Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tropical adaptation in Southeast Asian horses

I have discussed in this blog the ancient existence and development of the horse in tropical Asia.

To expand on the unique adaptation to the tropical environment, something likely developed while the species was still wild over tens of thousands of years, I will list some old references to the horse in the Philippines.

The Philippine Horse is primarily a development of the Sulu Horse. In central and northern Philippines, the horse has some admixture with Spanish mustangs and the Chinese horse, but still its characteristics mostly resemble the Sulu Horse of the southern Philippines. The idea that the horse in the result of the deterioration of Spanish breeds like the Barb has been dealt with in various works.

However, unlike in the South where indigenous names like kuda still survive for the horse, the indigenous names have been replaced in the North. This is not a phenomenon limited to the horse though. The bolo, for example, is a Philippine blade with a name derived from Spanish. Philippine stick-fighting also in many areas goes under names "arnis" and "escrima" both derived from Spanishi words although in the South the indigenous or regional name "kali" is still used. Terminology related to horse-riding and horse care does survive however, and it is possible that an indigenous horse name has survived.

The words tigbalang, tikbalan and similar cognates have as their primary meaning through much of the northern and central Philippines, the name of a mythical creature that is usually described as either part-horse, part-human or as a supernatural horse. Possibly this previously was also a word for "horse" before displacement with the Spanish word.

Here is a list of notices that highlight the high adaptation of the Philippine horse to the tropical environment:

The horse of the Philippines is a descendant of the Sulu horse and the horses brought by the Spaniards from Mexico and China. Although it is a small animal, probably no other breed of horses in the world has the combined qualities of style, action, vigor, and endurance to the same degree that the Philippine breed has. This has doubtless come about from the little attention given to these animals ; and thus, by a process of natural selection, those have survived which are best fitted to endure the conditions of Philippine life. The Philippine horse is used for riding and light hauling. No heavy wosk in the field or on the road is performed by it ; cattle and carabaos are used instead. In mountainous regions horses are often utilized as pack animals.

-- Hugo Herman Miller, Economic Conditions in the Philippines, 1913.

The Philippine horse is small and under-sized but it is well-developed, and not only is it physically well- proportioned, but its great ability to withstand heat as well as its enormous endurance are widely known. Only recently, a gift of the six best available specimens of the Philippine Horse was graciously accepted by the Imperial Household.

-- Manila Sinbun-sya, The Official Journal of the Japanese Military Administration, 1942.

The Philippine pony is used for all light draught for which the caribou or the mule would be inappropriate. These little animals are not much larger than the famous Shetland ponies, but they seem to be more like the mustang or Indian pony in their habits and general make-up. Tough as leather, wiry, and sure-footed, they have wonderful endurance, and they thrive in this climate where the larger horses of Europe and America can be kept alive only with great difficulty.

-- Frank Wiborg, The Travels of an Unofficial Attaché: Descsribed in Simmple Narrative, 1904.

We have a wonderful horse in the Philippines, of almost unequaled courage and spirit and good confirmation, but he is too small for general use.

--- Philippines Governor, United States War Dept, Report of the Governor General of the Philippines, 1924.

It is said that no other horse in the world has combined the quality of style, action, vigor and endurance in one "wonderful piece of horse flesh."

-- Pacific Science Association, Proceedings - Pacific Science Congress, 1967.

It is often said, and by people who know, that the Philippine horse or pony is the best piece of horse-flesh in the world for his inches.

-- David C. Kretzer, How to Build Up and Improve a Herd Or Flock, 1930.

In many respects, these ponies are the best specimens of horse flesh in the world, being possessed of wonderful endurance and a remarkable combination of quality, action and vigor.

-- Philippine Islands Bureau of Agriculture, The Philippine Agricultural Review, 1915.

The horses of Insular Southeast Asia are often found in the wild as feral horses where they endure conditions of weather and exposure to disease and parasites that appear surely the result of long periods of tropical adaptation.


