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First Posted Aug 1, 2009
Dec 12, 2010

Ferghana Horse/Extinct

Ferghana Horse/Extinct

Ferghana horses were one of China's earliest major imports, originating in an area in Central Asia. These horses, as depicted in Tang Dynasty pottery representations of them, "resemble the animals on the golden medal of Eucratide, King of Bactria (Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris)."


Coin showing Eucratide of Bactria and his horse


Tang Dynasty statuary horse


Map showing Dayuan at 130 BCE

Dayuan, north of Bactria, was a nation centered in the Ferghana Valley of present day Central Asia, and even as early as the Han Dynasty, China projected its military power to that area. The Han imperial regime required Ferghana horses and imported such great numbers of them that the rulers of Ferghana closed their borders to such trade. That move resulted in a war that China won. In 102 CE, the Chinese required of the defeated Ferghana that they provide at least ten of their finest horses for breeding purposes, and three thousand Ferghana horses of ordinary quality. However, there are other views: the Records of the Grand Historian and Book of Han provide no description of Ferghana horses, and as it seemed from these chronicles they were not employed in any known Han expeditions and campaigns.

Physical Description

Chinese statuary and paintings, as well as the Bactrian coin shown above, indicate that these horses had legs that were proportionally short, powerful crests, and round barrels. The forelegs of the Chinese depictions are very straight, resembling the Guoxia horse of present day China. According to tradition, these horses sweat blood, hence the Chinese name: (hàn xie ma, "sweats blood horse"). Modern authorities believe that blood-sucking parasites caused sweat to get mixed with blood when the horses were worked.


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