As anyone who’s ever watched Animal Planet (or gone outside) knows, the biodiversity found amongst Earth’s many creatures can be pretty stunning. For those paying close enough attention, there’s almost no end to all the little variations to be discovered. Take horses, for example. You’re probably picturing a tall, regal animal galloping in a field, maybe with a black or brown coat (or even a white coat, if you’re into Westerns).
But no matter how many horses you’ve seen, you’ve probably never seen them like this:
These incredible animals are called Akhal-Teke horses and are native to Turkmenistan. We know what you’re thinking: Akhal-Teke? That sounds like a mythical steed from the Lord of the Rings. Although the comparison holds, we can assure you these sleek, metallic-looking animals are entirely real.
While Akhal-Teke horses are something of a national treasure in Turkmenistan, they are revered throughout Asia as well. Nicknamed “golden horses” or “horses from heaven” in China, they were originally bred to survive in extreme weather conditions and are known for their intelligence, endurance, and speed. Still, the most striking thing about them is their lustrous coats which seem to reflect the light.
The reason for this is that the structure of their hair follicles differs somewhat from other horses. The core of each hair strand on these animals is not as opaque as that of other horse breeds. Instead, there’s a larger transparent portion which takes up more space and captures more light. All this explains that glorious sheen as pictured below:
While the Akhal-Teke are undoubtedly beautiful, they are also quite rare. By the last count in 2012, there are approximately 6,600 Akhal-Tekes on Earth, the majority of which are in Turkmenistan and Russia. Due to their prized status, the government of Turkmenistan sometimes gifts these animals to other countries as diplomatic gifts. After all, who wouldn’t want one to spend some time with one these big guys?
Pictures of animals like these can be a humbling reminder of how vast the world really is and how much we still have to learn about it. Fortunately for those who can’t afford a plane ticket to Asia, we can appreciate the beauty of these gorgeous horses through our computer screens. Thanks, Internet!