Arvind Vyas said...


The local name of horse - as you mentioned - kuda seems to have derived from Indic ghodam / ghoda . Or am I just assuming the similarity?

Best regards,

Paul Kekai Manansala said...

Hi Arvind,

They could be related, although some have reconstructed the word locally as *kud(j)a.

The Proto-Austric word for horse is reconstructed as *seh. I guess sata "horse" and its cognates in the Munda languages might be a reflex of *seh.

Mog said...


As usual am humbled by your research and content of your blog. Though my own research has been quite chaotic, shallow and often unscientific purely spontaneous association, my intuition tells me the Java/Sulu horse info has to be thoroughly vetted.

My intuition has proved correct before, especially supporting the anti-AIT, and likely OIT argument, and of course Oppenheimer highlights the out-of-Sundaland evidence.

Having actual relatives who shoed ponies at the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria (which I suspect is FAR older than the 1600's, dating back to Roman times), I've always been curious how a 17 ribbed pony, the Shetland pony, ended up in that area. Of course Eurocentric historians would believe it's a kind of indiginous adaptation, but since it is dated to around 0 B.C. or time of Romans, it is possibly brought there by some Indic influence (considering phenomenon of Gypsies is likely far older), or maybe a Thracian unit which was certainly part of the Roman auxiliaries of the time.

Of course it is very thin evidence of this East to West movement of Indic or Sulu Ponies, but we have to consider that the Gundestrup Cauldron (dated B.C. found in Denmark) was forged in Thrace and has obvious Lakshmi deity on it. In Scientific American magazine some time ago the imagery on Cauldron was linked with Hindu style craftsmen, who may have been in Thrace.

It is purely incidental, and a "mad" association, but in the gypsy - pony trader language they have a word for "foreigner" and that is "gadjo".

As far as Seh and Sata for a much wider net than just Proto-Austric, or East to West Proto-Austric influence, we have the Nubian "Seti" or "Ta-Seti" which means tribe of Seth, or tribe of "bowmen", as well as Egyptian Set/Seth which is an ancient deity for more warlike aspect/also uncontrolled greed in esoteric view.

And the East to West (OIT) via the Scythian R1a Haplogroup spread of the Chariot can be seen with the Sanskrit word "Ratha" for chariot, which spread to Germany "Rad" for wheel, "Rhod" (wheel)in Welsh, and the earliest kings of Ireland known for bringing chariot was "Ruadri".

Of course it is purely incidental, that the most famous Druid of Ireland was known as Lord of the Wheel (Mug Ruith). And of course in your history of Dogs of Yore, you certainly know of the berserker Irish hero, Cuchulainn (Hound of Cullen). Do you know what the name of Cuchulainn was in his youth?


Just working the puzzle Westwards bro.

Tau Sug, Sulu, Shu, people of the current...

- Mog Rhod

Mog said...

Wow, possibly should have added this to the Equus Sivalensis post and not here, but anyway.

Further to the Ratha, Rad, Ruadri, association of "chariot" and "wheel" with expansion of well as warrior association with Seh, Sata, Setanta etc, we must not forget a possible correlation with the Chinese representation of the "Dog" star "Sirius" which is into a BOW (ancient Archer Guardian, in Europe as well?)

Of course in Hinduism Rudra is known to "make people fall ill" with his bow and arrow, which could be a kind of indication of warrior/berserker state, or illness which brings enlightenment as still happens in some shamanistic/faith healer cultures today.


Chinese it is celestial Jackal, Tien-Lang, and in Mesopotamian constellation it is GAG-SI-SA, or KAK-SI-DI...(Arrow Star). Sisa, Sidi is star?

Sidi, or Sisa cognate with Sata, or Seh?

And from an artistic point of view the DOG star Sirius, also looks like arching wings of bird.

Very similar to a common Filipino Tattoo...

Of course this is an "artistic" association.


Paul Kekai Manansala said...

