horse thought to be extinct for 1,000 years is alive and well
and living in Rutland. Celebrated in the
ancient world as a chariot horse for racing and in battle, and
presented to kings and emperors as a valuable gift, the Caspian
horse was thought to have disappeared in antiquity.
Drawings of the distinctive horse can be seen on 3,000-year-old
terracotta plaques in the British Museum and on the seal of
Darius the Great from Persepolis in ancient Iran. They were
probably used to pull chariots in the battle.
In 1965, a small but beautiful horse was discovered in a remote
village in Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea, being used to
pull carts. Louise Firouz, an American who was married to one of
the Shah of Iran's sons, bought it for her children to ride. She
realized the horse belonged to a unique breed with great
qualities of speed and temperament. There were still five
pure-bred animals in the village and she managed to buy three.
Later other horses were found, including some wild ones in the
Nearly 40 years later, with the help of the latest DNA
technology, enough pure-bred horses of different strains have
been found to ensure genetic diversity and the survival of the
To celebrate, the president of the worldwide Caspian Horse
Society, Pat Bowles, who lives in Rutland with 16 of the
pure-bred horses, has organized a conference from August 11 to
13 at which Louise Firouz will be speaking. Caspian enthusiasts
from around the world will discuss a further breeding program
and hold a breed show at Castle Bytham, near Oakham, on August
Ms Bowles said that although the Caspians were smaller than
modern horses - about 11.3 hands compared with a modern
racehorse at 16 - they were as fast. She breeds both.
"They have light frames and thin bones which are incredibly
strong. They are not like ponies, which are piggy and can be
bloody-minded. They are slim, narrow, elegant and fast."
Pure-bred brood mares are worth between £2,000 and £3,000.
There are still wild Caspians in the mountains in Iran and the
government has banned their export, fearing that they will be
lost to the country. Iranian experts are speaking at the Rutland
There are now 1,300 pure-bred Caspians registered with the
society and a further unknown number in Iran. Horses still being
found in rural Iran are tested to check if they are pure-bred
Caspians, and if so become valuable animals.