The Caspian horse is a breed of horse that was developed in Northern Iran. This breed is thought to be a descendant of high-quality horses that were used in the Persian Empire for running messages, driving purposes, and for hunting, among other purposes. Records about this horse were nonexistent after 700 AD, due to the destruction of libraries and monuments, so the breed was thought to be extinct until 1965, when it was rediscovered.
In 1965, specimens of this breed were discovered by breeder Louise Firouz, who first thought the horses to be ponies. The horses that were found were relatively unchanged from their ancient counterparts, despite their association with humans. Firouz was searching for ponies that could be ridden by children and she purchased one stallion, as well as six other stallions and seven mares, to begin a breeding farm. She sent one stallion to the United States in 1965 in hopes of creating a breeding program there, but complications hindered her ability to send more horses until 1975, when she sent another stallion to Venezuela. She created the Iranian studbook for the breed in 1966 and sold it to the Shah of Iran in 1973 who then created the Royal Horse Society at the Norouzabad Stud.
Firouz had established new breeding farms in Bermuda and on the Turkoman Steppes, but the Turkoman breed stock had suffered multiple wolf attacks, so Firouz was forced to evacuate one stallion and six mares to the Caspian Stud UK in 1976, while the remainder of the herd of twenty-three was sent to the Royal Horse Society of Iran. All of the Caspian horses in Iran were dispersed during the Iranian revolution, leaving only one traceable stallion. However, Firouz was able to purchase three mares and a stallion in 1986 and six more horses in 1989, which were used to create her Persicus stock. Other breeding programs were established in the United States, Australia, England, and the New Zealand, and although the breed is considered rare, many breed societies have been developed and can be found in the International Caspian Stud Book.
The Caspian horse reaches a height between 9.3 and 11.3 hands, although taller individuals can be found outside of Iran. Despite its size, it is classified as a horse due to its morphological similarities to horses. The head is short and elegant, with large eyes, a small muzzle, and small ears. Its body is slim and it has strong legs and hooves. The hooves are so strong that they only need to be shoed if the horse is being worked for long periods of time on hard or rocky ground. It can come in a variety of colors including bay, black, chestnut, dun, and grey.
Although some have postulated that the Caspian horse is an ancestor to all other Oriental breeds, studies conducted by Firouz and others showed that the breed has many unique characteristics. These include narrow hooves, a less pronounced frog in the hooves, and an extra tooth on each side of the mouth near the upper molars. This breed is known for its calm temperament and social mannerisms, even between stallions, so it is a good horse for children to ride. It is also skilled in jumping competitions and is strong enough to drive carts. It is popular to use in crossbreeding with larger breeds and other smaller horse and pony breeds, resulting in horses that excel in competitions and shows.