Legends of the Caucasus

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

The Caucasus is a region located at the border of Europe and Asia, between the Caspian and Black Seas. The Caucasus Mountains are situated here and Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus, is located here at 18,510 feet. (1)

The Caucasus Mountain Range is a natural barrier between West Asia and Eastern Europe.

The Lesser Caucasus in the south are shared by various, independent state governments, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range in the north is inside the borders of current Russia.

The Transcaucasus Range extends to Turkey and Iran.

The name Caucasus comes from the Scythian Language, or a group of East Iranian languages, originating from a large area of Eurasia, once known as Scythia.

Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher, author, and naturalist, (23-79AD) translated the Scythian to mean “White with snow, or ice-shining.” (2 )

In Greek myth, the “Kavkasos” were one of the support-pillars of the earth.

Prometheus, the Titan Greek deity who created mankind, supposedly stole fire from Mount Olympus and gifted it to his creation of humans.

Zeus became angry over this and as a punishment, chained Prometheus to the mountain range. (3)

Jason sailed to the west coast of the Caucasus while he was searching for his Golden Fleece.

There, he met Princess Medea, the niece of Circe and grand daughter of the sun god, Helios. (4)

The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in the Caucasus Mountains, in Sochi, Russia.

The Caucasus Mountains have a very high number of centenarians, or people who are 100 years old, or older.

The mountains are also famous for their beautiful women, and the Ottoman sultans went to there to obtain concubines for their harems.

Many ethnic groups inhabit the mountain ranges, and there are a wide variety of different languages, sprinkled in each of the valleys and peaks.

One legend says that after God had created mankind, he realized he hadn’t given them any way to communicate with each other.

So God decided to create languages and he piled them all into a sack and hurriedly climbed into a huge, heavenly chariot.

As his horses pulled the chariot through the heavens, God threw languages over the side, and they landed in various lands for all the peoples.

However, when the chariot came upon the Caucasus Mountains, the chariot wheels smashed into Mount Elbrus, and the jolt caused a bunch of languages to fly overboard.

The languages flew down to earth, settling into the mountain valleys and peaks.

God checked the sack to make sure He still had enough languages left for the rest of the planet, and having made sure He did, He never went back to the Caucasus to retrieve the others.

There are Ossetes, Cherkess, and Chechens, and none understands the other. (5)

Horses inhabit the Caucasus Mountains, too.

Another legend has it that at once time, the mountains could walk and move about.

One day as they went between the Black and Caspian Seas, they caught sight of the beautiful horses frolicking there, and decided to settle, for evermore. (6)

The good quality of grazing on the wide plains in the foothills of the Caucasus lends to an astounding variety of horses there.

The Russians had established some stud farms in the region, some of which are now internationally famous.

Circa 1889, Count Alek Stroganov and his brother-in-law, Prince Alek Shcherbatov, founded the Tersk Stud on the edge of a resort town called Pyatigorsk. (7)

Pyatigorsk translates to “five mountains.”

The high society of Moscow would frequent the water spas located there, and the nice area in the Caucasus was suitable for horses, also.

Count Alek Stroganov and Prince Alek Shcherbatov went to the Middle East in 1889 and purchased several Arabian Horses. (8)

Stroganov also purchased horses from the famous Crabbet Arabian Stud, in England.

The famous Arabian mares, “Sobha” and “Makbula” were bought from the Crabbet Stud.

The stallion, “Mesaoud” was also purchased at the Crabbet Stud, he having been purchased by the Crabbet Stud from the Kleniewski Stud, in Poland.

They began a breeding program, with high-quality stock.

Then the Russian Revolution broke out.

Sadly, none of the Arabians that Stroganov and Shcherbatov were keeping and breeding in their programs survived. There were no signs or references that any of their breeding stock endured to be incorporated into the Soviet-run Tersk Stud.

Shcherbatove died in 1915 and Stroganov died in Paris, in 1923.

In 1925, Arabians were re-introduced to the Tersk Stud, and today it is known as the Tersky Horse-Breeding Farm # 169. (9)

In 1936, some 25 Arabians were shipped from the Crabbet Stud Farm in England, having been purchased to improve the breeding stock at Tersk.

Some of these were descended from the very horses that had lived with Stroganov and Shcherbatov, at the incorporation of their program. (10)

One of the 6 stallions purchased was named “Naseem,” and he was the great-grandson of Mesaoud.

Notable mares purchased were “Star of the Hills,” “Rixalina,” and “Rissalma.” (11)

A sad and interesting story.

More next time, as I shall continue this fascinating, true story.

Leaving you with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1, 5, 6, : "Horses," by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Jean-Louis Gouraud

2-4, 8- 11, : Internet/Wikipedia