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Yakut Horse and Rider in the Winter of 1908

Siberian Yakut Horses to be Studied




CuChullaine O'Reilly FRGS


In its on-going efforts to investigate the astonishing horses who inhabit Siberia, the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation is working with academics, equestrians and webmasters located in Yakutia, the legendary northern Siberian state.


The Yakut is the most northern based equine. Its range extends from the Arctic Circle to the tundra of Mongolia, though much of its current range exists in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

Though the republic has no equal in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of absolute minimum temperature, the fabled Yakut horses live out of doors in winter conditions lasting eight months.  During this extended cold spell, the horses routinely endure temperatures that reach nearly - 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Though resembling other horses, the Yakut has several unique features which enable it to thrive in these arctic conditions. One such characteristic is the horse’s hair. The horse’s winter coat is so thick that it provides a insulting layer of warm air around the animal’s body. Plus, the horse’s have a special sub-dermal layer of fat which serves as another heat insulator. Furthermore, the horses alter their breathing patterns during the harsh Siberian winters, lowering the average respiration rate from the average of 20 breaths per minute in summer, to 10 breaths per minute during winter.


These horses have always played are major role in history of Yakutia, as according to one ancient legend, “first God created a horse, which gave birth to the centaur and then appeared the man.”  The state emblem is an ancient petroglyph image depicting a rider mounted on a Yakut horse.  This emblem has now been placed on the new coin of the country. Nor is the horse a thing of the past in these northern climes.   Every spring the country celebrates it equine origins by holding a kumiss festival, wherein the fermented mare’s milk is enjoyed.  Yakutia currently has an estimated 130,000 horses, with nearly 30 studs and collective farms tending to these special animals.


In 2003 The Guild became aware that "Siberian" horses were brought to an English horse fair in 1908. The fate of those horses is unknown. But we next learned that once the English and American's learned about the strength and survival skills of the Siberian style horse, equestrian history took a strange turn of events.


Because the Yakut horses enjoyed a reputation for being so strong, and able to survive in terrible conditions, these horses were used by American, English and European explorers who were trying to reach the North and South Poles. In those cases, Siberian horses were purchased in Manchuria and then taken to the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. While we are still unsure if the horses used for these expeditions were actual Yakut horses, we do know that the explorers realized that the world's toughest horses were to be found in that part of the world.


The other important element of the Siberian horse's story is that the fantastic Cossack Long Rider, Lt. Dmitri Peshkov, rode his grey Yakut horse, Seriy, from Siberia to St. Petersburg during the winter of 1889/1890. This 5,000 mile non-stop journey made Peshkov a legend in Russia, especially when the Czar adopted the Cossack's Siberian horse. When he died, many years later, the Czar had Seriy buried in the cemetery reserved for the horses of the royal Russian family.


The story of this famous Long Rider team from Siberia was recently made into a movie entitled "Serko."


Click on image to enlarge the poster for the new movie about Peshkov's journey entitled Serko.

The French reads:  "Russian Empire, 1889.  They risked their lives to meet the Tsar. "


Furthermore, here is a link to an article about how this wonderful Russian-Siberian horse story was turned into a movie.


Yet, after Peshkov's ride and the use of Siberian horses in the Polar explorations, as the 20th century progressed all trace of the Yakut-Siberian horse disappeared from common knowledge in the West.


That is why The Long Riders' Guild commissioned the famous Swedish Long Rider, Mikael Strandberg, to try and determine if any Yakuts were still alive, as the rest of the horse world had lost all sight of these remarkable horses. Here is a link to Mikael's story about finding the horses in minus 60 degree weather -


Mikael Strandberg took this photograph of a Yakut horse and rider enjoying a nice "warm" day in Siberia - only minus 60 degrees.


Thanks to all of the investigative work done by The Guild to draw attention to the Yakut, the equestrian journalist, Tom Moates, was commissioned to write an article for the American magazine, Equus, regarding the Yakut horse. While the story has been written, and accepted, The Guild has no idea when it will be published.


However, The Long Riders' Guild continues to receive a steady stream of messages from people anxious to learn more about the hardy horses of Yakutia. In these cases, we share the results of our investigation and urge the people to visit the premier Yakut website known as Yakutia Today.


Michael Kyraha is the webmaster and is attempting to help the LRG-AF discover more facts about the incredible Yakut horses. Michael’s website may be visited at , where he maintains a special study entitled “Yakut Horse: Breed Types, Economical and Biological Features."


Michael wrote to say, “I appreciate your interest in our northern land, in our little hairy horses and my humble web-project. You have already made me pay more attention on the traditions and customs of my own people connected with horses, a sacred animal and all-time companion of my ancestors. I have launched a query in my personal contacts network which should bring some significant results. “


The LRG-AF believes that the Yakut horse is one of the earth's most interesting equestrian treasures. Consequently, we would like to extend an invitation to riders of Yakut horses, scientists who have studied them or lore masters who remember the legends of the Yakut, to share their knowledge with the rest of humanity.


The LRG-AF is prepared to publish scientific papers, personal experiences or legends, by those involved with the Yakut horse. The Guild is currently attempting to contact N.D. Alexeev, N.P. Stepanov, Ekaterina N. Romanova, Natalia K. Danilova and Takakure Hiroki, all of whom have published academic studies on the Yakut horse.


Via this  new project, the LRG-AF hopes to shine the sun of knowledge onto this part of the horse world that has rested in shadow for too many years.


CuChullaine O'Reilly has spent more than thirty years studying equestrian travel techniques on four continents.  He made lengthy trips by horseback across Afghanistan and Pakistan before leading the Karakorum Equestrian Expedition.  He was thereafter made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  Considered the world's expert on equestrian exploration, CuChullaine is one of the Founding Members of The Long Riders' Guild, the publisher of the world's largest collection of equestrian travel wisdom, the director of the Equestrian Academic Research organisation, LRG-AF, and the author of Khyber Knights, The Long Riders and is completing the Horse Travel Handbook.


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