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A Kustanai horse standing in the grass.

Also Known As: Kustanaiskaya (Russian)


The Kustanai was developed in the steppes of western Kazakhstan at the collective-farm and state-farm studs. The breeding nucleus is concentrated at Kustanai and Maikulski studs. Its development dates from 1887 to 1951. The first date is the year of establishment of the state-owned stud, the Turgai; it was followed by the Kustanai in 1888 and the Orenburg in 1890. The last is the date of official recognition of the Kustanai breed. The new breed was developed by crossing native Kazakh steppe horses with Don, Stralets, Astrakhan (improved Kalmyk) and halfbred Thoroughbred stallions. Nevertheless, at the onset the crossbreeding was unsuccessful. Only after the nucleus of local brood mares, improved by pure breeding and regular creep-feeding, was formed at Kustanai stud did crossbreeding with Thoroughbreds yield a positive result. In the 1920s they began to develop a new breed at Kustanai stud. The work was continued in the 1930 with two systems of management. The first involved keeping in stables and on pastures, winter grazing in good weather, abundant hay and concentrate feeding, hand mating and weaning of the foals at 6-8 months. The other involved improved taboon keeping, year-round grazing and keeping in sheds in bad weather, free mating, hay and concentrate creep-feeding. The first method was employed at Kustanai and Troitske studs and the second at the Maikulski and other studs.


The breeding work was directed at developing simultaneously two types - saddle and steppe. The saddle type included horses with a high proportion of Thoroughbred blood, while the steppe type consisted of Thoroughbred-Don-Kazakh and other crossbreds bred inter se. All saddlers were put to speed tests at the hippodrome. The Kustanai is found in Kustanai region, in the south of Chelyabinsk region and in southern Kazakhstan. The breeding nucleus varied little. In 1930 the breeding herd at the Kustanai stud numbered 1,000 mares. In 1981 the Kustanai and Krasnodon studs had 726 purebred mares. Seven-hundred and forty-six Kustanai pedigree stallions were used in pure breeding and general improvement. In 1980 the total Kustanai horse population numbered 40,200.


The modern Kustanai is a massive horse combining the best characters of a saddler and the pronounced basic steppe lineage. Its features include a straight medium-sized head, wide jaws, medium-long and occasionally short poll; medium-long straight and low-set neck; wide and well-muscled, medium-high withers; straight, wide and short back; flat, solid and well-muscled loin; medium-long, occasionally short, nicely-rounded croup; long and high-set shoulders; wide and deep chest; correctly-set legs, well-developed joints, hard hoofs; strong tendons and ligaments; clean and hardy build. The Kustanai shows remarkable fitness in a continental climate. The measurements (in cm) of stallions at stud in 1980 were: height at withers 163, oblique body length 161, chest girth 188, cannon bone girth 20.3; mares: 160, 159, 189 and 19.2. Color: bay, chestnut, reddish-gray, brown.


A Kustanai horse standing in a bridle.

The Kustanai shows remarkable speed. Its records are 1 min 40.7 sec for 1600 m, 2 min 34.7 sec for 2400 m. Horses of the basic type show good action in the Russian harness. The record of maximum draught power is 456 kg; the average time with a 22-kg load at the trot for 2000 m is 6 min. The Kustanai also has admirable endurance. For instance, the stallion Storm covered 178 km in 15 hours; Chervonets covered 100 km in 4 hours 1 min 5 sec. The best results of a 24-hour ride is 286.1 km. The record of a 6-day 420-km ride is 22 hours 32 min 31 sec. The fertility of Kustanai mares at some studs reaches 90%. Irrespective of the management system employed, the Kustanai longevity often exceeds 20 years.


The breed consists of 3 intra-breed types, 5 sire lines and 6 mare families.


Three volumes of the studbook have been published. The main breeding centres are the Kustanai regional experiment station (formerly a horse stud) and Krasnodon and Saryturgai studs. The breed has good prospects for pure breeding with limited corrective crossbreeding by the Thoroughbred.



Dmitriez, N.G. and Ernst, L.K. (1989) Animal Genetic Resources of the USSR. Animal Production and Health Paper Publ. by FAO, Rome, 517 pp.


Mason, I.L. 1996. A World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds, Types and Varieties. Fourth Edition. C.A.B International. 273 pp.

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