About Marwari Horses

The Marwari or Malani is a rare breed of horse from the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region of  India. Known for its inward-turning ear tips, it comes in all equine colours although pinto patterns tend to be the most popular with buyers and breeders. It is known for its hardiness, and is quite similar to the Kathiawari, another Indian breed from the Kathiawari region southwest of Marwar. Many breed members exhibit a natural ambling gait.The Marwari are descended from native Indian ponies crossed with Arabian horses, possibly with some Mongolian influence and even the Australian Whalers.

The Rathores, traditional rulers of the Marwar region of western India, were the first to breed the Marwari. Beginning in the 12th century, they espoused strict breeding that promoted purity and hardiness. Used throughout history as a cavalry horse by the people of the Marwar region, the Marwari was noted for its loyalty and bravery in battle. The breed deteriorated in the 1930s, when poor management practices resulted in a reduction of the breeding stock, but today has regained some of its popularity. The Marwari is used for light draught and agricultural work, as well as riding and packing. In 1995, a breed society was formed for the Marwari in India, (The Indigenous Horse Society of India) and in the 2000s horses have begun to be exported to the United States and Europe.

The Marwari averages between 15 and 16 hands (60 and 64 inches, 152 and 163 cm) high. Horses originating in different parts of India tend to be of different heights, with the breed having an outside range of 14 to 17 hands(56 to 68 inches, 142 to 173 cm) high. They can be bay, grey, chestnut, palomino, piebald or skewbald.  Although white horses are bred specifically for religious use in India, they are generally not accepted into Marwari stud books. Gray horses are considered auspicious, and tend to be the most valuable, with piebald and skewbald horses the second-most favoured. Black horses are considered unlucky, as the colour is a symbol of death and darkness. Horses that have the white markings of a blaze and four white socks are considered lucky.

A British horsewoman named Francesca Kelly founded a group called Marwari Bloodlines in 1995, with the goal of promoting and preserving the Marwari horse around the world. In 1999, Kelly and Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, a descendant of Indian nobility, led a group that founded the Indigenous Horse Society of India (of which the Marwari Horse Society is part), a group that works with the government, breeders, and the public to promote and conserve the breed. Kelly and Dunlod also entered and won endurance races at the Indian national equestrian games, convincing the Equestrian Federation of India to sanction a national show for indigenous horses – the first in the country. The pair worked with other experts from the Indigenous Horse Society to develop the first breed standards. Kelly imported the first Marwari horse into the United States in 2000; the first Marwari was exported to Europe in 2006, when a stallion was given to the French Living museum of the horse.

In late 2007 plans were announced to create a stud book for the breed, a collaborative venture between the Marwari Horse Society of India and the Indian government. A registration process was initiated in 2009, when it was announced that the Marwari Horse Society had become a government body, the only government-authorized registration society for Marwari horses. The registration process includes an evaluation of the horse against the breed standards, during which unique identification marks and physical dimensions are recorded. After the evaluation, the horse is cold branded with its registration number and photographed.  In late 2009 the Indian government announced that the Marwari horse, along with other Indian horse breeds, would be commemorated on a set of stamps issued by that country. 

In early 2010, the UK-based Friends of Marwari/Kathiawari Horse asked for donations of used bits.  These would be given to owners of horses, including Marwaris, in India in place of home-made bits that often have sharp edges that can injure the horse.

Research studies have been conducted to examine the genetics of the Marwari and its relationship to other Indian and non-Indian horse breeds. Six different breeds have been identified in India: the Marwari, Kathiawari, Sptit pony, Bhutia pony, Manipuri Pony and Zanskari. These six are distinct from each other in terms of unique performance traits and different agroclimactic conditions in the various areas of India where they originated.

A 2005 study was conducted to identify past genetic bottlenecks in the Marwari. The study found that, in the DNA of the horses tested, there was no evidence of a genetic bottleneck in the breed's history. However, since the population has decreased rapidly in past decades, bottlenecks may have occurred that were not identified in the study. In 2007, a study was conducted to assess genetic variation among all Indian horse breeds except the Kathiawari. Based on analysis of microsatellite DNA, the Marwari was found to be the most genetically distinct breed of the five studied, and was most distant from the Manipuri; none of the breeds were found to have close genetic ties to the Thoroughbred.

The Marwari was distinguishable from the other breeds in terms of both physical characteristics (mainly height) and environmental adaptability. The physical differences were attributed to differing ancestries: the Marwari are closely associated with the Arabian horse, while the four other breeds are supposedly descended from the Tibetan Pony.

The Marwari is used for riding, packing and light draught, and agricultural work.  Marwaris are often crossed with Thoroughbreds to produce a larger horse with more versatility. Despite the fact that the breed is indigenous to the country, cavalry units of the Indian military make little use of the horses, although they are popular in the Jophur and Jaipur areas of Rajasthan, India. They are particularly suited to dressage, in part due to a natural tendency to perform.  Marwaris are also used to play plo, sometimes playing against Thoroughbreds.  Within the Marwari breed was a strain known as the Natchni, believed by local people to be "born to dance". Decorated in silver, jewels, and bells, these horses were trained to perform complex prancing and leaping movements at many ceremonies, including weddings.  Although the Natchni strain is extinct today, horses trained in those skills are still in demand in rural India.


Wikipedia - Marwari Horse, viewed October 2011


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