Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Old Poland Horses

this time I am posting my own two, rather old, illustrations intending to continue my discussion about the so called Old Poland/Polish Horse:
one (color one) could be a 'bachmat' - from Tatar/Turkish language  (but the root of this word is old Iranian, another proof that Turkish people were taught all about horses by the Sarmatians and Saka - themselves Iranians) word for a smaller, but muscular yet fast and faithful warhorse; and the black and white drawing is an attempt to portray a rumak  with typical tack of mid XVII century that was a preferred mount  of our winged hussars and richer nobles - originally from old Persian 'argamak' which is a word for a splendid, noble warhorse. Both types were present in Old Poland, while the names are still in use in the modern Polish language.
There was one more 'horse word' used to describe war and parade horses: dzianet. This name was used for especially beautiful parade horses, and later on, during the XIX century came to denote  a noble and very beautiful horse, often used in poetry or novels, eg. Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz's "Trilogy." The word itself comes from Spanish - yennet or jennet or gennete, whether it meant a ridding horse or horse ridden in a special manner, with short stirrups (a la jineta) still remains an answered question. From Spanish this word passed into Polish language via Italian language with the arrival of our good queen Bona Sforza, wife to His Royal Majesty and Grand Prince Sigismund I (1467-1548). In 1518 Queen Bona brought to our lands many Italian horses, of Neapolitan extraction, trained in then fashionable Italian horsemanship and they were most likely ridden a la jineta, and thus we have dzianet name for this highly trained and beautiful parade horses. Dzianet is not used in everyday Polish language to describe horses  anymore.

to be continued

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Old Polish Horse

In my previous post I cited a statement made by a Frenchman Dupont about winged hussars and their beautiful horses. These horses were not for show or parade but for war, actually their stamina, strength, bravery and soundness essential to the winged hussar's battlefield performance.
During the existence of Old Poland (1569-1795) aka Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth there were plenty many horses in these lands that today constitute Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, some parts of western Russia, Latvia, and parts of Romania. Polish equine historians - especially Witold Pruski - talk about so called Polish Horse developed during the 16th century and extinguished during the Napoleonic Wars. Whether this particular horse was one breed or a type still remains an unanswered questions while other European equine historians talk about their own equine breeds and their development, eg. preeminent Spanish horse historian Juan P. Altamirano writes in his books, articles and on his website that the first modern breed of horses - la Pura Rasa Espanola - was begun in Spain, with a royal decree issued by his royal majesty king Felipe II, that led to development of this breed around late 1570s. http://www.jcaltamirano.com/artespanol.htm
There aren't that many images of the old Polish Horses that have survived wars and burnings of Old Poland lands. Usually 3 or four are listed - and they are from the 18th century, sadly past the heyday of winged hussaria.
I have done some drawings of the winged hussar horses - eg http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Panskie_oko_konia_tuczy1.jpg

I am working on some horse illustrations for my friend Radek Sikora - for his book - 'Na skrzydlach husarii'-
I started sketching this horse Sunday, and perhaps I will use this sketch :) although it will need saddle, shabraque, wings attached to the saddle etc. Soon I will post some more progress sketches.
to be continued

Friday, October 17, 2008


   the pride of Poland and Lithuania, Belarus, the Ukraine.. the Winged Hussars - lancers of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

As one good French gentleman and officer monsieur  Filippe Dupont  remarked in his memoirs, published in 1885 almost 150 years after his death,  - 'hussars ride the most beautiful horses you can ever see, well built men who wear very adorned cuirass and cover themselves with leopard skins, fine helmet, carry two swords (one underneath left thigh), and a very long lance that is painted and gilded with a pennon 9 feet long of dyed silk attached to it, with two pistols at the pommel - the most beautiful and fearsome sight indeed.'

My friend, young Polish historian Radek Sikora, just published his new research on the web - 'Na skrzydlach husarii' aka "On the Hussars Wings" - in short a fabulous work of prime rate scholarship. Available at his website http://www.husaria.info.tm/
and here one of the best pages on husaria - with many images of armour, battle fields, present Kresy - Polish-Lithuanian borderlands etc http://www.hussar.com.pl/

and here something of my own creation - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Husarz_lubiesz_2.1color.jpg


I am about to start my own little page(s) on history and use of horses in war augmented mostly with my own illustrations, hence the title Dario's Caballeros.

My subject will be Polish Winged Hussars (husaria), uhlans, and Polish horses, Ancient Iranians (Medes, Cimerians, Scythians, Saka, Indo-Saka, Sarmatians, Alans, Persians, Kushans) Eurasia steppe warriors, North American Indian horsemen, Islamic warriors, Colonial Latin America, Conquistadores then obviously some on horse tack and war horses.
Let us start with some little info on Nesean horse of ancient, pre-Islamic Iran, that stretched well beyond the borders of the present county of Iran
(I wrote that for a romanarmytalk.com discussion):

     Horses of Nisaya -  scholars and specialist on the ancient equids like Littauer and Crouwel in their digs found horses ranging from 100cm at withers to 150cm from the so called Median strata ...
Considering that the best of these horses ate the wonder herb known as alfaalfa/lucerne – this most important horse food that was domesticated by the Iranians during the II millenium BC,  and this alfalfa provided their animals with necessary protein to grow thus these horses could have attained some great muscular and skeletal size (150cm is a very good size for pre-19th century  horse) pastured on the great Median meadows. It appears that in developing a powerful yet nimble horse the Iranians could have solved the the proverbial problem for cavalry until its demise: relationship between size, strength and stamina of the war mounts versus their performance on the battle field and in transition to-from the battlefield.
We do have some clear information on the Achaemenid horses, mostly from sculptures and ancient writings - the most famous imagery comes from the Apadana Staircase at Persepolis Iran - chariot horse  while the Seleucid and the Parthian  horses must be mostly inferred from other sources, as there are hardly any sources left talking or showing them.
Firstly, one could look at the stone relieves from Firuzabad representing the battle of Hormozdagan between Ardashir, future Sassanian king of Persia, and Arabanus the last Parthian monarch – images from this very great site livius.org

    next the famous Dura Europos graffito - Parthian 'knight' - one day soon I should post my drawing of this knight.

