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India’s ‘native steeds’ are staring at an uncertain, if not calamitous future, just two years ahead of a century since World War I that will commemorate the greatest contribution of horses towards a human enterprise
By Rajat Ghai
For millennia, they have shared the world with their human masters. They have carried their owners in the thick of battle, across grasslands, hills, plains and the highest mountains. But there has never been a more trying time for India’s six indigenous breeds of horses than now.
The Kathiawari horse, the Marwari horse, the Zanskari pony, the Spiti pony, the Bhotia pony and the Manipuri pony are threatened by the loss of genetic purity, say experts.
In January this year the media in Gujarat speculated that there were fewer than 50 purebred Kathiawari horses left.
Warns Satyajit Khachar, a Gujarat-based horse breeder: “If they are not saved now, a stage will come when because of declining numbers, the gene pool will get restricted. Then breeders will resort to inbreeding to preserve the breed’s purity.”
Raghuvendra Singh Dunlod, secretary general of the Indigenous Horse Society of India, a Jaipur-based NGO working towards conserving the six breeds, said: “A horse breed is declared threatened when fewer than 50 breeding mares are left, according to the Brussels-based OIE or World Organization for Animal Health.
“By that yardstick, I don’t think that these six breeds are on the verge of extinction. But some of them, if not all, will slide towards that end if something is not done soon..."
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