The saga of how Azerbaijan lost control of the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh revolves around issues of ethnicity and culture. But it also involves a breed of horse.
Karabakh horses, valued for their endurance in mountainous terrain, mild temperament, and rich chestnut color, are considered to be Azerbaijan’s national animal, even though no pure-blood Karabakh horse is known to exist today. A combination of war, negligence and cross-breeding with Arabian horses diluted the country’s breeding stock. Now the focus is on how to preserve what horses remain.
Just how many Karabakh horses -- jokingly termed “Internally Displaced Horses” by one Azerbaijani owner -- still exist is a matter of contention; various sources put the number at anywhere from a handful to a few thousand.
“In my opinion, there may be 10 mares that are one-half true Karabakh horses,” German horse breeder Verena Scholian, who has spent 20 years researching the Karabakh breed’s blood-lines, commented in a phone interview from Ginsheim-Gustavsburg, Germany.
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