Hi Bill,

The archaeological evidence of early horses in SEAsia is still rather slim, but generally that is the case with all domestic animal remains in the region.

This is largely due to the very moist climate that destroys remains not protected in some way.

One of the most interesting finds is a Sulu type horse in a Neolithic layer from Batangas, Luzon dating back 4000 to 8000 BCE and generally considered an anomaly.

Abundant evidence of domestic horses in Yunnan starts about 6th century BCE, but I think this will eventually go back much earlier.

The Chinese called the horses of Yunnan shenma "god-like horses."

The old Equus Yunnanensis remains have some similarities to E. sivalensis of the Siwaliks.

On Cuchulainn, was the original name Setanta? Do you know the (Celtic?) meaning?

Paul Kekai Manansala said...

Bill, also I should say that the oldest undisputed horse remains together with horse equipment is not from North India, but from the megalithic cultures of South India.

Horse bones in Hallur, Karnataka date to about 1500 BCE.

Many of the early South Indian megalithic sites have horse bits of different types and also some stirrups. So, these horses were mounted.

Vedic literature regards the horse as coming from the sea, which has been interpreted in a number of ways. In the latter literature, the divine horse along with the cow (Bos indicus), the elephant, Parijata (Coral) Tree, Conch Horn, etc. all arise from the churning of the Milky Ocean.

Mog said...

Ruminations on Cuchulainn/Setanta


It could be that there is “no meaning” to Setanta. In fact yesterday I was clueless. And I’m catching myself being Eurocentric when in fact, should be spending more time getting facts straight on Tropical Ponies. But considering how the gaelic mind saw the world, and how everything was wrapped in symbolism (i.e. Ogham, Tree Alphabet), it would be uncharacteristic that there is no meaning to Setanta. And this is with ALL indigenous societies, so there is in fact common ground amidst the centricities. I’m only an Amateur, but maybe Zen like “beginner’s mind” is somewhat useful and allows for freedom. All of this would need to be checked with a Gaelic scholar (the only one I know is Gaeroid O’hAllmhurain) (

Warning, this is very much a TO BE, or NOT TO BE discussion.

Setanta is pronounced SHAY-DANDA, and I’ve seen spelling of Setanta as originally Sétanta.

So we have



First of all let’s take Ta possibly cognate with Tá, I’m not sure of the “grammar” terms, but Ta appears to be a personalization which changes with the verb. Can mean, I, you, he, it, we, they. This must also be related to Tuatha which means tribe, or group of people, very similar to Nubian/Egyptian Ta Seti (or Tribe of Bowmen). OK, now let’s go onto Sé.

OK, now let’s go onto Sé. This is always pronounced SHAY. Si is always pronounced SHEE, as in SIDHE, or Ban-sidhe (BANSHEE).

Sé is masculine TO BE
Sí is feminine TO BE

In esoteric terms, to be, IS’ness, SUCH’ness.

I am… Tá mé (tah may)
you are… Tá tú (tah too)
He is… Tá sé (tah shay)
It is... Tá sé (tah shay)
She is... Tá sí (tah shee)
We are... Táimid (tah mwidj)
You all are… Tá sibh (tah shiv)
They are... Tá siad (tah shee-id)

Now, back to Tanta

"TANTA STULTITIA MORTALIUM EST" ("what fools these mortals be" ~Midsummer Night's Dream)

Tantalus' punishment, now proverbial for temptation without satisfaction ("tantalising"), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. Over his head towers a threatening stone, like that of Sisyphus.

In a different story, Tantalus was blamed for indirectly having stolen the dog made of gold created by Hephaestus (god of metals and smithing) for Rhea to watch over infant Zeus. Tantalus' friend Pandareus stole the dog and gave it to Tantalus for safekeeping. When asked later by Pandareus to return the dog, Tantalus denied that he had the dog, saying he "had neither seen nor heard of a golden dog." According to Robert Graves, this incident is why an enormous stone hangs over Tantalus' head. Others state that it was Tantalus who stole the dog, and gave it to Pandareus for safekeeping.

