This Glittering Golden Horse Called Akhal-Teke is Possibly the Most Beautiful Equine Breed in the World.
Due to their spectacular coat and slender morphology, the Akhal-Teke are considered the most beautiful horse breed in existence.
The majestic Akhal-Teke, the golden horse of Turkmenistan.
“There is no other horse that leaves such an unforgettable impression as the noble Akhal-Teke – lithe, light and springy, glistening with gold in the rays of the sun, with its smooth gliding trot and a ground-lining gallop.” These words, written by breeder Alexander Klimuk, indeed say it all.
The Akhal-Teke is a Turkmen horse breed that has a reputation for speed, endurance, intelligence, and a very distinctive metallic sheen – the latter giving the breed the nickname “Golden Horses”. Golden, in this case, doesn’t mean sensitive though. Thought to be one of the oldest existing horse breeds, these animals are adapted to severe climatic conditions. There are currently about 6,600 Akhal-Tekes in the world, mostly in Turkmenistan, but they are also found throughout Europe and North America.
Tribal people in what is today’s Turkmenistan first used the Akhal-Teke mostly for raiding. For them, these horses were crucial for both income and survival, and so they constituted their most valued possession. They bred their horses selectively and kept records of the pedigrees through oral tradition.
Horses were managed and trained in very specific ways, including covering stallions from head to tail with up to seven layers of felt, which kept their coat short and shiny. Before raids they would be put on a sparse diet to prepare them for a long ride through the desert with no water and hardly any food available. In this way, the breed was kept both amazingly beautiful and extremely enduring.
An Akhal-Teke showcased in St Petersburg.
The Russians called these ‘Argamaks’ (divine or Sacred Horses), and in ancient China they were known as ‘heavenly horses.’ Han emperors from China waged two expeditions to get hold of breed that was highly valued for their speed and stamina in the desert and loyalty to their owner.
And they were right. Eventually, access to the Akhal-Teke fueled the success of China’s future campaigns against their nomadic neighbors.
The Akhal-Teke can have other colors than gold, but the distinctive shine is always there.
Out of the different color varieties of the Akhal-Teke, those with cream, palomino or bayo-cream dilute coats usually show a metallic shade, giving them the appearance of having golden body hair. The same thing happens with white horses, grey liarts, or perlinas – only the sensation is of silver hair.
This curious effect is due proteins in the horse’s coat emitting this metallic iridescence when light falls on them. And while dark-coloured Akhal-Teke horses do not display the same effect, they do have a highly glossy coat. Still, the most valued and desired coats are those of the albinos and cremellas, which have silvery and pearly metallic reflections.