"My original fear that the race was indeed a rare one was in fact well-founded.
-- Louise Firouz
In 1965 Louise Firouz went on an expedition on horseback
and discovered small horses in the mountainous regions south of
the Caspian Sea.. At first glance they appeared somewhat rough
from lack of nourishment, and were covered with ticks and parasites.
However, upon close inspection, these horses showed distinctive
characteristics similar to the ancient artifacts she was familiar with.
They had the same large protruding eyes, a prominent jaw, large nostrils,
a dished head and a high tail set.
During this first trip Louise rescued 3 horses,
which were dubbed Caspians. The former owners of these misused,
over-worked horses had no idea of the ancient breeds' near extinction!
Between 1965 and 1968, Mrs. Firouz conducted
a careful survey to determine the approximate number and range
of the surviving Caspian horses. She estimated that there were
only 50 Caspians along the entire southern coast of the Caspian Sea.
Seven mares and six stallions were purchased
by Louise to form the foundation stock for a Caspian breeding
center in Iran. After Mrs. Firouz' breeding successes, the
Iran-Iraq War placed a heavy burden on her endeavors. The Royal
Horse Society (RHS) of Iran took over Louise's herd in 1974.
Louise started a second private herd in 1975,
consisting of 20 mares and 3 stallions. In 1977, this second Caspian
breeding center was forced to close its doors and the RHS declared a
ban on all Caspian exports. The RHS collected all remaining Caspians.
Sadly, due to the political climate, most of the RHS horses were lost.
Mrs. Firouz once again completely redeveloped a
breeding center to save the Caspian from extinction in Iran. This herd is
now owned by the Ministry of Jehad and Louise is called upon to assist in
management. She has also, in recent years, assisted John Schneider-Merck,
a German businessman, in establishing his small private herd of Caspians
With Iran's many political upheavals - the overthrow
of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution, bombing during the protracted
Iran-Iraq War, threats of famine, together with the Caspian's close
association with royalty, their survival has been precarious. The
Caspian's discovery was ever in the balance between political honoraria
as a national treasure and the threat of political seizure as wartime food.
Because of her efforts to save the Caspian horses
from starvation and slaughter by exportation during the early years of
the Islamic Revolution, in 1979 Mr. and Mrs. Firouz were repeatedly
arrested and detained. During one of these incarcerations, Mrs. Firouz
went on a hunger strike in protest. She was successful but left
prison weak and emaciated.
The number of Caspians in Iran is still
quite small. Additionally, there are only 900 Caspians world-wide.
Exportation out of Iran is still extremely difficult. The last
exports occurred in the early '90s, with a small shipment arriving
in Great Britain, after a tortuous journey through a war-zone where
bandits attacked and robbed the convoy.