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6 May 2011
Oldest remains of Caspian Horse discovered in Iran

In Gohar Tappeh, in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran, archaeologists have discovered the remains of the oldest breed of horse in the world still in existence - the Caspian, also known as the Māzandarān Horse.
     The 50 hectare Gohar Tappeh site is located in the eastern part of Mazandaran province, between the cities of Neka and Behshahr, and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran located near the Caspian Sea. It is also believed that Gohar Tappeh once enjoyed a complicated urbanisation some 6,500 to 7,000 years ago. The remains were discovered in a cemetery dating back to the late Bronze and early Iron age, around 3400 BCE.
     The Caspian, or 'Kings' Horse', was celebrated in ancient Iran as a chariot horse for racing and in battle, and presented to kings and queens as a valuable gift and is known to be favoured by Darius the Great. The breed was thought to have disappeared until 1965, when Louise Firouz - the American wife of an Iranian aristocrat - discovered small horses in the mountainous regions south of the Caspian Sea.
     Smaller than modern horses - around 11.3 hands (115 cm) high at the shoulder, compared with a modern racehorse at 16 hands (163 cm) - Caspians have light frames, thin bones, a 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 - described by Louise Firouz as "kind, intelligent and willing."

Edited from CAIS (29 April 2011)

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