4 Prominent Russian Warmblood Horse Breeds | Character Origin and Facts

There are a number of Russian Warmblood horse breeds, but which ones are the most popular Russian equine types?

If you have this question and others like, what does their physique look like, and how do they differ from other horses, then you are in the right place.

This article will cover all the aspects you need to know about the famous Russian warmblood horse breeds.

The most popular Russian Warmblood Horse Breeds are Akhal-Teke Warmblood Horse, Don Warmblood Horse, Budyonny Warmblood Horse Breed and the Karabakh Warmblood Horse Breed.

Read on to find out the origins, characteristics, and traits of all these breeds.

P.S – We’ve also busted some Myths!

Akhal-Teke Warmblood Horse Breed

Superb Russian Warmblood Horse

The Akhal-Teké is the most distinctive strain of the ancient race of horses known as Turkoman, or Turkmene, which have played such a successful part in the mounted warfare of the past 2,000-3,000 years. 

Akhal-Tekés have been bred separately since time out of mind – there are indications that horses of the Akhal-Teké type existed as far back as 500 BC.

Akhal-Teke Breed can live without water for a few Days! Myth or Truth?

Akhal-Teke are supremely resilient horses, conditioned by centuries of exposure to extremes of heat and cold in the deserts of central Asia. 

An Akhal-Teké is reported to have crossed 900 miles of desert without a drink of water, and a famous 1935 trek from Ashgabat to Moscow (2,672 miles) involving Akhal-Teké and Iomud horses included 225 miles of desert which were covered in a waterless three days.

Iomud Horse and their Physique
Iomud Horse and their Physique

As with all breeds of horses which are the prized possession of nomadic desert tribes, Akhal-Tekés have been subjected to some curious handling methods. 

Training of Akhal-Teké Horse Breed

They were often kept swathed in blankets throughout the year and were fed a concentrated diet, including such unlikely things as mutton fat. 

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These practices continue into the present day: the Akhal-Teké is valued as a racehorse and is kept in training wearing the traditional seven blankets (each of which has a separate mame) and eating a light, high-protein diet.

Clothing is worn at all times except during the brief intervals of racing, breeding, and for a few minutes at sundown to air the horse’s skin. 

Horses in training are fed eggs and butter mixed with barley; also bread dough fried in butter.

The Akhal-Teké is potentially the best of the many magnificent Russian saddle horses. It has speed, grace, and versatility and is marred only by its self-assertive temperament. 

It is a superb jumper on its day, though it will refuse when the mood takes it wrong, and it is little its rider can do to change its mind.

It has a natural bent for dressage – the gold medal for the Grand Prix de Dressage at the Rome Olympics (1960) was won by an Akhal-Teké stallion.

The Turkoman, particularly its offshoot, the Akhal-Teké, is possibly the ancestor of the Arab.

Physique of Akhal-Teké Horse

It has very pronounced withers. Tendency to narrow the chest. Body long, lean, narrow, and sinewy, with pronounced croup and sloping hindquarters. Tail low-set. Legs long and hard and sinewy. 

Akhal Teke Horse Physique
Akhal Teke Horse Physique

Mane and tail are short and sparse and very silky, and in some instances, there is virtually no mane or forelock.

The general effect is of the sinewy grace of a greyhound. Magnificent action, free and flowing: in all paces, a soft, gliding, elastic stride.

Characteristics and Origin of Akhal-Teke Warmblood Horses

  • Origin: Russia – Turkoman Steppes.
  • Height: 14.2-15.2hh.
  • Colour: The prevailing Colour is gold, either as golden dun, golden bay, or golden chestnut, and the coat often has a metallic bloom. Other Colours occur – grey and bay are pretty common. Sometimes it has white markings. 
  • Character: Bold, self-willed. Can be obstinate and bad-tempered.
  • Physique: Delicate head with a long, straight face, large, expressive eye, long ears. Long, thin neck, set high on an excellent, sloping shoulder. 

Don Warmblood Russian Horse Breed

This former Cossack horse was extensively used in the raids on Napoleon and defeated the army during its long retreat from Moscow throughout the bitter winter of 1812. 

Food was scarce, and what was there was of poor quality, but though most of the French horses died of weakness, the little Cossack horses galloped in again and again to the attack, and when the French were finally gone, were ridden the long way home to Moscow. 

