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By Jeffery Garfield

Last updated: 17th January 2023

Zanskari Horse


Jeffery Garfield
Last updated: 17th January 2023

Found in Ladakh and Leh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Zanskari or Zaniskari is a breed of mountain ponies or small-sized horses that are known for their sturdiness and the ability to work tirelessly at high altitudes. They exhibit similarities to the Spiti ponies and some Tibetan equine breeds.

Zanskari Horse Pictures

Quick Information

Other Names Zaskari, Jhanskar, Zanaskari
Temperament/Personality Obedient, intelligent, willing to work
Physical Characteristics Well-built, compact body, predominant eyes, erect ears, deep chest, long and heavy tail, long manes
Colors Gray is most common; brown, bay, chestnut and black are also seen
Height (size) 11.8-13.8 hands (120-140 cm, 48-55 inch) at the shoulders, girth is 55-60 inch (140-150 cm), body length is 38-45 inch (95-115 cm)
Weight 705-992 lbs (320-450 kg)
Common Uses Pleasure riding, showing; also as workhorses for carrying heavy loads
Health No known breed-specific health issues
Gaited Yes; uniform movement
Feeding/Diet Forages such as grasses and legumes, small amounts of cereal grains including corn and oats; clean, fresh water
Distinguishing Traits Strength, resilience, runs swiftly; can survive in extreme cold
Country of Origin India
Ancestors Tibetan pony
Breed Information Indigenous Horse Society of India

Video: Zanskari Horses at a Breeding Farm

History and Development

Scientific research was conducted in 2007 to study the genetic variation among Indian equine breeds, including the Zanskari horses. DNA analysis showed that there is a great genetic divergence between the Zanskari and the Marwari horses whereas other equine breeds including the Bhutia, Spiti, and Manipuri are closely related to the Zanskaris. The difference in physical as well as genetic traits between the breeds was ascribed to their differing ancestral lineages. While the Marwaris are the descendants of the Arabian horses, the Zanskaris are believed to have been influenced by the Tibetan pony.

Back in 1977, around 15,000-20,000 Zanskari horses were estimated to live in Leh and Ladakh. Although the FAO categorized the breed as “not at risk” in 2007, indiscriminate crossbreeding with unidentified ponies has reduced their numbers. Today, merely a few hundred Zanskaris are found in the valleys. A stud farm has been established at Padum, Zanskar in order to improve and conserve the breed through a selective breeding program and artificial insemination technique.

Interesting Facts

  • The breed is named after the Zanskar valley in Kargil district.

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