Kabarda Horse: History and Characteristics

The Kabarda horse, also known as Kabardin or Circassian horses, hails from Eastern Circassia in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria region and is revered for their remarkable endurance and adaptability, having developed over time in challenging terrain such as Caucasus Mountains.

Acclaimed for thriving under harsh environments yet always maintaining elegance in their presence – becoming symbols of this rich region’s rich equine history.


The Kabarda horse boasts a distinguished past that can be traced to its roots deep within the history and culture of the Caucasus region, specifically within what is now known as Kabardino-Balkaria region of Russia. Over its centuries-long journey, this breed has undergone many transformations while facing challenges while striving to protect its legacy.

Origin and Early Breeding (16th Century Onwards):

Kabarda horses were initially developed during the 16th century by mountain tribesmen in the northern Caucasus region. Early breeders utilized selective breeding techniques in order to produce horses that could withstand harsh environmental conditions in this mountainous region.

Genetic Influences and Breed Formation:

The Kabarda can trace their lineage back to steppe horses, Karabakh horses, Arabian, and Turkoman breeds.

Genetic hybridization gave Kabardas greater resilience and adaptability – essential qualities in order to survive in the complex topography of Caucasus Mountains.

Traditional Herding Practices:

Kabarda horses have long been kept in herds, an arrangement which promotes their adaptability and resilience. Seasonal migration between mountain pastures in summer and foothill areas during the winter further tests their hardiness and agility.

Potential Historical Connections:

There is a speculative theory suggesting a shared ancestry between the Kabarda and the Cleveland Bay breeds, pointing to a potentially broader historical narrative of equine development.

Early 20th Century Developments:

Count Stroganov initiated a crossbreeding program with Arabians in the early 1900s in order to improve their qualities.

The outcomes of this program have been widely acknowledged as successful, marking an important step forward for breed development.

Impact of the Russian Revolution:

The 1917 Russian Revolution caused irreparable harm to Kabarda people, leading to their dramatic numbers dropping dramatically.

In the 1920s, efforts were undertaken to reestablish the breed, leading to a gradual rebound of purebred population.

Mid-20th Century and the Emergence of the Anglo-Kabarda:

Between 1935 and 1953, the purebred Kabarda population stabilized, consisting of 446 stallions and 3272 mares on average.

Early in the 20th century also witnessed the development of Anglo-Kabardas, a hybrid breed created through crossing Kabardas with Thoroughbreds that became officially recognized in 1966.

Late 20th Century Decline and Conservation Efforts:

By the late 1980s, however, Kabarda breeding mare numbers had dramatically declined to between 400-450.

Malokarachaevski and Malkinski studs, along with breeding farms located throughout Kabardino-Balkaria and Stavropol, constituted the major hubs for this breed.

This decline highlighted the urgency of conservation efforts to preserve and protect Kabarda horses as an integral component of Caucasus culture and heritage.

Breed characteristics:

The Kabarda horse, famed for its resilience and adaptability, typically stands between 14.1-15.1 hands (57 to 61 inches, 145-155 cm). Their distinguished coat comes predominantly in shades of bay, black or gray that make this breed stand out. Furthermore, this breed displays a distinct conformation characterized by both strength and agility that makes them a stand-out candidate in any situation.

Key Physical Characteristics:

Head and Neck: The Kabarda’s clean, proportionate head is balanced by its muscular yet gracefully arched neck.

Body and Back: Notorious for its medium-high withers, the breed boasts a deep chest with long and sloping shoulders that transition into short yet sturdy back.

Croup and Hindquarters: The Kabarda’s muscular, slightly sloping croup accentuates its powerful hindquarters – essential components to its agility and endurance.

Legs and Hooves: The legs of this breed are expertly set with clean joints that have developed fully. Their sturdy hooves make for excellent terrain traversal.

Unique Physiological Traits:

Kabarda blood has an increased capacity for oxygenation, an essential characteristic for maintaining effort at high altitudes and mountainous regions.

As an easy breed to care for, they tend to gain weight quickly – an advantageous trait in extreme circumstances but requiring careful attention in more stable environments.

Sub type:

The Kabarda horse breed is celebrated for its versatility and resilience, and can be divided into three distinct subtypes that demonstrate distinctive features to make them suitable for different equestrian purposes. While physical features differ between subtypes, all uphold its fundamental qualities of endurance, strength and adaptability – hallmarks that define every Kabarda.

Basic Type – Mountain Conqueror:

The Basic Type represents an archetypical mountain riding horse.

Mountain athletes typically possess lean, yet robust physiques, well-suited to navigate mountainous landscapes with ease and precision.

This subtype captures the essence of Kabarda breed’s unparalleled endurance and agility, making them a superb choice for riders traversing diverse terrain.

Oriental Type – Arabian Descendant:

The Oriental Type boasts an evident Arabian background, reflecting their diverse genetic background.

Hallmarks of this subtype include more refined heads, slim legs and thinner skin; coupled with an exuberant and confident temperament.

These characteristics exemplify both Arabian influence and add an air of elegance and spirit, making this subtype suitable for riders looking for both endurance and grace.

Massive Type – Your Reliable Companion:

Contrasting with other subtypes, Massive Type carriage horses feature more robust construction reminiscent of traditional carriage horses.

This subtype boasts significant bone structure and stature that make them suitable for heavier equestrian tasks, providing both strength and stability.

Robustness does not compromise agility, making this breed suitable for various equestrian disciplines.


The Kabarda horse, famed for its adaptability, endurance and agility is used across numerous equestrian activities. Here are some key uses of this magnificent breed:

Mountain Riding and Trekking: Originating in the rugged Caucasus mountains, this breed is perfectly suited to mountain riding. With their sure footedness, endurance, and ability to traverse uneven terrain they make an excellent companion on long treks and exploration trips in mountainous regions.

Endurance Riding: Kabarda horses excel at endurance riding, an athletic competition that challenges a horse’s endurance over long distances across varied terrain.

Stamina and resilience combined with efficient movement enable endurance horses to excel at endurance competitions. Dressage and Show

Jumping: Kabarda horses are adept at both dressage and show jumping due to their agility and responsiveness, which makes them suitable candidates. Trained to perform intricate movements and jumps, Kabarda horses demonstrate both grace and athletic ability in every move they perform.