Notes: Ancient Royal Horse Unearthed in Iran

(Credit for all images: CAIS Archaeological and Cultural News)

Jennifer Viegas Discovery News, APR 29, 2011

Remains of the oldest known Caspian horse, otherwise referred to as the “Kings’ horse” due to its popularity among royals the world over, have been unearthed in northern Iran, according to CAIS.

The more than 3,000-year-old remains were found at an Iranian site named Gohar-Tappeh. In ancient times, royals often chose Caspian horses to ride them into battle and/or to pull their chariots.

During more recent history, individuals such as Price Philip of England have popularized the Caspian, which is the oldest breed of horse in the world still in existence.

The Shah of Iran gifted such a horse to Prince Philip in 1972. Hoping to strengthen the breed’s numbers, Prince Philip had numerous additional Caspian horses exported to the U.K. This led to the formation of The Caspian Horse Society of the United Kingdom in 1975.

The illustrious history of this beautiful horse may go back much further than even 3000 years ago, as Gohar-Tappeh’s age keeps being upped. Some of the oldest finds there now date to 12,000 B.C., according to CAIS. But archaeologists believe the recently discovered horse lived at about the time of the late Bronze Age.

(Gohar Tappeh)

“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,” Ali Mahforuzi, the director of the archaeological team in Gohar Tappeh, told CAIS.

“We have to continue our research until we reach the virgin soil in order to establish the oldest human occupation of the site,” he added. “It seems the excavation is gradually moving past the cemetery (where the horse remains were found), and into an industrial level since we found a clay-kiln in 2006. We are hoping that we will have more information about the industrial section of the site too by next year.”

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He concluded that “obtaining information from Gohar Tappeh helps us to understand the site’s cultural settings and its link to other cultures in the region during pre-historic times.”

(Seal of Darius the Great, showing a Caspian horse)

I should add that it’s interesting this horse was apparently buried alongside humans. This is not uncommon for ancient burials and demonstrates just how much horses were valued, both then and now.

It’s also no wonder the royals love Caspian horses. They are smaller than modern horses, about 2/3 the size, but are known, as the famous late horse breeder Louise Firouz once said, as being “kind, intelligent and willing.” CAIS additionally describes Caspian horses as having “light frames, thin bones, short, 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.”

The Caspian sounds like an appropriate horse for newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middletonto ride off together into the sunset on

Further reading:

Timeline of Horses; Horses a history

Ancient Peoples – The history of the horse tack, in ancient terms,.


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