The KATHIAWARI horse is from the Kathiawar Peninsula, an area framed by the Gulfs of Kutch and Khambat on India’s north western coast. It is also found in Maharashtra, Gujerat, and southern Rajasthan. Together with the Marwari its northern neighbour in Rajasthan it is regarded as indigenous to the sub-continent.
ORIGINS AND HISTORY
The origins of the breed are not recorded, but well before the time of the Moghul Emperors (1526-1857) a native stock of mixed type existed in the provinces down the western coast as far as Maharashtra. This stock was descended from breeds such as the Kabuli and Baluchi, which came from the north and were related to the steppe and desert horses further to the west and north-west. These breeds often have curved ears and a “dry” head, like the Kathiawari, and some share its pacing ability. In the time of the Moghuls, and later under the British Raj, Arab horses were imported from the Arabian Gulf and the Cape of South Africa.
These were crossed with the native stock, itself of “eastern” origin, and therefore also played a major part in the evolution of the Kathiawari. Traditionally, the princely houses bred these horses selectively; each specialized in its own strain, which was usually named after a foundation mare. Twenty-eight such strains are still recognized. In these noble households the horses were looked upon as favored pets and acquired a reputation for being intelligent, docile, and affectionate.
Less fortunate animals, though, are often of a more uncertain temper. The breed is still highly regarded in its native area. Early in the 19th century the “original Kattywar” horse was stated to be superior to all others as a cavalry mount and was used by Mahratta and British cavalry. Today it is employed by police forces throughout India. The Kathiawari Horse Breeders’ Association operates a register and puts on annual breed shows. At Junagadh, the Government of Gujerat supports a stallion station and a small brood mare band, and the services of selected stallions are made available to villagers for nominal fees.
In its general outline, the Kathiawari resembles the Arab. It is distinctive in appearance, and notable features include the highly mobile ears, which curve inwards to touch each other at the tips and can move easily through 360?. The curving ears are a much-prized feature, and in the past they were often cultivated by breeders to the detriment of more important points.
The best Kathiawari specimens are very attractive, especially those less than 1.52 1T. (15 hh). Over that height coarsening occur and there is a loss of the essential type. These animals are of good proportions; the limbs are light of bone by western standards, but the breed is inherently sour. Like most breeds with a desert background, the Kathiawari is resistant to heat and can survive on minimal rations of feed and water.
Less well-bred animals show signs of the degeneration typically associated with hot, dry areas and poor soil. They often have sharply sloping quarters and weak, poorly shaped hind legs. All colors are found, except black. The most interesting colour is dun, often with a definite dorsal list and distinctive “zebra” bars on the legs. This is a primitive coat pattern, and may suggest a link with the Tarpan The breed has the innate ability to perform the revaal, which is a swift, very comfortable lateral pacing gait. This points to a connection with pacing horses from areas bordering Pakistan’s north-west frontiers, such as Turkestan, Afghanistan, and the desert regions of northern Iran.