Breed Report: Akhal-Teke

The Akhal-Teke is a distinctive horse in terms of shape and color.

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I am writing this post because I love horses. There shall be more posts like this.

The Akhal-Teke is a distinctive horse in terms of shape and color.  His coat, whatever the color, has a truly metallic sheen to it.  The horse is a picture of athleticism, although his long back and rather tubular body would be considered poor conformation by some.  Like the Arabian, he has remarkable powers of endurance.

ORIGIN: Turkmenistan

ENVIRONMENT: Desert and semi-desert

USES: Riding, sports, and racing

HEIGHT: 14.3 to 16 hh (hands high at the withers)

COLORS: black, chestnut, dun, gray, bay and palomino



The true origins of the breed are not exactly known.  Some argue that he is an older breed than the Arabian, others that the Arabian is the forefather of the Akhal-Teke.  He closely resembles what we call Horse Type 3: one of the four subspecies of horses and ponies that had developed around the time that horses were first being domesticated.  Horse Type 3 inhabited Central Asia.  He stood about 14.3 hands high (59 in), had a long, narrow body, and was well suited to the hot, arid climate of his environment.  What we do know is that the Turkmen people have ridden and raced the Akhal-Teke for over 3,000 years.  These horses were greatly prized and received exceptionally good care.  They were wrapped in heavy blankets to protect them from the cold desert nights, and were fed a low bulk/high protein diet including eggs and mutton fat mixed with barley.  The horses used by the Nez Perce were a mixture of Akhal-Teke and Appaloosa.


The Akhal-Teke should represent a picture of elegance and agility.  He has a fine head, with large expressive eyes and long, beautifully shaped ears. His neck is long, elegant, and high set.  The back is long and the body can be tubular looking.  The legs are long, slender, and quite close set, but the breed is renowned for his toughness and stamina.  The mane and tail are fine and silky, often with no forelock, and the coat color carries a striking metallic sheen.  This effect is due to the structure of the hairs, which have a very thin outer layer.  This allows the core of the hair to act like a light tube that dramatically reflects the light, so affording some protection from the searing desert heat.  Today, the Akhal-Teke is used as a racing horse, both for speed and endurance, and also competes in jumping and dressage.



In 1935, a group of Akhal-Teke horses were ridden from Ashkabad in Turkmenistan to Moscow in Russia.  A distance of over 2,500 (4,000 km)miles was covered in just 84 days.

Courage, endurance, and toughness are breed characteristics.  Although the Akhal-Teke is said to have a tricky temperament, the Turkmen people obviously understood the breed well, as the horses are renowned for being devoted to their owners.

Akhal-Tekes were traditionally used for racing, and the sport still flourishes.  However, they are also popular as riding and sports horses, particularly for dressage and showjumping.

Debby Sly: Encyclopedia of Horses.  Bath, UK 2008, p.174/5.

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