Marwari Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

Bay Marwari posing in hand.

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If you’re ever lucky enough to see a Marwari horse in person, the first thing that you’ll probably notice about this unique breed is its ears. With ears so curved that the tips touch, the Marwari has a distinctive appearance. This breed’s history spans multiple centuries and today, the Marwari remains a rare but prized horse.

Breed Overview

Weight: 750 to 1,000 pounds

Height: 14 to 16 hands

Body Type: Slim and sleek

Best For: Long-distance and endurance riding

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years

Marwari History and Origins

The history of the Marwari is largely grounded in folklore. The breed originated in the Marwar region of India, when horses native to that region were crossed with Arabians. According to legend, those Arabians may have arrived on Arabian ships that were shipwrecked off of the coast.

The resulting Marwari horses were bred by the Rathores in the 1100s. During the 12th century, the Rathores prized these horses, selectively breeding them to enhance the horses’ best qualities. In the 16th century, the Marwari served as cavalry horses. They had a strong natural sense of direction and were known for carrying their riders back home after getting lost in the desert. The breed’s excellent hearing also helped to alert both horse and rider to potential danger.

While the Marwari was essential to this battle lifestyle, the 20th century brought lifestyle changes and the horse fell out of demand. Breed numbers plummeted, and British occupiers of India preferred Thoroughbreds over the Marwari horse. Poor breeding practices eroded this breed until it was on the verge of extinction.

Luckily, some dedicated breed enthusiasts helped to preserve these horses. Maharaja Umaid Singhji was among the first to step in and advocate for these horses, and his grandson continued on his efforts. In 1995, Francesca Kelly founded a Marwari Bloodlines group to help preserve this breed worldwide. In 2000, she imported the first Marwari to the United States, and subsequently, 21 additional horses were exported from India. In 2006, India stopped granting exporting licenses. The Marwari Horse Society of India created a stud book and registration process for the breed in 2009, helping to evaluate individual horses according to breed standards and re-establishing the quality that had been emphasized by the Rathores so many centuries before.

Marwari Size

The Marwari stands between 14 and 16 hands high. These relatively light horses weigh between 750 and 1,000 pounds. They have slim bodies.

Two Marwari horses touching noses.
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Dark bay Marwari colt cantering in a paddock.
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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visits a pinto Marwari in India.
 Pool / Getty Images

Breeding and Uses

While the Marwari is present outside of India today, it’s still somewhat rare in the world. Breeding of the Marwari continues, but you’re much more likely to find these horses in India than in other locations.

The Marwari is used for many purposes. Its beautiful presence makes it ideal for parades and ceremonial purposes. When these horses are crossed with Thoroughbreds, the resulting horses are slightly larger and tend to be more versatile. The Marwari is also well-suited to dressage and polo, thanks to its agility and stamina.

Colors and Markings

These horses are bred in many different colors, including bay, grey, chestnut, palomino, skewbald, and piebald. Grey horses are prized the most, though piebald and skewbald horses are also heavily favored. Horses that have white blazes and four white socks are believed to be lucky, so they’re also very popular. Because black is associated with death and darkness, black horses are thought to be unlucky. 

Black Marwari horse wearing a bridle in a pasture.
 anakondan / Getty Images
A bay and a black Marwari wearing bridles and decorative breastplates.
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Grey Marwari horse wearing a bridle in a paddock.
 anakondan / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Marwari Horse

It’s easy to quickly recognize the Marwari horse because of the breed’s distinctive ears. Marwaris have ears that notably curve inward, and some horses’ ears are curved so much that the tips of them touch.

The Marwari was very much bred to be a desert horse, and those characteristics are still present in the modern breed. This breed’s shoulder bones have less of a slant than you’d find in other breeds. This physical trait allows the Marwari to easily pull its legs up and out of deep desert sand. Because of this bone angle, Marwaris can’t extend their stride as much as other breeds, so they’re naturally slower than other horses like the Arabian or the Thoroughbred. However, this bone angle creates a leg action that’s comfortable for the rider.

This breed is also gaited. This ambling gait is a fast, four-beat gait that makes for a smooth ride. Called a revaal or rehwal, this gait allows the horse to travel large distances easily and quickly.

Diet and Nutrition

The Marwari Horse is incredibly hardy, and it’s able to survive even on limited feed. Limited information is available on its specific nutritional needs because of the breed’s rarity. Plan to provide quality hay and to balance the horse’s nutrition with a ration balancer or other nutritional supplement.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Marwari horses are still somewhat rare, so it’s possible that health issues aren’t widely recognized yet. These horses are believed to be generally healthy, and they’re known for having tremendously strong and healthy hooves. Marwaris are said to be friendly and trainable.

Grooming

Because the Marwari has very thin skin, it will benefit from some additional care and grooming, especially in the springs and summers when bugs are prevalent. Providing fly protection and promptly treating fly bites can help to keep these horses more comfortable.

Most Marwari owners allow their horses’ manes to grow out naturally. Both manes and tails benefit from regular grooming and detangling. The Marwari’s short coat will naturally shine if the horse is supported with good nutrition and regular grooming.

Pros
  • Excellent stamina and endurance

  • Commanding presence

  • Friendly and trainable

  • Gaited for a comfortable ride

Cons
  • Very rare and difficult to find

  • Lacks extension in the gaits

  • Expensive to purchase

Champion and Celebrity Marwari Horses

Because the Marwari is so rare, there’s limited information on individual champion and celebrity horses. The entire breed is treasured in India.

Is the Marwari Right for You?

The Marwari’s comfortable gait makes it an ideal mount for anyone looking for a smoother ride. Riders with back pain or other physical discomfort who benefit from gaited breeds may find the Marwari ideal. This breed has excellent endurance and its desert heritage leaves it particularly well-suited for life in hot climates and competition in endurance riding and intense trail riding.

While the Marwari has plenty of great traits, keep in mind that it’s difficult to find these horses for sale in the United States. Unless you’re a breed enthusiast or are otherwise determined to find a Marwari of your own, looking into similar breeds that are more common, like the Arabian, may be a better option.

How to Adopt or Buy a Marwari

The Marwari is extremely rare in the United States. India continues to prohibit the exportation of these horses, so simply finding the breed for sale in the United States is a challenge. If you are determined to buy a Marwari, then plan to be patient and to pay significantly more than you would pay for another breed. Because of the breed’s scarcity, you will probably need to pay to have the horse shipped a great distance, too.

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