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Horse Breeds
First Posted: Sept 24, 2010
Sep 30, 2010

Zanskari Horses and Chamurthi/Gaited Breeds

Indigenous Horse Society of India


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Country of origin: India

Zanskari horses are bred in the high altitude Zanskar region of Ladakh in eastern Jammu and Kashmir State of India. Physique of this horse is very similar to the Spiti pony but are more adaptable for higher altitude where they are used as work horses.

Physical Characteristics

Zaniskari ponies stand 120-140 cm in height, and weigh 320-450 kg. Their coloration runs from usually grey to black, though some specimens are a reddish, coppery color. The breed is able to carry heavy loads at high altitude and are used for work. They are well built with promiant eyes, fine, long glossy hair, and a long heavy tail.


The Zansikari Pony is strong and hard worker. It can carry heavy loads at high altitudes. The Pony is also used for pleasure riding and showing, as well.

Breed Standards of Zanskari Horse

"Zanskari horses are available in Leh and Laddakh area of Jammu and Kashmir. The predominant body color is grey followed by black and copper. The horses are known for their ability to work, run adequately and carry loads at high altitude. Horses are medium in size, well built and 120 to 140 cm high. The Zanskari horses have predominant eyes, heavy and long tail and uniform gait. The body hairs are fine, long and glossy. Only a few hundred horses at present exist in the Zanskar and other valleys of Laddakh. Large scale breeding with non descript ponies has endangered this breed. The Animal Husbandry Department, Jammu and Kashmir has recently established a Zanskari horse Breeding farm at Padum Zanskar in Kargil district of Ladakh for breed improvement and conservation through selective breeding." National Research Centre on Equines


Chamurti Pony
The Chamurthi is a small mountain pony of the Indian Himalayas, regarded as a distinctive breed. The Chamurthi belong to two main areas in the Indian Himalayas. The pin valley,with its several villages,to the southwest and the villages of Kibber and Chichem, to the northeast of the town of Kaja(Kaza)that lies along the Spiti River in the District of Lahaul-Spiti,Himachal Pradesh.Although primarily inhabting upland plateau of 5,000 meters or more,it is also bred and used as low as 800 meters.It is well adapted to the temperatures extremes of the 'cold deser' regions of Spiti and northwards in Ladakh where temperature range from -30 degrees C to +30 degrees C.

Characteristic Height

Relatively consistent in size,the chamurthi ranges in height from about 11h.2" to13h.2". Although regarded locally as a horse, in Western terms it is a pony, i.e, under 14.2 hh.

The Chamurthi has a good bone structure and is well muscled. Its chest is deep and the shoulders are slightly sloped. The withers are low and the back is short, but it tends to have a high, almost straight, backbone, rather than one that slopes gently down from the withers and up again to the rump. Its legs are short and sturdy. Its displays a range of head features tending to the heavy side, with small to medium eyes and ears.

While its size may be consistent its colouring and markings are not, Chamurthi come in a range of colors and shades, from black to light grey, palamino yellow to sorrel brown, chestnut and bay.

Distinguishing Features

  • A series of small strips slong the spine,an ancestral mark of the extinct Central Asian Wild horse (the "Przewalski" horse)
  • A series of small white patches along the spine, which incorrectly may be thought old saddle-sore marks.
  • A slightly concave face on some indicating probable Arabian influence.
  • Perhaps its most distinguish feature, and the source of its value to riders, is that it is one of the worlds few natural "pacers" a five-gaited horse, that trots on its laterals rather than diagonals enabling the rider to sit comfortably without posting while the horse trots on for two or three hours at a time.

The source of the breed is unknown although it has much in common with the Tibetan horse. Given the fact,however than horses existed in the Himalayas, at least as early as the Indus Valley (Harrapan) Civilzation the Chirmurti could well be indigenous to northern India. As noted above, both the Asian wile horse, and the Arabians seem to found their way into the bloodline.

For More Information:

Chamurthi or Spiti Pony A Gaited Breed
Genetic Characteriztion of Zanskari breed of horse
Zaniskari Pony - StateMaster Encyclopedia

Horse Breeds