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Use and characteristics of the Kathiawari
Kathiawari horses are generally pony-sized, averaging 14.2 hands (58 inches/147 cm) high. Male horses weigh around 715 pounds/325 kg and mares 600 pounds/275 kg. Their most conspicuous feature is their unusual ears, which curve in towards one another, usually touching or even overlapping. It is possible to buy a Kathiawari with chestnut, grey, dun or pinto colouring, but not black. Sometimes the breed exhibits a dorsal stripe and zebra striping on the legs. Other states now produce Kathiawaris, and so there are breeders who will sell a Kathiawari in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The finest examples still come from Panchaal in Kathiawar. The legs of this breed are very strong, despite criticism about conformation in western sources. They can have a lateral gait known as the revaal.
Origin and history of breeding Kathiawari Horses
The Kathiawari is known under other names, including Kathiawadi, Kathi, Kutchi and Cutchi. No one knows how long horses have lived on the Kathiawar Peninsula, but it is possible that at least some of their ancestors were ancient local stock. Genetic research has shown the Kathiawari is closer genetically to the Central Asian Akhal-Teke breed than is its neighbour from Rajasthan, the Marwari horse. These two Indian breeds are otherwise very similar, in appearance as well as history. Early in the sixteenth century, India was invaded by Turco-Mongol equestrian people who would go on to establish the Mughal Empire. They had their own fast, small horses and also later imported Arabian horses. Arabian imports continued throughout the days of the British Raj. It was probably during these centuries that the breed acquired some Arabian characteristics, particularly the tendency to a concave profile. One of the foundation stories is that the Arabians arrived from a shipwreck and were bred to local horses. This enduring myth has parallels elsewhere, from Scotland to the USA and the West Indies. Horse breeding was a noble pursuit in India, with different families developing their own strains of horse, each descending from a named foundation mare. Their warhorses developed a reputation for ferocity and deep loyalty to their riders. They were tough and enduring, requiring very little in the way of fodder, and capable of surviving drought conditions and high temperatures. They would protect their riders if they were injured in battle and could carry a warrior and all his weapons with ease. Their role as cavalry horses continued into the twentieth century. Kathiawaris have always been used for equestrian sports such as tent pegging and polo, since these were seen as noble peace-time activities for a warrior.
Kathiawari Horses in equestrianism
The registry for the Kathiawari horse is kept by the Kathiawari Horse Breeders' Association. Today the breed is used for riding, driving and agricultural work, both in Gujurat and beyond. They are also police horses and have an important role in regional heritage and tourism.