Friday, June 01, 2012

The Don horse of Russia - Full Article

By on Jun 01, 2012 in Horse Breeds

Two notions that perhaps everyone associates with Russia are the immense distances and Siberian temperatures.

If one thinks harder, richly decorated churches, golden palaces, Faberge eggs, war and peace or revolution may come to mind, but what really stands out are the infinite Russian versts (1 verst = 1.06km). Amazingly, the maximum east west extent of modern day Russia is almost 10,000km, a distance encompassing 11 time zones and spanning nearly half the circumference of the earth.

And there is a native breed of horses, possibly little known abroad, whose qualities have come to match the extreme conditions perfectly: the Don horses. Named after the river Don in southern Russia, this breed is one of only two native breeds which have survived in modern times. The other such native horses are the Orlov trotters, bred by and named after the 18th century Count Orlov, one of the most influential figures in Catherine the Great’s Russia.

The roots of the Don horses go back to ancient times and the Nogajy tribes who inhabited the regions east of the Caspian Sea. These equine predecessors were famous for their exceptional stamina and the ability to survive equally well the freezing winters and searing heat of the southern steppes. Organised breeding began in the 18th century with the creation of special studbooks. Arab and thoroughbred stallions were introduced among the wild steppes mares. The result was an exceptional horse whose qualities came to be highly appreciated in the army...

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