animal Husbandry Department,Jammu and Kashmir has recently established a Zanskari horse Breeding farm at Padum Zanskar in Kargil district of Ladakh for breed improvement and conservation through selective breeding.

5. Manipuri Horses

Manipuri breed of ponies is one of the purest and prestigious breed of equines of India. It is a strong and hardy breed and has very good adaptability to extreme geo-climatic conditions. It is one of the well-known breeds of India and has been claimed as the oldest polo pony. They are found in Manipur and Assam, and are similar to the south-east Asian type pony.Generally the Manipuri ponies are of 11-13 hands high at wither with a good shoulder, short back, well developed quarters and strong limbs. Mane is generally coarse and upright. It has small pointed prsicked ears, eyes are alert and slightly slant .The area between the nostrils is flat not crispy. Withers are not prominent. Face is concave and tail is well set and commensurate with height. Manipuri ponies are intelligent and extremely tough, and have tremendous endurance. Perhaps all these good qualities made it suitable for polo game for which it is globally famous. The breed is available in 14 different colours viz Bay, Black, Gray, Mora white, Leiphon white, Sinai White, Stocking, liver chestnut, Roan, light gray, Reddish brown and dark bay. The pony undoubtly played significant role in the field of war and play. It has close association with the socioeconomic life of the people of hilly region through travel, transport and hunting. It is a matter of concern that the number of Manipuri has decreased drastically. As per latest data the population of Manipuri pony is 2327 only. Thus, immediate attention and efforts are required to conserve this precious breed of ponies in

6. Bhutia Horses

Bhutia horses are distributed in Sikkim and Darjeeling. They are usually grey or bay coloured and similar to the Tibetan pony.


It is considered that asses are of purely African origin. The ass was first domesticated in the valley of the Nile. Three wild races of asses were observed:

  • North-East African race (Nubia).
  • North-East African race (Sudan) and
  • Somalian race (Somali-land).

The greatest contribution to animal husbandry that ass has made is the production of mules. Mules fit well in different agricultural operations. The asses have several features that differ from horses; one of the most noticeable characteristics is longer and much larger ears of asses. The hair on mane and tail are very scanty and there is a brush like switch at the end of the tail. Jacks and their mule offspring have well-muscled, broader loins, long and well sprung ribs. Consequently, they can take more abuse and punishment than the horse. Jacks lack apparent muscling, have larger bone and joints but smaller rounder feet than the horses. Jacks also have a characteristic bray, which is a decidedly in contrast to the whinney of the horse.

The modern domesticated asses have mainly descended from the Nubian race. Though grey colour predominates but black, white and even piebald asses can be seen. The ass is indisputably one of the most useful animals and is available everywhere. FAO has reported three distinct types of Indian asses viz. Indian, Indian wild and Kiang. Indian wild asses are available inRann of Kutch while Kiang are available in Sikkim and Laddakh. They are dark red brown with white underparts and patch behind the shoulder. Among Indian, two major types of donkeys i.e. those of larger size and smaller size are common. The larger size donkeys are light grey to almost white in colour. The smaller size ones are dark grey in colour. Good quality donkey stallions of exotic breed obtained from France and other European countries are maintained by NRCE, State Animal husbandry Deptt. of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and at Equine Breeding Farms of the Army.

                                                                                 Indian Donkey                            Indian Wild Ass




The mules are most useful pack and transport animals as they play important role, both in the military establishments as well as in civilian occupations particularly in hills. The mule combines some of the superior qualities of both horses and donkeys. It has size, speed strength and spirit of the horse, along with the surefooted-ness, lack of excitability, endurance and ability to thrive on poor feed.

The production of mules involve three steps: the breeding of jack stock for use as stallion, breeding of mares and crossing of jack with mare. One of the biggest difficulties in mule production is to locate a fertile jack that can quickly serve. The most common practice however, is to tease mares with a stallion and allow the jack to serve a properly restrained mare so that she will stand for the jack. Only sound broodmares of good quality should be selected for providing high-grade mules. Breeders of work horses usually take particular care in choosing good mares for breeding purposes but ordinarily mule breeders make no consistent effort in selecting mares for production of mules. Mares used in mule production are of no fixed breed and vary in size and temperament. The mules are usually produced for draft purposes.

The draft mules measure 155 to 172 cm in height and weigh from 450 to 650 Kg. An ideal draft mule has long ears, broad forehead, broad deep chest, well filled heart girth, short and strong back, broad, heavily muscled and smooth hips and deep body. The neck is heavily muscled, fits neatly at the shoulder and has slight crest. The legs are squarely placed. The pastern shows moderate length, strength and a desirable slope. The feet are durable, wide and high at the heels, with concave soles. The horn of the hoof is smooth, dense and sound.