Himmlische Pferde von Fergana, Небесные кони Ферганы, Heavenly horses of Ferghana, Chevaux célestes de Ferghana, Cavalli celesti di Fergana

Heavenly horses of Ferghana

The Legend of the Argamaks: Heavenly Horses of Ferghana

In 104 BC, Emperor Wu-Di of China dispatched a powerful cavalry of 60,000 men to Dawan. The reason for the war was the Argamaks, known as the “heavenly horses of Ferghana,” as they are referred to in all historical sources.

These horses, renowned for their immense strength and endurance, were regarded by the Chinese as divine beings, as they were said to “sweat blood.” This trait was interpreted by the Chinese as a sign of their otherworldly origin, considering them as vehicles to “ride into the land of immortality.” Emperor Wu-Di coveted these heavenly horses, as he pursued immortality.

The heavenly horses gained reverence in China and were even immortalized by poets in poems. However, the mystery behind their unique trait of “sweating blood” lay in the fact that their skin was infested with parasites, causing this unusual effect.

In the twentieth century, many secrets of history were uncovered, yet in the second century BC, the Argamaks became the subject of a special cult. Following their defeat in 104 BC, the Chinese once again turned their attention to Dawan. This time, the inhabitants of Ferghana had to compromise: they agreed to supply the Chinese emperor with 300 horses annually for his army.

However, the question of the origin of these horses remains open to this day. The Chinese traveler and diplomat Zhang Jian mentioned, “In the realm of Dawan, there are high mountains where there are horses that are hard to obtain: therefore, colored mares are selected and brought to the foothills of the mountains to mate with the mountain stallions. From these mares, the blood-stained foals are born, which is why they are also called foals of the heavenly horse breed.”

The Argamaks, also known as the “Heavenly Horses,” undoubtedly carry deep historical significance. They were valued not only for their supposedly divine origin but primarily out of the necessity to confront the Huns, who were causing significant damage along the Chinese borders.

Like many nomadic tribes, the Huns boasted an intimidating cavalry, the so-called Cataphracts. This cavalry was superior to the Chinese riders, who rode on smaller and less robust horses. Hence, it was crucial for the Chinese to have access to the Argamaks from Central Asia, which were regarded as one of the best horse breeds at that time.

It is reported that the descendants of these “Heavenly Horses” exist today in the form of Turkmen Akhal-Teke horses, rightly considered one of the best horse breeds in the world. Their remarkable lineage and outstanding characteristics make them a fascinating legacy of history.

¹Argamak → Uzbek: Arg’umoq / Arghumoq

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