Mongolian Horse

Mongolia is a country that is not often on the radar for Westerners, but it is an amazing place with a rich culture and history.

One of the highlights of Mongolia is its horses, which are considered some of the toughest in the world.

Here is everything you need to know about Mongolian horses!

Mongolian Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Mongolian horse:

Height (size) 12.0 – 14.0 hands high
Colors All solid colors, with some having a dark dorsal stripe
Country of Origin Mongolia
Common Uses Riding, transportation, racing, meat and milk production, as pack animals, equestrian tourism

Mongolian Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

The first horses appeared in what is now North America 55 million years ago. They eventually disappeared from there but survived throughout Eurasia.

Horses are believed to have been domesticated for the first time in Asia, and there is evidence that they have been present in the region that is now Eastern Kazakhstan and Western Mongolia for more than 5,000 years.

Multiple generations of nomads in Asia and Eastern Europe have relied on horses for transportation, food, hunting, herding, combat, and sport over the course of millennia.

The ownership of a horse has historically been and continues to be a sign of prestige and pride.

The horses of Mongolia were a kind of intercontinental ballistic missile in the 13th century, carrying the all-conquering Mongol soldiers halfway across the globe.

It was on the backs of these ancient horses that the legendary Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan was able to establish his vast Mongol Empire.

It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

Genghis Khan

Horses in Mongolian Culture

Small, robust, brave, wild, and astonishingly resilient, they are treasured in Mongolian culture and have altered very little over the years, staying largely free from human interference.

Nomads who follow the traditional lifestyle in Mongolia possess more than 3 million animals, which is more than the country’s total human population.

The nomads who live on the steppe in Mongolia consider the horses to be an essential part of their social culture.

The majority of the horses are “owned” by a herder or family and are branded accordingly; they are herded many times a day in a manner like cattle is herded.

Since the horses (usually) follow the same seasonal patterns in terms of where they go to graze, the Mongolians can easily track them down.

Most of the time, they stay within 10 km.

Herding takes a few hours, and oftentimes only two riders are needed.

When they are in, the horses are either placed in a corral or tied to a line while milking is done, or they are used for some kind of work.

In a herd of 25 or 30 male horses (and a comparable number of mares), the herders usually have four or five favorite riding horses, while the others remain a sign of wealth and prestige.

Four or five horses will work nearly every day, sometimes all day.

The family keeps certain horses just for riding – older, calmer horses are ridden by children and women, and everyone in the family has a favorite horse.

Horses are also given as gifts.

Airag, a popular national beverage, is made from the mare’s milk.

The Mongolian horse has a very long mane and tail.

The strands of their mane are often used for braiding ropes, and the hair from their tails may be used to make violin bows for the traditional instrument called ‘morin khuur’ or ‘horsehead fiddle’, recognized by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Horse Racing Tradition

Racing is a popular activity in Mongolia, and everyone takes part.

From their herd, families choose the finest horse, which they then bring to the fair to compete.

Children, who are smaller and lighter in the saddle often ride the horses, and they are sometimes as young as 6 years old.

About half of Mongolia’s herding families own about one or two racehorses, illustrating the sport’s significance in Mongolian society.

Four or five ‘naadams,’ or races, take place during the summer, ranging in scale from small community gatherings to the large National Festival held each July in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

The tack is quite simple and consists of a bridle with two very long thin bars that are wider than the horse’s mouth and a wooden saddle that has a high cantle and pommel that makes for a highly secure and comfortable seat while giving the animal the most freedom of movement possible.

Racing is considered to be one of “the three masculine skills” along with wrestling and archery.

In races, thousands of horses cover distances of up to 35 kilometers (22 miles).

Foreign breeds may be quicker than Mongolian horses, but there are not many that can match their endurance.

The Everyday Life of a Mongolian Horse

No organization or registry oversees the breeding of Mongolian horses, and the breed’s official registry is Mother Nature – they won’t live to reproduce if they are unable to withstand the weather, the terrain, and the available food.

The majority of the 3 million horses that roam the immense Mongolian steppe live in large, semi-feral herds.

They must endure temperature fluctuations ranging from -40 degrees Celsius in the winter to +30 degrees Celsius in the summer in order to survive.

They consume mostly grass and very little else, and drink water wherever they find it.

People rarely provide them with supplemental food.

Horses lose roughly 30% of their body weight through the winter and early spring, and they must restore this weight throughout the summer and autumn months in order to survive another year.

During especially harsh winters (also known as “zuds”), a large number of horses may perish from starvation or from exposure to the elements.

