Updated 2004-03-24

Fieldwork amongst Yakut horse breeders and the other inhabitants of the extreme east of Siberia, whose existence shows a link with horses, will facilitate an understanding of the unusual features of horse breeding in the Arctic regions. The comparison of the results with the existing sources will enable us to highlight the importance of the horse figure in the various cultural domains of the Sakha people and the similarities and differences that have developed since written records began, i.e. as of the mid 17th century.

Comments and additional information:

The 2004 programme will be conducted in a region of Yakutia, situated above the Arctic Circle, which has the unusual feature of being home to dual cultures: the Yakuts (70% of the population), a people traditionally considered as horse and cattle breeders, and the Evens (30% of the population), usually reindeer breeders, both live here. It is the people who live here and the river that runs through it that have given their name to the Eveno-Bytantai region. The most striking feature of the region can be found in the fact that, during the summer, reindeer are herded on horseback, whilst in winter, the rounds of the herds of horses are done from the back of a reindeer. The population of this region is employed in reindeer, horse and cattle farming. Specialists consider the horses that live here as Iana horses, even though the local herders will tell you that their horses are different from Iana horses because they are able to walk over stones (taas sylgy: stone horse), just like the mouflon, which is hunted by the local population. The objectives of this programme are to make a detailed study of farming methods and the use of these three species of animal, as well as the beliefs linked to them. Thus, we will first of all analyse the domestic composition of the region, particularly families of horse, reindeer and cattle herders, in order to ascertain whether or there is a genuine domestic partition of the various types of farming. We will also draw up an overview of the number of herders and their livestock by investigating their farming methods. We shall draw up a map of the nomadisation of reindeer and the changes of pasture practised by horses. We will conduct our investigations with herders to determine, on the one hand, the techniques and knowledge linked to the slaughter of animals raised for meat and, on the other hand, the use of their mounts. We will not forget to mention the treatment reserved for orphan animals or those abandoned by their mother. Throughout the project, we will attempt to finalise a glossary, particularly in respect of the animals’ coats and the names given to remarkable individuals (reindeer, horses and cattle). Investigations into both horse races and the use of the psychopomp animal, which accompanies the deceased on his journey to the next world, will enlighten us as to the importance given to each of these three species in the Yakut and Even cultures in this little known, isolated region of Yakutia. We will adopt the method of participant ethnology, essential in conditions of working with the population and the only way not to find ourselves disregarded by the population, which would immediately classify us as foreigners lacking in interest. When we pass through Yakutsk, we will add to our sources by consulting with researchers at the Academy of Agriculture and the Institute of Human Sciences, as well as by delving into the archives in the National Library. The materials and photographs taken during fieldwork will be used both to illustrate the scientific report that will be made to the IPEV [French Polar Institute] and to enrich our thesis, the objective of which is to compare the horse figure in two regions in the north of Yakutia (the Yakut region of Verkhoyansk and the Yakuto-Even region of Sakkyryr) and two regions in central Yakutia (the Russo-Yakut region of Nam and the Yakut region of Taatta). These photographs will also be used to illustrate scientific articles and articles for a broader public.

Time frame

Project time span
2003 - 2006
Data collection
2003 -
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
Hamayon Roberte
Centre d'Etudes Mongoles et Sibériennes 29 rue Daviel 75013 PARIS
+33 1 45 88 21 78
Other project contacts
Institut Paul Emile Victor

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

in 2003 : We will try to collect information related to what remains from culture and horse folklore in contemporary Iakoutia, especially in two traditional regions. The first is considered as the guardian of traditional horsebreeding – this is the region of Verkhoïansk. The second – the Taata region – has kept a rich heritage. Many Iakouts are coming from this region. Some are searchers or storytellers who have made these traditions popular in the scientific field. At last, the information collected will allow us to evaluate the adaptation and the adequation of horsebreeding in arctic conditions and to compare it to reindeer breeding. In order to answer to the question of the Iakout horse‘s origin and to the theory defended by some searchers arguing that Kolyma’s wild horses would have been domesticated by Iakouts, our work and further conclusions will constitute complementary clues to those scientists. In the first time, the information collected will be used for a PhD in religion sciences prepared at the EPHE whose subject will be the horse in Iakout culture. Some cultural objects could be brought to some French institutions if there is any interest from museums. We hope there will be a useful partnership on Iakout epics’ translations with the Olonkho’s conservation and propagation fund. All this information will constitute a corpus which will be used for comparisons in future studies conducted by students interested either in Siberian anthropology or in care and management of horses. in 2004 : The goal of the pluriannual programme is to study the herding of horses in northern conditions in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the beliefs and systems of thought that are linked to them. Subsequent to investigations conducted between May and October 2003 amongst Yakut horse herders in the north (Verkhoyansk) and the central regions of Yakutia (Nam and Taatta), the 2004 IPEV campaign will concentrate on the detailed study of types of herding in the Eveno-Bytantai region. This region, the centre of which is the village of Sakkyryr, once belonged to that of Verkhoyansk, the former home of the northern Yakuts. It was created fifteen years ago to the north of the Arctic Circle and named after the River Bytantai, which flows through it, and the Evens, the reindeer herders who live there. The most obvious unusual feature of the region lies in the fact that the reindeer, reared in herds of more than a thousand individuals, are watched over by herders on horseback during the summer and that the herds of horses, on the other hand, are watched over from the back of a reindeer during the winter. The population of the region breaks down roughly into 30% Evens, whose traditional activity is reindeer herding, and 70% Yakuts, horse and cattle herders. The Evens in this region are greatly influenced by Yakut culture and cannot speak their own language. It was doubtless on the arrival of the Yakuts a few centuries ago that they started to breed horses. This year’s research will consist in analysing this wholly original type of herding, putting the accent on breeding the horse that the inhabitants call the mountain horse to differentiate it from the Verkhoyansk horse, more used to marshy, stoneless ground. We will study the method of horse breeding in order to determine to what extent it is influenced by reindeer breeding. In addition, we will conduct an investigation into the systems of belief linked to the horse, on the one hand, and the reindeer, on the other, with both the Yakuts and the Evens of the region. To do this, it will be necessary to sort out who in the population is Even and who Yakut, as the question of national identity is complicated by the choice offered to children from the two nationalities when they have parents of different origin. In order to complete the overview of the types of herding in this region, we will also turn our attention to the native Yakut cow, the only one reared here, which appears marginal in comparison with the reindeer and the horse. This research is being carried out within the framework of our doctorate, which concerns the comparison of the horse figure in the Yakut culture in northern and central Yakutia.


Regions studied
Russia, Far East
Russia, Far East
Stations or areas where observations are made

verkhojansk region

Data availability

Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Observation ant participation Inverstigation to the peaople in the village

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Other institutes involved in the project

1/ GSRL 59-61 rue Pouchet 75017 PARIS 2/ Institut Gumanitarnykh Issledovanij Jak. Filial Akademii Nauk Rossijskoj Federacji Jakuck Russia

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