Physique of Warmblood Don Horse Breed
Physique of Warmblood Don Horse Breed

It was an inelegant little animal, light-framed and tough and wiry, but for courage and endurance, it was equal to the Arab.

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The Don was the favorite horse of the Cossacks, and as such, was a critical cavalry mount. It was not a pampered animal.

It was (and still is) herded on the central Asian steppes, where it must forage for survival in the heavy winter snows. Today the Don is taller and of better conformation.

How was Don – the Russian Warmblood Horse Bred?

During the 19th century, Turkoman, Karabakh, Karabair, and other stallions of the Oriental type were loosed to run with it on the steppes, doing much to improve Don’s appearance. 

Subsequently, Thoroughbred and Orlov stallions were bred to it, which gave it height. The result is a quality saddle horse that has unusual stamina.

This breed has a straight Back and is rather broad, with well-sprung ribs; hindquarters strong. Legs long and hard, though tending to be straight behind, pasterns often upright. Astonishing stamina and endurance. Action inclined to be a little short and inelegant.

Characteristics and Origin of Don Warmblood Russian Horses

  • Origin: Russia – Central Asia.
  • Height: 15.1-15.3hh.
  • Colour: Any solid Colour-usually chestnut, bay, grey, or golden.
  • Character: Energetic, calm, consistent. 
  • Physique: Medium-sized head of the Thoroughbred type, wide-set. Intelligent eyes, straight face, smallish ears; neck somewhat long and straight, good withers and a rather upright shoulder, roomy chest. 

Budyonny Warmblood Horse Breed

The Budyonny is named for a famous Russian cavalry leader of the Revolution, Marshall Budyonny, who instigated this breed almost half a century ago at the Army stud at Rostov.

It’s a Superb Saddle Horse with Elegance.

The original cross, and the main bloodlines of today, was Thoroughbred-Don, which was at first known as Anglo-Don. 

For no known reason, Thoroughbred stallions on Don mares produce better offspring than Don stallions on Thoroughbred mares. Other blood such as Kazakh and Kirgiz was also used. 

Budyonny Warmblood Horse Physique
Budyonny Warmblood Horse Physique

The best of the progeny was very carefully reared and submitted to tests for speed and endurance, aptitude, comfort, fertility, and so on.

Thus the new breed got away to a highly selective start. By 1948 it was fixed and recognized.

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The Budyonny was originally planned as the perfect cavalry horse, though there is not much call for it in that field today. It is used for many purposes but excels at dressage, steeplechasing, and all equestrian sports.

Its Body is close-coupled, deep-girthed, with strong loins and quarters. Legs rather long and slender, hard and of excellent proportion and bone. Hooves round and hard. Moves well.

Characteristics and Origin of Budyonny Warmblood Horses

  • Origin: Russia.
  • Height: 15.2-16hh.
  • Colour: Chestnut and bay, usually with the golden sheen shown by so many Russian saddle horses. Brown and black also occur.
  • Character: Intelligent, calm, energetic.
  • Physique: Superb saddle horse, robust and elegant. Head neat and dry with large, expressive eyes and small ears, carried well on a long, often crested neck set high on a strong shoulder with prominent withers. 

Karabakh Warmblood Horse Breed

Energetic Russian Small Horse. This mountain breed is of great antiquity.

It was known and valued as long as 1,500 years ago and is believed to contain Turkoman, Arab and Persian blood. In its turn, it has had an influence on other Russian breeds, the Don especially. 

Karabakh Warmblood Horse Physique
Karabakh Warmblood Horse Physique

During the 18th century, it reached a peak of popularity and was widely exported. A few have been imported into England, notably by HM Queen Elizabeth II. Unfortunately, it is now becoming rare.

The slightly taller Karadagh of north-west Iran, bred just across the border from Azerbaidzhan, is thought to be the same horse. Not many of these remain, either.

The legs of this breed are fine for their bulk, hard and clean, and well made. Excellent feet. Action is easy and gentle, comfortable for the rider.

Characteristics and Origin of Karabakh Warmblood Horses

  • Origin: Russia – Karabakh Mountains, Azerbaidzhan.
  • Height: 14-14.3hh.
  • Colour: Dun, chestnut, bay, usually with a golden sheen. Also grey.
  • Character: Energetic, tough, active, calm.
  • Physique: Small, fine head with a broad forehead and large eyes, small muzzle, prick ears: strong, well-made neck, good shoulder, prominent withers; strong, compact body, well-ribbed-up, good quarters with tail fairly low-set.

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