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First Year Course on Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan)





















photo courtesy of Jack Chang:


English form:  Horse

Mongolian forms:

Latin: Mori

Literary Analysis
In The Secret History of the Mongols, horses are symbols of both power and loyalty. Not only this, but the status of every Mongols is measured in horses. Horses, therefore, give the Mongol reader immediate knowledge of how each character fits into the story. If a follower is described as horse, therefore, it is a compliment, indicating that he is both physically powerful yet remains loyal to Temujin.

Cultural Significance

The Mongols of the 13th century were a hunting and herding people dependant upon the horse for their very survival. Horses were a steady and vital source of food, transportation, and prestige in Mongol society. Horses supplied their owners with nutrition throughout the year in the form of meat, milk and blood. They were also the swiftest form of transportation, used to carry out raids against other families or clans, and an easily transportable and highly valuable form of loot. Horses also defined a family's position in society: a herder with many horses was not only a wealthy man but most likely noble, while a hunting family with few horses was distinctly lower class.

Historical Significance

The Mongols’ use of horses changed world history. The vast herds that had supported Mongol families for generations were put to use to create the world’s swiftest and most efficient army until modern times. The ratio of horses to humans allowed each warrior to travel with three to five horses, meaning that the army could travel at a gallop all day by alternating mounts when they tired. It also meant that the Mongol army did not have to move with a supply train, the vast and unwieldy collection of arms and food that followed traditional infantries. Instead, a Mongol warrior could drink the milk and blood of his horses to sustain him, use a horse to hunt, or, in the worst case, slaughter one of his mounts for meat. The tactics employed by the Mongols, such as creating a decoy army by mounting dummies on their spare horses, or coming through the most difficult terrain to encircle an enemy from behind proved to be decisive and would not have been possible without horses.

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