Mongolia is sometimes called "the land of the horse" and the country has the reputation of having the best horsemen on the planet. Mongol horses are one of the world's oldest known horse breeds which have been the origins of many other breeds around the northern hemisphere. They have helped conquer historic Asia, sometimes literally feeding an army of soldiers, and are vital to Mongolian nomads to this day.
It is believed that the Mongol horse is the original domestic breed in Asia which led to many other breeds across the continent including the Akhaltekin, Yunan, Japanese, and Cheju.
Mongol horses are most famously known as being used in medieval warfare under Genghis Khan. They were vital to the region's army as they provided fast transportation, food, milk, leather, oil for fuel, entertainment, and sacrifice in spiritual ceremonies. In war, they performed quite well because of their stamina, hardiness, and ability to provide food for themselves.
They are excellent forage animals and they would spend their days searching for grass in the wild when not in battle. For this reason, they were very easy to look after as they fed themselves.
Mongol horses are not as fast as other breeds, possibly due to their slightly chubby build. Soldiers road upon lactating mares so they could drink their milk, mixed with blood that would be extracted from a vein in their neck. This way they could cover more ground and be free from hunting and gathering.
At the peak of Genghis Khan's empire, he established breeding stations from Hungary in Europe to Korea in East Asia where horses could be picked up along the way. After conquering the Chinese empire, he and his grandson Khublai lost control of these strategic breeding stations and the Mongol empire began to fall apart.
In Modern Day Mongolia
Many people in 21st century Mongolia still rely on Mongol horses in their day-to-day lives. Of the country's 2.4 million inhabitants, many identify as nomadic, or at least semi-nomadic, and count on their horses for travel, for sport, for hunting, and for herding other animals like cattle, camels, goats and yaks.
In the capital city of Ulaanbataar, horse racing is the favorite sport and entertainment source. Children are often taught to ride as young as three years of age and continue with the sport throughout their life.
Mongol horses have, and continue to be an integral part of Mongolia's history and are a great example of powerful human-horse relations are as they have worked together to conquer a continent.
image from flickr.com