The Argamak - USSR Stamp 1968
The horse has played an integral role in the lives of the population of Central Asia for millennia. It is generally believed by most experts that the ‘Agramak’ known as the first saddle horse where bred for the first time on what is now the territory of modern Uzbekistan and that the majority of existing breeds of pure blood horses we have today inherited the best qualities of the Argamak. With the famous Uzbek horse breed the Ahaltekin its closest modern relative.
It is known from historical Chinese literature from the Tang Dynasty that in the year 138BC the Emperor Wu Ti sent an expedition over the "Heavenly Mountains" as the Tien Shan range was then known led by the diplomat and General Chang Jiang which took back the valuable Agaramak from an important horse breeding area, Davan in the 'Farg’ona Valley'. Before this time in China there were only the much smaller breeds as the Mongolian mountain horse.
Records of the period show that Agaramak horses were the most expensive merchandise that travelled along the great silk road from Khorazm and Samakand. In China the Argamak horse was venerated, and heards were carefully guarded as they were considered of great value. The Turkic people have always esteemed thier horses and called them “murod” broadly meaning satisfying, purposeful and desirable.
Today one of the main breeds are the “Karabair” who are characterized by their broad chests, small ears and amazing strength and endurance. Other local breeds are the Kurama as well as half breeds of Karabair and Ahaltekin.
Competitions featuring the “Karabair” are held throughout Uzbekistan. One of the most ancient national equestrian games is the “Uloq” in which large opposing sides of horsemen tussle with great ferocity and skill to hold onto a ram or goat carcass.
Uzbeks also call it as “kupkari”, which literally means 'business of many people'. The aim of Kupkari is to grabbing the carcass from rivals and be the first who brings it into the winning post. Only the most quick witted, deft and saddlefast horsememen usually win. The riders has a tunic and trousers made from thick cotton cloth. They put on a papakha 'astrakhan' hat, though leather helmets are now also gaining preference. The riders wrap their legs in thick cloth to avoid an injury, and wear broad-top boots with a thick sole for secure hold in the stirrup. The horses are fitted with smooth bridles, stirups and horsehoes to avoid injury.
According to the rules of the game, two winning posts – marra – are located one and a half kilometers away from each other. The marra is a circle on the ground some 20 meters in diameter. It is marked with scattered straw or laid with stones. The horseman needs to throw the carcass into the circle to score. Winners are awarded a valuable prize such as a carpet or money.It is played usually to in conjunction with Navruz and other national holidays or on special occasions; such as weddings or the the birth of a male heir.
Source: Uzbekistan Today