Police horse

Marwari horse

The Marwari or Malani is an ancient breed of horse from the Marwar region in the state of Rajasthan, India. The Marwari was a warrior mount for the Rathore rulers of Marwar, including the war horse of Pratap Singh, Chetak. Selective breeding of these horses may have begun in the early 12th century. The animals were highly prized by the Rathore who esteemed them for their stamina, bravery and loyalty.


The origins of the Marwari horse are unknown, as the evidence from documents such as Shalihotra (or Salhoter) texts and miniature paintings does not differentiate the variety of breeds. By traditional accounts, the Marwari horse has been bred in Rajasthan since at least 1212 C.E. It was originally developed to be a war horse. The breed was developed by the Rathores, the traditional rulers of Marwar, who had developed a policy of strict selective breeding. In 1193, the Rathores lost their original Kingdom of Kanauj, and withdrew to the remote areas of western India -- the Great Indian and Thar deserts -- where their horses were vital.

From that time forward, they bred horses selectively to survive in the desert environment. Selective breeding produced a horse with speed and stamina. The Marwari was also bred and trained to behave courageously. It would not collapse, even when seriously injured, until it had carried its rider out of danger. It would stand near its wounded rider, biting and kicking at those who attempted to approach.

Because of the warrior tradition in Jodhpur, which forbade non-military people from riding Marwaris, these horses were neglected during the British Raj and after Independence as well. By the early 1990's a government survey estimated that only 500 to 600 Marwaris remained. Their exportation from India was briefly prohibited under a 1992 biological conservation pact, and restoration efforts began.


The head is refined, wide between the eyes and usually with a straight profile. The most distinguishing features of the Marwari horse are its lyre-shaped ears, which curve inward and often appear to meet at the tips. The neck is set on high, clean at the throatlatch, slightly arched and of medium length. They have well-pronounced withers and the back is short and strong (The back of a Marwari is of medium length not short giving the impression of good length to the Marwari horse)(Kathiawari horses have shorter backs ) . The croup is gently sloped and hindquarters are muscular and strong, the tail is set high, the shoulders are well sloped and muscular, the legs are long with smooth musculing, well-angled pasterns, and strong joints. The hooves are extremely hard.

The average height of Marwari horses is approximately 15 hands. They have a fine, silky coat with "clean" fetlocks. They have a reputation for excellent endurance.

The Marwari breed is similar to the Kathiawari horse of Gujurat, the bordering state, and the Akhal-Teké of Central Asia. The Malani variant has similar origins and some Arabian blood.

The Marwari is a gaited horse. Marwari horses are born with a "rehwal" or "revaal" gait, a quick, four-beat lateral gait, which is smoother and more comfortable than a trot, used in the desert to cover long distances with greater comfort.

In rural Rajasthan, the Marwari is commonly trained for "dancing" at the many festivals and marriages that occur throughout the year. This dancing is an Indian form of haute ecole and goes all the way back to the combat maneuvers of previous centuries, in a manner similar to the classical dressage performances of the Lipizzans at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Some of the best Marwari horses, used only for exhibitions such as these, are seen very rarely by the common people.

Whorls (cowlicks) play an important cultural role in the selection of Marwari horses. According to folk beliefs, if the horse has a whorl below the level of the eyes, it is known as an "Anusudhal" and few will buy such a horse. The long whorl down the neck is known as "Devman" and it is considered lucky.

The Marwari today

Marwari horses are used today for horse racing, polo, horseback riding, and by the police force and army. The late Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur, a renowned international polo player, kept Malani horses. Because of their intelligence and attractive appearance, the horses used in many Bollywood films are usually Marwaris.

The Marwari has become a status symbol, and an owner can make an occupation out of horse breeding. Today they are in particularly high demand at the famous Tilwara Malinath Animal Fair in Barmer district and the Pushkar Animal Fair in Ajmer district. At present, in order to fetch a higher price, these horses are often raised on the periphery of the cities and are sold after being well-trained for a particular discipline. Some of the better horses of this breed fetch a price up to 100,000 Indian rupees and above in the fairs of Tilwara and Pushkar.


In order to conserve the Marwari/Malani breed, the horse breeders of Rajasthan have established the Marwar Horse Breeding & Research Institute in Chopasni, Jodhpur. This institute works to save the breed from extinction and to build respect for the horse breeders of the area. It registers horses and conducts educational programs to maintain and improve the breed. Fairs held in Rajasthan, especially the Tilwara & Pushkar Animal Fair, encourage breeders with certificates, cash prizes and trophies awarded to the best-quality animals. The Institute receives financial support from the Animal Husbandary Department of the Government of India.



  • Francesca Kelly and Dale Durfee, Marwari: Legend of the Indian Horse, New Delhi, Prakash Book Depot (2000) ISBN 81-7234-032-X

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