Mohan Lal Verma
Shimla, Nov 12
The unique Himalayan breed of ‘Chamurthi’ Horses saw a rapid decline in demand and population during last two decades with expanding road network connectivity and growing revolution in the motorized vehicles.
In charge of the Lari farm in Spiti valley of Lahaul Spiti district Dr. Dakpa Tenzin said that most of these horses are being traded at the annual Lavi fair in Rampur (however due to Covid pandemic the fair was not organised formally this year).
” During last three-four years, the demand of Chamurthi horses decreased, probably because more and more people now prefer to use vehicles instead of horses,” he said.
He said that fair being organized in the first week of November every year draws number of buyers across North Himalayan States including Kinnaur and Uttarakhand. Most demands for this breed of Horses are from the hard hilly area as people use them like pack animals in remote areas and high altitudes.
There is a legend among the people of Spiti and Kinnaur, this breed of horse is a descendent of a wild horse which used to inhabit the alpine region of Spiti, Ladakh and Tibet. This breed once faced danger of extinction when the animal husbandry department set up a breeding and conservation farm at Lari in Spiti in 2002.
The breed population statistics were not known at that time, but the 2012 livestock census estimated a population of 1,500 Chamurthi horses in the country. Currently, the population has increased to around 4,000 in Himachal alone, according to official estimates.
Dr Tanzin claimed that conservation project of this breed helped to increase the number of
this indigenous breed in the state as 4000 horses are successfully breaded by the farms under supervision of animal husbandry department. The breeding farm at Lari currently has around 67 horses, where a majority of yearlings are sold through auction to local residents.
Dr. Tenzin states that one peculiar characteristic of Spiti horses is that their colour changes from dark to light as they grow old. Small in height, they are known for their endurance in the tough mountainous terrain, and are able to undertake long journeys at high altitudes. They are also able to walk on ice and survive in extreme cold temperatures, and are mainly used as pack animals.
Theses horses are also reared in Uttarakhand, Ladakh and Tibet, but their “true breeding tract” is confined to 15 villages in Pin valley of Spiti. The Chamurthi or Spiti horses are among six recognized indigenous breeds of horses or ponies in the country, he added.