If there’s a New Kirgiz , then you’d probably guess that there is an “old” Kirgiz. You’d guess right. The Kirgiz or Kyrgyz still exists with nomad peoples in Kazakhstan and China. It’s more of a type than a breed in the Western sense, because no breed registry exists. The Kirgiz (or Novokirghiz) is bred for ability and not to win horse show ribbons. This is a tough, highly intelligent small horse able to withstand living outside in all weathers and navigating the difficult terrain.
But this horse was not large enough nor pretty enough to satisfy the Soviet conquerors of the region. They wanted an “improved” version of the native Kirgiz type that not only looked nicer, but could pull the heavier agricultural equipment that the Soviets wanted on the local farms. The New Kirgriz first appeared about 1935 and is one of the most common breeds of horses in the area today, although nomads prefer the “old” Kirgiz. Efforts by groups such as Kyrgyz ATE are trying to revive the old type.
V. Pianovski from the Soviet Union founded the Issan-Kul Stud in the area about 1907. He brought the first Thoroughbreds to Kirgizia as well as one of the most common Russian breeds at the time, the Don. These fine-looking stallions were crossed on almost all of the native mares, but the results were mixed in more ways than just genes.
The Don-Kirgiz crosses were best for agriculture but they disappointed the Soviets with their slow gallop. However, the Thoroughbred-Kirgiz, although possessing the fast gallop, could not survive living outdoors in all weathers. This was an essential quality for a nomad’s horse. Wood is scarce in Kirgizia, so making numerous stables were out of the question.
Eventually, three types were developed – a heavier type for meat and milk, a rangy, Don-like one for horse sports and a “saddle type”, which is a general jack of all trades horse (does many tasks but is master of none.) But all three types were lower in fertility than the robust and randy old type. This breed is just not ideally suited for the area in which it was bred but may excel in more temperate climates.
Although some websites have shown very handsome, mustang-like examples of New Kirgiz, these are exceptionally attractive animals and far better looking than the majority. However, the “uglier” the New Kirigz, the more apt it is able to perform the human-assigned tasks put to it. It seems that after 70 years of trying to improve the “old” Kirgiz, nature is instead improving the New Kirgiz into resembling the old type.
The conformation of New Kirgiz varies widely, but they are prone to conformation flaws like cow hocks and a neck that seems too short in comparison to the rest of their bodies. They mainly come in the usual solid equine colors of bay, dark bay, chestnut and black. White markings on the face or legs are common.
International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds . Bonnie Hendircks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
The Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies. Tasmin Pickeral. Paragon Publishing; 2003.
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Horses and Ponies of the World. Maurizio Bongianni. Simon & Schuster; 1988.