About Kazakhstan | Culture

Horse Culture

Strong evidence suggests that the Botai civilization was the first to domesticate the horse. Research and analysis of escavated pottery and other artifacts has coalesced the opinion that the ancient inhabitants of what is modern-day Kazakhstan used horses to aid them with their day-to-day lives.

Significance of the Horse in Kazakh Culture

While the people of the Great Steppe had tamed horses thousands of years ago, the horse, its symbolism and history are woven into the fabric of Kazakh culture and modern-day Kazakhstan.

The world cultural community recognizes the unique and special role equines have in Kazakh culture. UNESCO has included the traditional Spring Festive Rites of Kazakh horse breeders on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity.

Preceded by year-long preparations, the the Spring Festive Rites of Kazakh Horse Breeders include:

  • Biye baylau (tethering mares), the ancient first milking rite encompassing the separation of mares and foals from the herds, milking the mares and celebrating with songs, dances and games.
  • Ayghyr kosu (the stallion’s marriage), a rite for adjoining stallions in herds to commence a new breeding season.
  • Kymyz muryndyk the opening of the Spring season’s Kymyz sharing rite and marks the season’s production and sharing among other families. Kymyz, pronounced “koumiss”, is a fermented mare’s milk beverage.

Sayis - National Horse Racing Games

  • Kokpar This game consists of two teams of horse riders. The objective is for the team to gather a goat carcass and bring it to their part of the playing field, past a designated line. Each time tries to do this as many times as possible to gain points.
  • Audaryspak The objective of this game is quite simple: two horsemen must wrestle and attempt to push each other off of his saddle.
  • Kyz kuu In this game, a horseman tries to catch a girl on a horse galloping at full speed. He has to do this before she reaches the finish line. If he catches her, he may kiss her. But, if he loses, the girl must catch him and whip him (playfully, of course).
  • Kumys-alu This game is quite easy to grasp, too. A horseman must gallop on his horse and attempt to pick up coins scattered on the ground. The rider gets to keep the coins he gathers as a prize.
  • Tenge alu
  • Zhaby atu
  • Zhorga zharys