All one needs to do is investigate the Hermeneutics of this (hope am using the word correctly), and compare it to Cuchulainn and his obtaining his name by slaying a DOG

The son of the god Lugh and Deichtine, sister of the king of Ulster, he was originally named Sétanta, but gained his better-known name as a child after he killed Culann's fierce guard-dog in self-defence, and offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared.

Now Lugh, or Lugus is a whole other topic, linking with the horned deities extant amongst the ancients (the Horns merely meaning royalty or “Crown”, Corona). There is a whole mystery tradition surrounding Cernunnos, Belatocadros, Cronus (Phoenician), Hercules, El (Northwest Semitic) and the horned Pashupati (Shiva) seal of Indus-Sarasvati. In fact the Celtiberian link of the town Brigantia, A Coruna, has a certain Phoenician link as they have a Tower of Hercules as symbol for city.

Now this enormous stone which hangs over Tantalus head is nothing other than a black lingam (my opinion) and is mirrored in the Warp Spasm of Cuchulainn (Berserker state, battle ecstacy, possibly shaman-mania state). It is a stretch, but…

Then, tall and thick,
steady and strong,
high as the mast of a noble ship,
rose up from the dead center of his skull
a straight spout of black blood,
darkly and magically smoking.
– Warp Spasm of Cuchulainn

The only other cognate with Tanta is the obvious Tantra, the core meaning of Tantra being everlasting continuity which in and of itself is a kind of “extension” similar to Tantalus reaching for the fruit (story above). The key is, not to be attached to the fruits of your actions.

Tantalizing, huh?

Mog Rhod

Mog said...

Only other comment have to make about Euro ponies, is the extant of ponies in North Britain and Scotland, certainly through the 700's. Most of the Pictish stones show riders with their shins hanging somewhat below the bellies.

And the North British tribe, Brigantes (named after Brigid, and associated with same people and cult in Kildare Ireland, and Northern Spain) was somewhat Matriarchal. When the Romans subverted the Brigantes, they focused on her Queen, who was named Cartismandua. I've seen this translated as "Painted Pony", which both describes the prefered vehicle and the fact that Brigantes AND Picts had the habit of Tattooing their skin.

So there is a rough correlation between Luzon (Kapampangans being somewhat Matriarchal, at least closet matriarchs) and Ponies in 8,000 - 4,000 B.C., as well as the tradition of Tatooing (our friend Mel Orpilla).

In addition, though I'm an OIT and against AIT, it is indeniable that the chariot cultures started with Haplogroup R1A (R1b - Celtic, largely stayed in Euro for 30,000 years), and North India is 1/3 R1a. The Scythians R1a, though likely mostly so called "white", spread culture From the steppes and North India, and Russia TO THE WEST. Scythians are noted for their Tatoos too. The chariot did not arrive in Britain / Ireland until 600 B.C., and curiously the Ganga/marijuana influence never touched Europe until about 500 B.C., where it only went so far as Germany. This marijuana culture was part of Freya worship, AND had to be brought by Scythians from the Hindu Kush all the way to Germany and not vice versa.

Please again accept my apology for not dealing with Tropical Ponies, but there is an association between surviving Matriarchies/Ponies/Tattoos, but quite possibly the Scythians are an exception/part of the problem in spreading Patriarchy. Don't know enough about Scythians, except that Sikhs, especially Jatts are male dominated and are almost certainly mostly Haplo R1a.

Just opinions.

Mog said...


Another Angle to Setanta: Seid

I think we’ve hit some pay dirt on some extremely ancient terminology which is pan Austric-African-Indo-European. Both the horse and dog could have been equal in earliest sacrificial rituals and both associated equally with magic.

The Proto-Austric word for horse is reconstructed as *seh. I guess sata "horse" and its cognates in the Munda languages might be a reflex of *seh.