In these situations, herders have very little control over the outcome for their herds.

188,270 Mongol horses died during the harsh winter of 2009-2010.

Somewhat surprisingly, most horses still live to be 20 to 40 years old.

Care for animals is quite simple.

Despite the fact that herders may be able to clean out a wound and remove rotten flesh, they will not be able to put the horse on box rest or anything similar since it would starve.

If it is a valuable animal, they will make every effort to care for it and may even acquire medication from a veterinarian if they have the means to do so.

However, when it comes to lame horses, they let the discomfort keep the horse from moving about too much, but the horse has to join the rest of the herd because the herders don’t have additional feed stored.

Only the strongest individuals survive.

A great number of horse breeds in Asia and Europe may trace their ancestry back to the Mongolian Horse.

There was a time when people thought these horses descended from Przewalski’s horse because of their obvious similarities.

However, in 2011, genetic tests disproved that theory.

While not regarded truly as wild horses in the same sense as Przewalski’s horse, some wild Mongolian horses roam the steppe freely alongside their domesticated relatives.

The nomads sometimes capture the feral horses and add them to their herds.

The Mongol Derby Endurance Race

The Mongol Derby is a 1000 km (621 miles) endurance race, and is known as the world’s longest horse race.

The mail route that was created by Genghis Khan in 1224 served as inspiration for the race. Using a system of horse stations, it was the first long-distance postal service in the world.

Each year, the race organizers keep the precise route a secret until just before the start of the event.

Mountain ranges, open valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetlands and floodplains, semiarid sand dunes, rolling hills, dry riverbeds, and of course, vast steppes will all inevitably be a part of the route.

The entry fee for 2022 was $14,500 and would get the rider access to 25-27 Mongolian horses, a support team, pre-race training, and access to the support stations along the course.

Support stations are located every 40 kilometers (24.9 miles), and riders must swap horses at those points.

At several checkpoints, veterinarians assess the condition of the horses and may penalize riders for putting undue strain on their mounts.

Each rider must prove that their riding abilities are good enough to withstand the challenging terrain of the event in order to be admitted.

The difficulty of the race is increased by the fact that the horses are only half-trained and may refuse to follow the instructions of their rider.

The event lasts for 10 days, during which time riders will spend an average of thirteen to fourteen hours a day in the saddle.

Due to the difficulty of the course, only around 40% of riders manage to cross the finish line each year, and some get seriously injured.

In addition to the length of the race itself, the competitors have to cope with a number of other problems – a significant injury risk associated with riding 25 unfamiliar “semi-wild” Mongol horses, riding through isolated and unmarked areas in a variety of landscapes, being exposed to severe weather and temperatures ranging from -5 to +38 degrees Celsius (23 – 100 Fahrenheit), physical pain and fatigue, and the regulations of the race, which include a limit on the number of riding hours that are permitted each day.

All The Wild Horses is a 2018 documentary film based on footage from three races held between 2012 and 2016.

To gather the necessary footage for the film, the producer Ivo Marloh rode in and finished the Mongol Derby twice.

The first Mongol Derby took place in 2009, and has been held annually since.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



Gentle and calm

Physical Characteristics

Despite being referred to as “horses,” they are in fact pony-sized and pony-shaped.

Conformation is not as important in Mongolian horse-culture as it is in the West, so many of them have cow hocks, ewe necks, or ram profiles, all of which are disfavored in Western breed standards.

Yet, there are certain qualities that make a horse more desirable.

The horses who have big heads and barrels, good coats for protection from the cold, and thick manes and tails for protection are considered to be the most desirable in Mongolian culture.

Because horses with dished faces are regarded to have trouble grazing, a Roman nose is highly valued.

When a horse is walking, its back hoof should either step into or outside of the front hoof print.

The feet of Mongolian horses are very tough, and they are seldom shod.

Mongolian horses can canter nonstop for up to 10 kilometers, attesting to their exceptional endurance.

The majority of horses have five gaits rather than the more common four (the fifth gait is a running walk that may be termed tölt, single-footing, or racking), and the majority of horses seem to prefer cantering in practically any situation.


All solid colors, with some having a dark dorsal stripe

Height (size)

12.0 – 14.0 hands high






500 – 600 lbs (225 – 275 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

The male horses are used for riding, transportation, racing, and occasionally meat.

Mares are primarily used for milk production (up to six times a day in summer) and reproduction, and are rarely ridden.

Otherwise these horses are used as pack animals and for equestrian tourism.


Very resilient

Popular Traits

They are gaited and incredibly tough and hardy



Country of Origin