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February 18, 2016 | Author: admin
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Alyetmez, the Karabakh horse from the stud of the Karabkh khan's daughter Khurshidbanu Natavan-Utsmiyeva, at the second All-Russian Exhibition in 1867. Karabakh horse is the most famous horse breed in Azerbaijan.

Since antiquity, horses played a major role in life of peoples inhabiting South Caucasus. The horse was an important element of the everyday life of the indigenous Caucasian tribes. Therefore, emergence of the cult of horse in Transcaucasia, Minor Asia and Northern Iran was not an accident. Horses played significant role also in the life of nomads, including Scythians, Cimmerians and various Turkic tribes which inhabited steppes of Kura-Aras Lowland in ancient and medieval times.

The remains of horses dating to the end of Eneolith (4th-5th millennium BC) found during excavations near Alikomektepe village in the Mugan plain of the Republic of Azerbaijan are considered among the oldest in the world. It is possible to assert that South Caucasus is one of the regions where horses were domesticated.Archeologist Farkhad Guliyev concludes that there was formed a cult of horse in this region. Numerous mounds with graves of horses buried with military honors together with saddles and harnesses were found on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The earliest of them date back to the 4th millennium BC.

The exceptional role played by horses in the life of nomads also contributed to formation of the cult of horse in the region. The horse was the main means of transportation among the population engaged in cattle breeding and transhumance (the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures – F.A.). In summer, Turks of Azerbaijan grazed their sheep in the mountain meadows (“yaylak”), and in the winter went back with their flocks to the low-lying areas of the country (“kyshlak”). All these movements would be impossible if nomads did not use horses in everyday life. The use of horses as draft animals for plowing the land (“goshgu” – in Azeri) was not characteristic of the local population – it was considered a luxury.

During the Middle Ages, it was believed that the skull of horse has magical properties, and figurines of horses were used as amulets to protect against disease and evil spirits. According to a legend, the horse is the most vulnerable animal. Therefore, in order to protect the horse from the jinn (evil spirits), people in Azerbaijan covered its back with heavy oil, or fastened to its tail a pin.

Zoomorphic gravestones in the form of the horse are typical to many regions of Azerbaijan and are known among the people as "Oguz Gebirleri" ("The Oguz graves"). An ancient custom of exhibiting stuffed horse over the tomb existed among Oghuz Turks. With time, people started to install over graves the stone sculptures of horses instead of stuffed animals. Usually, these horses were sculpted in saddled form and in full equipment. Often, on the armor of the deceased warrior such as bow and arrow, sword, shield and others are portrayed the sides of these gravestones. You'll find many depictions of horses on the graves in Sofi Hamid cemetery near Baku. They are depicted with saddles or hitched to covered carriages.

Figures of horses were depicted on carpets, weapons, jewelry and household utensils.“Atli-Itli” (“With Horses and Dogs” in Azeri) carpets decorated with images of horses and dogs were widespread in the Karabakh region.

According to statistics from January 1, 2007 in all categories of farms in Azerbaijan there were bred 69,984 horses. The most famous local breeds of horses are Karabakh and Deliboz.

Farid Alakbarli. Horses of Azerbaijan: a Historical Survey