The Turkoman horse became known as the Akhal-Teke after the annexation of Turkmenia to the Russian Empire in l88l. The name combines the name of the Teke Turkmen tribe and the Akhal oasis in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag mountains. The Akhal-Teke’s original homeland lay throughout modern Turkmenistan and northern Iran, as well as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaidzhan. The history of the Turan Flats area of Central Asia is a history of continual conquest, occasionally from the west but usually from the Altai region of Mongolia. First by the Scythians, then the Ywati or Yüeh-Chih, then the Parthians, the Huns, the Turks, the Mongols, and the Turks again. Teke tribes then controlled their territory for over a thousand years with these amazing horses. Foreign raids were undertaken on them with the intent of obtaining their magnificent horses. (MAAK)
The early Chinese called the Turkoman horses “Heavenly Horses.” Legend has it that one Han emperor called a campaign in which he had lost eighty thousand soldiers a success, because it had resulted in the capture of twenty heavenly horses. The mounts of Genghis Khan, Amir Timur, Darius and Alexander the Great are also reported to have been Akhal-Tekes and Marco Polo inscribed his admiration of the Persian horses in his travel books. The Akhal-Teke is a direct descendant of the famous horses of the Massagetae, the Bactrians and the Alans. In ancient Persia these horses were known as Nisaean and several centuries later as Parthian (more information). Whatever they are called these horses were always spoken of as the best in the world, with the Russians loving naming them their “divine Argamaks”. (MAAK)
The area changed languages, cultures, ideals and arts, but one thing remained the same — every culture which came into contact with the Turanian Thoroughbred recognized him for what he was; a horse of unsurpassed speed and nearly unbelievable endurance; a horse of keen intelligence, an abiding loyalty to its keeper, and almost complete fearlessness in battle. Every culture which took over Central Asia, no matter what else they changed, carefully preserved the Turanian Thoroughbred, breeding him pure and training him with such devotion that he became the standard of wealth, the means of livelihood, and the most enduring source of pride for all those whose lives he touched. from the Turanian Horse
Following the annexation of Turkmenistan by Russia (see more on the Great Game) the Akhal-Tekes perhaps underwent there greatest trial as a breed under Bolshevism when private ownership was made illegal and the horses were placed in state-owned stud farms. Many tribesmen fled with their beloved horses to Persia and Afghanistan. When it was later decreed that the horses in the stud farms were to be slaughtered for food, breeders released them into the desert, saving the Akhal-Teke from extinction in their own land. Unfortunately many were destroyed. Remaining horses were mainly used for cross-breeding.
Faced with probable extinction of the purebred blood lines a group of breeders staged a “race” from Ashkhabad to Moscow, to convince Stalin that the breed should be preserved. Twenty-eight horses participated, including purebred Akhal-Tekes, Anglo/Akhal-Teke crosses, and a few Iomuds, traveled 4,300 km in 84 days, and at one point had to cross 360 km of desert without water, which all did within three days. The best-conditioned horses at the finish were the Akhal -Teke stallions Arab and Al Sakar. Although the Iomuds did nearly as well, the Anglo crosses could not keep up with the purebreds.
The studbook was initiated in the 1930s by the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Horse Breeding (VNIIK). It starts with Boynou (born 1885), Sultan Guli and Chopar Kel’s lines among others. These three stallions are considered to be the progenitors of all modern registered Akhal-Tékés (other lines having now disappeared). The studbook is currently maintained by MAAK under Doctor Tatiana Riabova.
Read more about Akhal-Tekes and their history:
THE AKHAL-TEKE, THE LAST DROPS FROM THE SOURCE, by Klimuk translated on the Shael-Teke site
The purebred Akhal-Teke horse and it’s influence on other pure bred breeds, by Alexander Klimuk
An Opinion of One Breeder, by Alexander Klimuk
The Turanian Horse Website
A Light out of the Darkness of Centuries, Dr. Tatiana Riabova
Brocéliande Akhal-Téké Stud (French)
Auf den Spuren des Achal-Tekkiners (German)
The Golden Horses of Turkmenistan, by Jonathan Maslow
About the breed, by the Czech Achal Teke Association
About Akhal-Teke Horses, by Tito Pontecorvo
The Akhal-Teke horses, by Elena Volkova
Akhal-Teke history on the Dutch Akhal Teke site
Kyzyl Akhal-Tekes, the Akhal-Teke
Old days, there was a slim, golden-bay Akhal-Teke stallion called Akhale and no one horse could beat him during a race. It was decided to compete Akhale and a falcon. Thousands of people gathered from around the world to witness the unique competition. The owner of the falcon and the bay stallion stood at the top of the hill. The falcon and Akhale started the race at the same moment. Like an arrow flew the golden-bay stallion by the astonished viewers leaving the falcon far behind. Since that time Akhal-Teke stallions are often given names of birds…
from Golden horses of Asia