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"Blood-sweating" Horse Sparks Chinese Equestrian Interest
A fabulous horse famed for its peculiar blood-colored sweat has triggered a wave of enthusiasm among Chinese experts, media and the masses recently.

Specialists from across China gathered in Urumqi, capital city of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Friday for an intensive seminar on the mysterious "blood-sweating" purebred.

After discussing academic issues relating to the horse, some scholars concluded that the red sweat was a rare disease caused by parasites found only on individual horses and not common to any particular breed.

Others believe that over 3,000 "blood-sweating" horses still live in Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Called the Akhal-Teke horse, its breeding history in captivity can be traced some 3,000 years back, the study showed.

As the most purebred horse in the world, the Akhal-Teke is especially noted for its galloping speed and tough endurance.

China's earliest written record of the breed was left by the Western Han Dynasty (BC 206- AD 24), when Emperor Wudi composed a poem for his Akhal-Teke mount, describing it as a "heavenly horse".

In April, 2001, a Japanese expert announced he had discovered a "blood-sweating" horse close to Tianshan Mountain in Xinjiang, and had photographed the animal.

His finding sparked widespread interest among Chinese and international horse breeders alike.

But Chinese experts suspected that the Japanese find was a cross-breed. They heldthat China did not have any purebred "blood- sweating" horses, which had long been bred in strict captivity in their central Asia habitat.

Since the beginning of this year -- the year of the "horse" in the Chinese lunar calendar -- newspapers have launched another round of front-page reports about the "blood-sweating" horse.

In January, a Xinjiang-based firm launched a quest for the horse. Numerous phone calls, letters and photos were received from across the country -- with some eye-witness accounts of the animal being seen in Xinjiang.

In mid-June, China received a special gift from its central Asian neighbor Turkmenistan: an eight-year-old Akhal-Teke that has become the gem of local press.

A Chinese company that imports and exports breeding horses bought 10 purebred "blood-sweating" mares and one stallion in the same month.

China first introduced approximately 3,000 of the horses from central Asia over 2,100 years ago, aiming to improve national defense capabilities. And another 101 arrived from the former Soviet Union in 1952.

But these attempts have not helped the species survive in China, experts noted, thanks to unprofessional breeding methods, including the lack of pedigree registration, and a diet of grass instead of special mixed forage.

Legends about the beautiful and wise species have prevailed in ancient China for at least 10 centuries, when it was exalted as the image of national vitality and a symbol of power and success in warfare.

The "blood-sweating" horse was not only fanatically treasured by the military, but was also a highly praised and popular topic for ancient Chinese writers and poets.

However, it was less important to find whether or not such horses existed in the country, according to experts at the seminar, than to encourage China's equine culture.

The seminar was the first of its kind in the country.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2002)

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