Akhal-Teke: The world's most beautiful horse?

Internet filter feeder service Buzzfeed recently fell head-over-heels for a luminous horse with long, delicate features and an incredible coat with a silvery-golden metallic sheen. Although Buzzfeed did not provide any details as to the provenance of the photos (and misidentified the horse as female, even though it clearly has boy parts), for those in the know, the horse's breed was obvious: this pale palomino (technically a "cremello") is a fantastic example of the Akhal-Teke, the national breed and emblem of Turkmenistan.

The Akhal-Teke comes in several coat colors, any of which can display the special metallic shimmer for which this horse breed is famous. But the best known and most popular is the so-called "golden horse," which includes buckskin, palomino, cremello, and perlino coat colors. In these pale golden coat colors, the breed's unreal sheen seems to take on an otherworldly glow and radiance. 

In concert with the amazing qualities of its coat, the Akhal-Teke has a long, graceful physique which is often compared to that of a supermodel or a greyhound. It has a long, dished face with long thin ears, a long neck, back, and legs, and a lean endurance physique. The Akhal-Teke may look delicate, but it was bred for sport and endurance runs in the harsh deserts of Turkmenistan, where water and food are scarce. Make no mistake: this breed is tough!
The Akhal-Teke's history is shrouded in mystery. It was bred and jealously guarded by the Turkmenistan tribesmen, in the remote rocky deserts of Kara Kum. It may be the progenitor of the modern Arabian and Thoroughbred breeds, or it may be related to the breed that provided the foundation blood lines. The Akhal-Teke's relationship to the now-extinct Iranian horse breed the Turkoman Horse is unknown, but they share many similarities.
The Akhal-Teke was "discovered" by the modern era in 1881, when Turkmenistan was swallowed by the Russian Empire. The Russians created the first studbook in 1941; previously the breed had been closely tracked by the Turkmenistani tribes, but only through an oral tradition. 
Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union ordered that all horses be slaughtered for meat, the Akhal-Teke was nearly snuffed out. At one point, only 1,250 horses remained, and the breed continues to suffer genetic difficulties due to the combination of a limited gene pool and the understandable reluctance to bring in new blood by cross-breeding the Akhal-Teke with outside breeds.

1. Copyright equestrian.ru

2. Courtesy Flickr/Kerri-Jo


?'s picture


To be quite honest, I think it's one of the ugliest horses I've ever seen! Sorry.


BN's picture


Some fellows prefer 'em fat 'n hairy. Nothing wrong with that. There's beauty in each and every one of us.


Anonymous's picture


I know it's been awhile since you wrote this but what is it about this horse that makes it one of the ugliest you've seen?


Gill B.'s picture

Gill B.

Absolutely everything about this horse is unique, outlandish and stunning. It is the most ancient breed on earth. It is one of the most beautiful, elegant and proud horses in the world. Its endurance and resistance to heat are second to none.
They are amazingly beautiful,an arrogant equine aristocrats.


Dorte from Denmark's picture

Dorte from Denmark

Gill B. - I agree with you, he is absolutely breathtaking ... sheer nobility <3


Emily S's picture

Emily S

I agree with Gill B., this breed is absolutely gorgeous and amazing. Thank God they were hidden by the tribesmen and did not get slaughtered. I bet they would make an awesome endurance mount.


Aunt Yvonne's picture

Aunt Yvonne

I've never seen any other horse like this one - absolutely breathtaking!!!


Eh. 's picture


I love Friesians. I can think of tons of other horses that are beautiful. To me, it's otherworldly sheen is a little weird. Awkward. Too different.


rachel's picture


i dont like cremellos as a rule, they look sickly, this lady is no different. and with the washed out mane and tail next to the color i dont like the effect at all. i dont have a problem with the body build, clearly built for heat and speed, i just dont like the coloring and i dont think its the most beautiful horse in the world, i wonder how this decision came about lol.


I didn't realize there was a world governing body deciding which horse was the prettiest! In the case of the AT I can see how that amazing golden shine really puts it in another class of horse breeds. It truly is an amazing coat.

But I know what you mean about cremellos, they have those kinda creepy pink faces that make them look almost like albinos. It sure is a gorgeous coat color aside from that, though.


V's picture


Rachel there are many different colors of the Akhal Teke. Just because you don't like the color of that one in particular, doesn't mean you won't like all of them!!! I have an Akhal Teke, and to me she is gorgeous, stunning, and beautiful!!!!!!!!!


emi's picture


hello! i live in japan, i want to ride golden akhal teke horse! i live horse and my favorite color is gold. they are so stunning and gorgeous! plus tough to be walk on dessert. where i should go to ride them even once. thank you.


incognito's picture


since anyone can comment here.. regardless of expertise or intelligence.. comments can be very unsophisticated or simply dumb like: "this horse".. perhaps some have only seen a dunky's behind which they do compare to. This horse is exceptional.. and indeed, the article is superb as well.


Iojik's picture


And just when did the Soviet Union "ordered that all horses be slaughtered for meat " ?!? I am very interested to know. And if it did how do you explain that the Vladimir, the Lituanian, the Orlov, the Murakoz, the Sokolsk, the New Kirgiz, the Turkmen, the Don, the Boudienny, the Iomud, the Malapolski, the Wielkopolski, the Bashkirsky, the Gidram, The Nonius, ect, ect all horse breeds from the Soviet Union are still alive ?


The info regarding this quote is in the linked Wikipedia article. Khrushchev demanded the slaughter of horses after the tractor became commonplace. He deemed horses as having more value as meat for the Soviet people than as agricultural tools. And remember, under the Soviets, all horses - all everything - were the property of the state, so that was the kind of thing that could happen.

Luckily many horses survived the decree (the Soviet Union was a big place, and a lot of official decrees were ignored, particularly in the rural areas). 

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KERIM's picture


I am from Turkmenistan too, and I've seen Ahal- Teke horses many times, I Really proud for that, world's beatiful horse from my country. It's amazing, Thank you all!


Gaby's picture


It may not be THE most beautiful horse in the world because there are SO many but it's truly one of the most amazing horses I've ever seen!


Kenny the Turk's picture

Kenny the Turk

Hard work honesty integrity of the old Turks made it happen thanks to all of them we have had a chance to see such a magnificent horse


anna's picture


Is it even possible for a horse to be THAT beautiful? Im stunned :-O


Maru's picture


I have heard the Nez Perce Native American tribe had acquired some of the akhal-Teke horses and a cross breading them to the newer stock of appaloosa to bring back the appaloosa of yester year.


DB's picture


I have heard the same and hope it's true. The AT breed would bring both awesome and authentic traits back to the Appaloosa.


anri's picture


I'm sorry even my little black pony is prettier! That one is WAY too thin... I don't think its the pretties horse in the world..


TM's picture


Sadly, this horse is way too thin. A beautiful horse is one who can be seen grazing in a field with his horse friends, not one fed unnaturally small amounts to ensure a shape we find agreeable.


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