The Bashkir 

Hardy and sturdy steed of the Urals.
Economical all-purpose horse.
Good for trekking in the wilderness

The Bashkir evolved centuries ago around the southern foothills of the Ural Mountains. It used to be quite common in the Volga and Urals regions as a riding, pack, and harness animal. These horses are also providers of meat, milk, and clothing for the local population. The sturdy Bashkirs were also popular as troika hacks, and were employed as remounts by Bashkir worriers and Orenburg and Ural Cossacks. Bashkir regiments on their steppe steeds have taken part in the Napoleonic wars.

The history of the Bashkir’s evolution is typical of all the steppe breeds. It is of fairly ancient origin. The Bashkir people, known as good riders and breeders, appeared in the territory of what is now known as Bashkortostan in the 7th century. Therefore, the Bashkir horse does not belong to the Mongolian root, as is often maintained. It comes from the steppe horse of Western Asia, whose remains are found aplenty in ancient burial mounds in that huge territory.

The Bashkir is the result of the crossing of the steppe horse with the forest horses that lived north of Bashkiria. It evolved under the influence of the rigorous continental climate.

   The winter in Bashkiria is long and very cold, with much snow and fierce blizzards from early November to late in April. The summer is hot but short with a lush growth of grasses. The region is known for abundance of wild bees and wild honey, an indication of health.


Conformation

The Bashkir has a long and massive body. It has a flat, wide, straightish back. The croup is short and sloped, the breast cage is wide and deep. The head is large with a right or Roman-nosed profile, it is set on a short fleshy neck that runs into flat withers.
The limbs are relatively short, fairly clean with a good bone. Sickle-shaped and cow-hocked hindlegs are quite common. The hoofs are small and hard, so that the horses are often unshod.
A principal feature of the Bashkir is the very thick, curly, winter coat that enables it to survive under the most rigorous winter conditions. The curly coat of the Bashkir can be spun into cloth. The mane and tail are exceptionally thick.
Bashkirs are docile and intelligent.

Average measurements of Bashkirs
   Stallions  Mares
 Height 142   142
 Body length  146 147 
 Chest girth  173 170
 Bone below the knee  19.5 19

Colors
The principal color of the Bashkir is roan with a dorsal eel-stripe, zebra bar markings and a special pattern on shoulders. Now there are many chestnut, gray, brown, piebald and black animals.

Keeping
Bashkiria is a region of classical tebenevka horse breeding. Like all the Russian steppe horses, the hardly Bashkir is kept out. Huge herds of Bashkirs graze on the pastures unattended. They can survive winter temperatures up to -40 degrees Centigrade, and find food under 1 meter of snow. Only when after thaws soil is covered with ice and horses cannot get feed from under the snow, they are given some hay. In the north of the region some horses, especially crosses, spend winters in barns and in spring are put out.

Types
There are two types: the Mountain and the Steppe Bashkir. The former has been crossed with Dons and Budennys, and the latter, a harness type, with both trotters and Ardennes stallions. The Bashkir “Curly” (see below) is an American term which is descriptive of its curly coat.  

Endurance

The Bashkir is surprisingly enduring both under the saddle and when used as a draft horse. Their qualities were appreciated in 1812-13, when Bashkir cavalry regiments came through Europe to France with the Russian army. A Bashkir troika could cover 120-150 km per day. One popular route was from Sterlitamak to Ufa (120 km), which troikas used to cover in 8 hours without being fed en route.
Especially valued were Bashkir amblers for their speed and endurance.

Milk production

As is customary with many Turkic peoples, Bashkirs milk their mares to make kumys, fermented milk. Historically, kumys was used in Russia not only as a palatable beverage, but also as a medication for consumption and other lung diseases. Locals also used it as an antiseptic.
The Bashkir mares are excellent milk producers. In a seven- to eight-month lactation period, a Bashkir mare yields up to 2,000 liters of milk. Now milking is strictly controlled so that foals would receive enough milk.
The milk of Bashkir mares is noted for its high fat content in comparison with other breeds:

Milk composition, per cent
 Breed  Protein Sugar Fat
 Bashkir 2.21 6.55 2.25
Kazakh 2.08 6.47 2.00
Thoroughbred 1.49 7.00 0.89
Orlov Trotter 2.1 7.1 1.6


The American Bashkir
There are 1,100 or so Bashkirs registered in America, most of them are found in the North West. They are commonly referred to as Curly Bashkirs. They are reputed to have been popular with the American Indian, who used them in the same way as the Bashkir people. It is claimed that the ponies were first seen running wild in the 1800s.
It has been claimed that they arrived on the American continent across the land bridge that is now the Bering Strait. However, that takes no account of the fact that the species Equus was extinct on the American continent after the Ice Age, which swept away the land bridge across the Bering Strait, and the horse was not reintroduced until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors some 10,000 years later.

All the information and photographs for this section were kindly provided by Troika, the ultimate Russian horse resource online. For further information on Russian horses and horsemanship please click here

 


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Updated: October 2005.