        The closesst depiction of ancient Iran horses might be found in the Ms Louise Firouz' article, although it is mostly about the Caspian horse (she so wonderfully brought back from oblivion) in that horse's present condition (well, 1970s), but she provides in her article some data on the Nissean , eg that 'he' was about 65 inches at withers (comparisons done by reference of the Persepolis Apadana). Also she talks about discoveries (late 1960s and early 1970s) of skeletal remains of horses from the pre-Islamic strata in Iran, especially of interest shall be the site at Shahr-e-Kumis where some remains of Parthian horses (including large skull with that 'Nissean nose' aka swelling from occiput through nasal bones) have been found. She cited (1972) works of Anderson, Sandor Bokonyi, M.A. Littauer etc as the best to look up this matter.
Finally, she provided a citation by Timotheus of Ghaza (6century A.D.) who wrote on the Nissean horses (Kermanshah region of Iran)– that they were remarkable for their great size and feet that shook the earth.

    Definitely one should look at the Chinese sculptures and paintings, starting with some from the Han Dynasty (eg horses for emperor Wu-Ti) and Later Han. Wei, Sui to the T'ang dynasty, noting here that the best horses of the Chinese – Tien-Ma or 'heavely horses' – came from east Iranian lands.

Also many a good reader could compare and look at the so called Persepolis graffiti – a fine Callieri's article about these images etc - especially at figure 3, 4, 5 and 6
They do belong to the Sassanian period of the Iranian history but perhaps they can be taken as some indication of the size of the noble mounts.

Finally one needs to look at the Panjikent frescoes – they are mostly from the 7th -8th century but the horses there belong to the last phase of the east Iranian (Sogdian) pre-Islamic culture – and they do have the conformation of the war horses of the ancient Persians. (drawings to follow one day).
I am going to look up in my copy of Ann Hyland's 'Equus' and her "Horse in the Ancient World' to see if she has anything there etc.

Let's us turn to more ancient writers : Strabo wrote about Nissean horses and their breeding grounds having been in Armenia (he thought that the Nisean plain was in Armenia and not in Media) . He also says that Parthian horses were not like any horses of the Greek world but very similar to the Nisean horse bread by Achaemenid Persians (Strabo 524).

Oppian writes in his Cynegetica about the Nissean horses, extolling their easy strides, graceful movements, flowing manes (contrary to the ancient and then contemporary Iranian fashions of crenelated manes and tied tails). He also talks about golden manes - that might imply some influence of the glittering heavenly horses -Tien Ma - from Ferghana - today known as the Akhal-Teke or Turkoman golden horse(please note that obviously the Turkomans were not first to breed these horses that bear their name, these horses as a breed predate the Turks in that area of Eurasian steppe by at least 5-7 centuries and were first bread by the eastern Iranians or the inhabitants of the Ferghana Valley - divided between modern Uzbekistan, Kirghistan and Tajikistan ).

Azzaroli in his book states that in a private communication with Sandor Bokonyi he learned that Bokonyi had 'observed horses remains strong build, standing up to 16hands in the sites from north-western Iran belonging to the Achaemenid period'.

Also, the northern cousins of the Persians - the Scythians, Saka, and Sarmatians, Alans etc -  there are the Pazyryk horses and others of the South-Western Siberia Saka, these horse finds show consistent pattern of tall (15-16h) noble horses and smaller 'common' horses (12-13hands). Dahae or Parni aka Parthians came from the Central Asian steppes already equipped with very fine war horses of certain known qualities etc, suitable for mounted lancer warfare (Mielczarek).
Also might be worth pondering the issue of Parthian exchanges (both peaceful and bellicose) with their cousins from northern India, Pakistan and Bactria(Afghanistan) that might have added more horse breeds/strains to the actual development of the ' Parthian' strain of Nisean horse between 3nd and 1st centuries BC. Ceck the discussion about ancient Indian armies here


Bt the way, I am reading this very interesting book by one of the most prominent 'equine historians' from XIX century - writing about the horses in the pedigree o the English Thoroughbred -William Ridgeway ' The Origin and Influence of the Thoroughbred Horse (Cambridge University Press 1905)' (please note that some of the information written in this book is already outdated because of modern research and archaeological discoveries etc)
 On p. 194 he writes "... the Parthian horses, which were both grey and also commonly dun, were descended from the Nisean breed, and resembled it in appearance, we may conclude that the Persian horses of the fifth century B.C. were dun, white or grey. But we have just seen that dun and white especially characterized the horses of Upper Europe and Upper Asia in classical and Medieval times. From this it would appear that the Nisean horses bred in Armenia were of the Upper Asiatic, i.e. Turcoman stock"......

More to follow soon but you could see some of my artwork and 'fotos' at wikimedia
perhaps worth pondering is the Assyrian horse, especially VII century BC images, since the bulk of the Neo-Assyrian war horses seems to have come from the Iranian/Median tributaries/spoils and Urartu (Armenian) tributes/war spoils. And those pesky Assyrian sculptors and painters were very precise in their work.