Horse breeding in India

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 10 02:28:57 UTC 1998

Yaroslav V. Vassilkov wrote in Indology:
>>But can we really say that *the horse has always been imported* while
>>since the Vedic period Sanskrit literature constantly mentions
>>in the North-West of the subcontinent?

On  Tue, 31 Mar 1998, Vidyanatha Rao replied:
In Jan/Feb 97, there was a discussion in this list about the alleged
difficulty of breeding horses in India. In spite of confident assertions
of such difficulty, attributed to the climate, horse-breeding (of local
breeds, naturally, not of thorough-breds:-) was alive and well in India,
including Central India and parts of the peninsula, as attested by one
of the references I gave.

    Dr. V. Rao's references are by the British in
    colonial days. British had less problems in horse
    breeding due to advances in vetenary sciences, etc.,

    But Indians always had trouble breeding horses.
    Arab settlers on the Kerala coast sold horses
    brought by sea.

    Pre-3rd century AD Pattin2appAlai tells:
    "nIrin2 vanta nimir parip puraviyum"
     - horses that came via the sea waters.

    In Sangam classical texts, princes have
    horses and people were awed by their speed.

    Major portion MaanikkavAcakar's (9th century) life
    revolves around going to the West coast
    to purchase horses for the Pandyan army.

    Peacocks are SubrahmaNya-Murukan's vAhana.
    After Muslims were employed as horse trainers
    and riders in Vijayanagar armies, ArunagirinAthar
    calls Murukan as the Peacock riding Rahout
    in 14th century (mayil ERu rAvuttan2 - tiruppukaz).

    Portugese residents at Vijayanagar have kept
    accounts of the number of horses bought every year.
    I have seen some references on this horse trade
    across the sea. My books, notes are in the boxes,
    Will post the references some day.

    Definitely, India had trouble breeding horses
    until the British arrived.

    Any data on horse imports in Mauryan, Gupta
    and Moghul periods?

    N. Ganesan

Yaroslav V. Vassilkov wrote:
>By the way, I think that the participants in the debate on the spread
>horses in India quite undeservedly ignored the archeological materials
>of the *megalithic* culture which at some sites (e.g. on the territory
>of historical Vidarbha) can be dated now as early as the beginning of
>the I mill. BC. Here we can speak really in terms of MASS material,
>consisting of bone remains and innumerable articles of metal harness.

On  Tue, 31 Mar 1998, Vidyanatha Rao replied:
[...] <<<
The ``articles of metal harness'' seem to be, for the most part, bits,
often snaffle bits, and in one case a curb bit. Now Hellenistic writers
clearly state that bits were unknown to Indians, presumably at the time
of Alexander.

  Arrian's writing on horse bits was given by Prof. Witzel.
  Even if the small book by Arrian does not tell us of 'bits',
  it just may mean that he missed the 'bits'.

  N. Ganesan

On 12 Feb 1997, Vidhyanath Rao wrote:

Several weeks back, there was a query about claims of
difficulty in breeding, in India, horses for cavalry.
It seems to me that books written during the last century
would be better, as cavalry was more important in those
days. I was able to locate three reports on horses of
India, two of which I was able to obtain. The bibliographic
details are below.

I do not wish to take up space summarizing what is in these
books. I just wish to note that the authors do
not see the climate as a disadvantage in breeding horses
of cavalry. The only comment on the influence of climate
is the Bergmann's Rule: animals of hotter and drier areas
tend to be smaller/lighter. This applies not just to
Indian breeds, but also to Arabians. Henry Shakespear,
who as commander of an irregular cavalry regiment stationed
at Nagpur must have been familiar with the Decan breed(s?),
does not consider the small size to be a drawback.

 AUTHOR       Shakespear, Henry.
 TITLE        The wild sports of India: with remarks on the breeding and
                rearing of horses, and the formation of light irregular
                cavalry. By Captain Henry Shakespear.
 PUBLISH INFO Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1860.
 DESCRIPT'N   viii, 283 p. 18 cm.
 SUBJECTS     Sports -- India.
              Horses -- Breeding -- India.

 AUTHOR       Gilbey, Walter, Sir, 1831-1914.
 TITLE        Horse-breeding in England and India, and army horses
 EDITION      2d ed.
 PUBLISH INFO London, Vinton & Co., 1906.
 DESCRIPT'N   v, 65 p. plates. 22 cm.
 NOTE         Bibliographical footnotes.
 SUBJECTS     Horses.

   AUTHOR: India. Horse and Mule Breeding Commission.
    TITLE: Report of the Horse and Mule Breeding Commission assembled
           the orders of the government of India, 1900-1901.
    PLACE: [London :
     YEAR: 1901
   FORMAT: 64 p. : ill. ; 34 cm.
  SUBJECT: India. -- Army. -- Remount service.


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