Recently, British scientists have confirmed the findings of a research, made by Kazakh archaeologists earlier, that the first horsemen truly appeared in Kazakhstan around five and a half thousand years ago. The recent discovery shifts the historic origins of horse domestication by more than a thousand years earlier, since it used to be considered that humans first started using horses in housekeeping around four thousand years ago.
Several countries of the Eurasian continent were in the running for the status of being the homeland of the first horses.
The research made by the scientists of the University of Exeter have completed more than 90 different analyses of animal bones, elements of harness, straps and pottery, found during the excavations in natural boundaries of the ‘Botay’ settlement of North Kazakhstan.
For 30 years, archaeological research and discoveries have been taking place at ‘Botay’ by Kazakh scientists under the supervision of the pioneer of the ‘Botay’ culture professor Viktor Zaybert. Thousands of discoveries have been made, which, as domestic and international scientists believe, prove that ‘Botay’ people were the first to tame a horse.
“Chemical research of food remaining on the pottery showed that they contain molecules of fat from horse milk. This finding provides evidence that more than five thousand years ago horses were milked, used domestically and during battles on the territory of Kazakhstan,” Dr. Alan Outram, the head of the archaeological department of the University of Exeter, Great Britain, stated.
Certainly, many would agree horse breeding is considered one of the oldest and most precious traditions of nomadic peoples. For centuries, horses have been the main provider of food, clothing, opportunity to hunt and battle, as well as an integral part of entertainment. The best specimen were sacrificed in the name of the god of sun, the most respectable god among steppe inhabitants, because it is the only animal fast enough to be compared to the sun, as the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described in his works.
A boy in a nomadic culture starts riding a horse from the age of only two or three years. For that reason, a horse is literally an integral part of life of a nomad, taking into the account the fact that the whole life of a nomad is on the move.
There are around 80 expressions and synonyms for a horse in the Kazakh language which highlights the special attitude of these people towards the animal. A horse has always been more than just a source of food, transport, attribute of wealth and prestige among Kazakhs.
During the Soviet period, horse breeding in Kazakhstan has suffered a huge loss, which could not be recovered in the following decades. In 1916, there were around 4.5 million horses, compared to about a million in the beginning of 1990s, and at the times of recession, particularly after the Word War II, the numbers fell further to only two hundred thousand.
Nonetheless, during the Soviet times, 19 large horse factories and hundreds of farms have been established across Kazakhstan. The best specialists have been sent to the country to sustain and develop the selective and breeding work and set up own breeding base in Kazakhstan.
Unfortunately, even though being one of the countries with the oldest horse breeding traditions, Kazakhstan has not particularly distinguished itself in the elite equestrian sport. The scope of elite horse breeding, however, has dramatically increased in recent years. Several private horse breeding farms have been opened lately that specialise in the elite breeds. Today, elite horse breeding is becoming not just a privileged occupation, considering the prices of some specimen, but also a serious business.
Horse breeding in Kazakhstan is considered not just as part of an image, a sport or an object of obsession, but truly a passion and a way to preserve traditions and values that have been all but forgotten by many in the contemporary world.
Kazakhstan’s other claims to fame in terms of historical ‘firsts’ also include it being the home of apple, coming from the mountains near Almaty, and tulips, growing wild in the boundless Eurasian steppes.