A team of archaeologists has discovered the oldest remains of Caspian horse, also known as the Mazandaran horse, during their eighth season of archaeological research in Gohar Tappeh, in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran.
The remains were discovered in a cemetery dating back to the late Bronze and early Iron age, around 3400 BCE.
“Due to the form, figure and size of the discovered remains of the horse, we now have the oldest evidence for Caspian horse ancestry at hand”, said Ali Mahforuzi, the director of the archaeological team in Gohar Tappeh.
The Caspian horse, or the ‘Kings’ Horse’ – the oldest breed of horse in the world still in existence- was used in ancient Iran as a chariot horse for racing and in battle, and presented to kings and queens as a valuable gift and is known to be favored by Darius the Great.
The horse was thought to have disappeared into antiquity, until 1965 when the American wife of an Iranian aristocrat called Louise Firouz went on an expedition on horseback and discovered small horses in the Iranian mountainous regions south of the Caspian Sea.
The number of surviving Caspian horses in Iran is still quite small. In addition, there are only 1300 registered Persian Caspians worldwide, mainly in the US, UK, Germany and Australia.
The Caspians are smaller than modern horses at around 11.3 hands compared with a modern racehorse at 16. They have light frames, thin bones, short and fine head with a pronounced forehead, large eyes, short ears and small muzzles.
They are very fast, and incredibly strong and spirited, but also have good temperaments, and were described by Louise Firouz as “kind, intelligent and willing.”