What to Know About the Marwari Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 19, 2023
5 min read

The Marwari is a horse native to the Marwar region of India. They’re known for their bravery and loyalty on the battlefields. The name of the Marwari is entwined with the Rathores, a warrior clan of the Rajputs around the 12th century. The native Marwari horse proved to be sturdy companions for the warriors and helped them resettle their land, a harsh place that only a rugged horse can handle. 

Read on to find out about Marwari horse characteristics, average lifespan, and general temperament.

The Marwari horse is an elegant, medium-height horse famous for being a great battlefield companion. The breed has strong feet and hooves to travel long distances and the stamina to withstand desolate and harsh desert-like terrains. The Marwari call the Malani area home. It is part of the Barmer district of Marwari that includes the villages of Bagar, Gudha, Jasol, Sindhari, Bakhasar, and some areas of Sanchor Tehsil.

Today, the Marwari horse is maintained for breeding, travel, marriage ceremonies, and personal interests. However, as the days of battle with horses came to an end, there was a significant drop in the number of Marwari horses around the world.

The modern Marwari horse has an average height of 14 to 15.2 hands (about 57 to 61 inches). A hand is a unit of length primarily used to measure the height of horses from the ground to the top of the shoulders. Traditionally, the Marwari horse size has been smaller, with males averaging 14.3 hands and females 13.3 hands. 

The average Marwari horse lifespan is 25 to 30 years. The coat of Marwari horses come in a range of colors, including dark brown, bay, chestnut, gray, blue roan (a mixture of black and white hairs), and piebald (a spotted look due to the pigmentation of the coat). 

The Marwari breed has long been thought to share genetics with Arabian and Mongolian horses. Native Marwari horses were likely bred with Arabian horses brought to the region. When the Marwari became the first horse of Asian ancestry to have its entire genome mapped in 2014, these suspicions were confirmed. 

The Marwari is a sturdy breed able to withstand the harsh desert climate. Their thin skin allows them to adapt well to thirst and heat. They’re also able to survive on very little food. The Marwari's strong hooves and legs make traveling long distances in the desert possible. The smaller slant in their shoulder bones allows them to walk in deep sand. This physiological structure also lends itself to a gait that makes this breed very comfortable to ride. Although the Marwari is not the fastest horse out there, their build allows them to travel extremely long distances at a medium pace.

Marwari horses have necks that are finer toward the head and more muscular near the base. Their shoulders are long and broad, leading to a medium-length back and muscular, rounded quarters. One of the breed’s most defining parts is the ears, which can rotate 180 degrees and even touch together at the tips. The Marwari’s eyes are round and far apart, and their nostrils look flared.

Marwari horses are intelligent and eager to learn, making them an ideal breed to train. They are generally friendly and enjoy interactions with humans and other horses. The Marwari horse temperament is naturally competitive, making them good horse companions on the battlefield and in competitions. Many of them enjoy performing in front of an audience.

The Marwari horse is known to have a homing instinct and exceptional hearing, which have saved many riders' lives. They’re credited for bringing back lost riders in the desert and for noticing sounds from further away than most other breeds. That ability to detect early warning signs of danger has helped both horses and riders to evade serious situations.

The origins of the Marwari horse were fairly obscure, with many stories connecting them to local folklore. Rathores, the rulers of the Marwar region in the 12th century, bred the Marwari horses as cavalry horses. They were trying to resettle what was known as Maru Pradesh, which translates to “The land of death.” It was a desolate land that the native Marwari proved to be well suited for. 

When the Mughals captured that part of northern India in the 16th century, they may have introduced Turkoman horse blood into the Marwari line. That may explain why the modern-day Marwari and Akhal-Teke horse have so many similarities.

Unfortunately, the political and economical shifts in India in the early 20th century caused a drop in the Marwari population. The warrior culture was quickly being replaced by the needs of modern society, and the hardy horses once valued for the battlefields were no longer needed. Close to extinction then, the breed has since seen support from the likes of Maharaja Umaid Singhji and his grandson Maharaja Gaj Singh II as well as Francesca Kelly, a British horsewoman who founded the Marwari Bloodlines group.

Habitat. The Marwari breed can be kept in desert climates with extreme temperatures due to their hardiness and thin skin. Although the Marwari’s thin skin is perfect for hot desert climates, it is also more sensitive to insect bites. Keep pests to a minimum around them. 

Grooming. The Marwari needs additional care and grooming because of their very thin skin, especially during the spring and summer times. Make sure to groom and detangle their manes and tails regularly. With good nutrition and regular grooming, you can help your Marwari's coat develop a beautiful metallic sheen.

Diet and nutrition. Marwari horses are known to keep moving even on little water and food. They usually don’t do well with diets high in carbohydrates or fat. Instead, the Marwari thrive when they’re allowed to forage for food. The breed also requires an adequate amount of exercise to stay healthy.

Common health and behavior problems. Common health issues aren’t widely known, as Marwari horses are pretty rare today. The Marwari is believed to be generally healthy, with notably strong hooves.