As the old saying goes, "Send horses to Jeju and people to Seoul." When it comes to speaking about Jeju, one cannot leave out horses. With a bit of exaggeration, when one walks around Jeju, it is not difficult to see horses on the road. In addition to the Joongsangan region where many of the island's ranches or horse riding areas are located, there are also many horses tied up in ordinary fields or coastal areas. In fact, over 50% of South Korea's horses are in Jeju. (15,000 horses out of 27,000 horses)
The words 'Jejudo Jorangmal,' 'Gwahama,' and 'Toma' refer to horses that are short enough to pass under a fruit tree. Jeju seems to have been home to horses for a long time. Fossils of horse's teeth and footprints show that horses lived in Jeju before the Bronze Age. The Samsung myth also features a calf. This is historical evidence that Jeju people have lived with horses for a very long time.
It was in the 13th century when the current species of Jeju horse was brought in from Mongolia. There was a time when horses were a major contributor to Jeju's agricultural culture and the number of horses once reached 20,000. However, due to the development of transportation and the spread of agricultural machinery, the number of horses has significantly decreased.
The height of Jeju horses is around 117 centimeters for a female horse and 115 centimeters for a male horse. The height of horses is relatively shorter than average. They are mild and healthy and have a strong resistance to disease. The color of their fur is mostly brown, followed by reddish brown, gray, and black. Overall, they have a unique body shape with a low front, high back, and long body.
It would be correct to assume that Mongolia's dominance was a catalyst for the development of Jeju's horse-growing technology.
Mongolia's Won the 14th dominated Sambyulcho in 1273 and conquered and established a special capital defense unit in Jeju. It made the island a base for supplying war horses in order to prepare to conquer Namsong and Japan.
The vast grassland found on Jeju, along with the lack of wild beasts, meant the island had excellent conditions to raise horses. Mongolian technology flowed to the Jeju as they used their more advanced livestock technology in their final production base.
Since Jeju had the natural bounty and advanced skills, it served as the production base for horses even when the Mongolians left. It must have been hard work for Jeju people. In Korean, there is a saying, "Jinsang Boorheeda" which is used when people are kicking up a stink. It is said that this word derived from the definition and tradition of paying a tribute to the king. Throughout the Chosun Dynasty, the people of Jeju had to go through a lot of hardship to tribute their horses to the king. That was because horses were very important not only for transportation but also for military purposes.
Chosun not only divided the initial area of Mt. Hallasan into 10 heads to make it a state ranch but also forced individuals who were raising horses to give horses to the country.
▲ Tamlasoonryukdo(耽羅巡歷圖), Gongmabongjin(貢馬封進)
Almost every painting in "Tamlasoonryukdo" includes horses. The process of selecting and verifying horses to tribute to the king is the "Gongmabongjin".
Gongmabongjin shows the atmosphere of a Jeju shephard selecting horses to pay a tribute to the king in Gwandeokjung on June 7, 1702. According to records, the number needed was 433 horses and 20 Jeju Black Cattles. It was not a small number. The horses and bulls were sent to Seoul by boat through Jocheon or Hwabuk Port.
The number of horses that have to be offered to the King for various purposes every year was a big burden for Jeju people. Administrators who came to collect the tribute put the shepherd to account by all means. Horses that died were not an exception. The skin had to be peeled off and had to be presented to the authorities. Some people had to sell their property when they couldn't fill the quota, and others tried to avoid the role by killing their horses.
After the Japanese occupation, the opening of ports and the improvements made to transportation and agricultural supply meant the value of Jeju’s horses decreased. Additionally, during Jeju 4.3 in 1948, horses lost their owners and wandered around the mountains. This was due to the evacuation order that stopped people living in areas more than five kilometers from the Jeju coastline.
The number of horses drastically decreased during this time when an order was given to kill all horses wandering in the mountains. This order was given because it was thought that the horses would be a source of food for rebels living in the mountains.
In 1984, there were less than 1,000 of pure bred Jeju horses. In February 1986, the Korean government decided to protect 64 identified pedigree horses at a national level by designating them as Natural Monument No.347. The number of pure Jeju horses was 1,347 just before they were designated as a natural monument.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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