Now I was just looking up the Norse/Germanic deity Freya, because in some obscure history found that Cannabis (as brought by Scythian types from India) only penetrated Europe as far as Germany, and was seemingly associated with the Goddess Freya. Magic has been associated with Freya, specifically SEID.

In the Viking Age, seid had connotations of ergi ("unmanliness" or "effeminacy") for men, as its manipulative aspects ran counter to the male ideal of forthright, open behaviour.

What is so important about this is in Egypt, Set, or Seth, was also associated with a type of color red, which was associated with women, and Set/Seth as lord of Chaos I’ve seen ALSO having been associated with effeminacy. This hints of a more ancient Goddess/Shakta/Kali cult which spanned Europe/Africa/Asia/somewhat in Americas/mother Spider. Set/Seth of Egypt has pronounced ears like a desert fox, or wild African hunting dog (stratagem, greed).

What is important about the Philippines is grave burials were both with horse and dog. And considering that sorcerers in the Philippines were Asu-ang (associated with dog), possibly sorcery was also associated with the horse. In studying esoterica I’ve noted that in Sumeria and Egypt the LION might actually be secretly symbolic of “BREATH” in a kind of meditation (Durga, mother goddess associated with lion as well), and ancient man would have meditated on horses and dogs breathing as well. In Egypt SHU (DRY AIR) and TEFNUT (MOISTURE) are also called the twin lions, and in meditation the in breath through nostrils is dry, the outbreath through nostrils is warm and moist (most rudimentary observation, down to basics).

Just look at New Guinnea where someone acting oddly (which might include psychological states of hypomania, auspergers syndrome, bipolar, or shamanic trance) the person is called a sorcerer or SUANGI, very close to ASU and SHU (Shu noted by Egyptian priests of Thebes as being “original” Hercules, origin Atlas mountains).

Now getting back to female sorcery aspect of Seh, or Sata for HORSE and possibly association with MAGIC (correlating with Setanta as well), we have Seid associated with Freya. In addition, since Germans and Nords likely were influenced from East (where chariots came from, marijuana came from) we have another aboriginal mother goddess allegory, ancient serpent worship in.

Shesha, or the 7 hooded Naga (or commanded kundalini) of both Vishnu and Buddha.

This has a striking phonological/philo/etymological similarity with Seshat, the consort of Thoth (Egyptian Scribe).

Seshat has a seven pointed star (of Papyrus?) over her head, but along with Shesha it is a likely more ancient reference to the 7 Matrikas (also a stellar, 7 sisters?)

This could also be the origin of later Shamash, or 7 branched menorah, and a mystery tradition in Hebrew. In New Guinnea a principle trade good for brides are dogs teeth (asu) again. And after meditating awhile on “Kala” words (one meaning time, Kalah was last words of Jesus on cross, it is finished in Aramaic), I’ve noted that in the old testament one Hebrew word for merchandise/goods/weapons was KALIL. I wonder if there is any Nusantao relationship with Kalákal (goods, merchandise), or even Kalaguya (lover, woman, concubine…in war unfortunately women would have been commodified (New Guinnea trading women for dogs teeth, currency?). And getting back to Asuang-black magic-Kali (and Kali was archetype for death / battle goddess as well), we must remember another word for a shakta tantra version of Shaivism called Kaula, or Kula, which MIGHT also fit Sulu horse name of Kuda as a cognate.

There are a number of variations of the term Kaula in the traditional Sanskrit texts. They are:
• Kaula - is the name of the spiritual school; a second meaning is that of ultimate reality, containing both Kula (the groups of elements) and Akula (that which transcends the groups)
• Kula - is the actual group or family, composed of a number of persons or objects
• Akula - is that which transcends the Kula; transcendence; Shiva
• Kauliki or Kaulika - the binding energy of the Kula; an organizing force of a superior order, bridging the two extremes of manifested (Kula) and transcendent (Akula)
In this article we are going to switch back and forth between the four terms depending on context, but they all refer to the same fundamental notion.