Tulpar is a word that means winged horse in the Turkic language. The Tulpar is considered similar to Pegasus. The winged Tulpar horse has been around almost as long as the Turkic people, with the first historical mention in the 10th century. It’s thought that Tulpar is a cross between a horse and a bird of prey.
The Nomadic Turkic people, including those in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, depended on their horses and birds of prey (falcons, hawks, and eagles are examples) to help sustain their lives. These people used both the horse and bird for hunting. Horses were also used for travel and for conquering new areas. The Tulpar is said to have originated as a winged horse that combined the horse and bird of prey.
The Turkic People
Turkic people are from a vast area in Central Asia and are not restricted to the geographical boundaries of other countries. The first mention of them is in the sixth century. The Turkic people were Nomadic people and depended on their horses for movement and hunting. This in turn helped create a large and dominant empire. At its peak, the Turkic empire extended from China’s northern border all the way to Turkey and the Black Sea, and northern Siberia. Again, this is a massive area of Central Asia.
The Turkic people speak many languages in the Altaic language group (Turkic, Mongolian, and Manchu-Tungus) and many are Islamic. The Ottomans, Huns, and Mongolians are all Turkic people. The Turkic mythology includes their teachings and many myths, including the one about Tulpar. The Tulpar spans several languages too, and the Turkic mythology was also influenced by several other mythologies.
Creation of Tulpar
The first recorded mention of a Tulpar is in a manuscript called Irk Bitig, which translates to the “Book of Divination” or the “Book of Omens.” The manuscript was located in Dunhuang, a Chinese city in the northwestern part of the country. It details the history of how Turkish mythology and religion began and the major premises behind it.
The horse, and therefore the Tulpar, figure centrally in Turkic mythology because of their importance to the nomadic culture. The people believed that horses were an extension of themselves and that the horse completed a human and made them whole.
The Tulpar is also mentioned in the Epic of Manas. This is an 18th-century epic poem (it’s about 500,000 lines!) about how religion started in the 9th century and how the Kyrgyz people interacted with the Turkic and Chinese. The Epic of Manas originated with the Kyrgyz people, and they claim it’s much older than the 18th century, and that’s just when it was first recorded.
The Tulpar is usually white or black, in traditional Turkic mythology. Although, the color varies in today’s popular culture uses of it. The depictions from different countries also have more colors. Some believe that the wings were for flight, while others believe that they only symbolize speed.
The wings are also smaller or larger, depending on their depiction of them. For example, the wings are large and ornate in the Kazakhstan coat of arms. But, they are small and an extension of the horse’s mane in the Argayashsky District flag of Bashkir, a region in Russia. On the Mongolian state emblem, the Tulpar wings are further back, behind where a rider would be.
Myths and Legends
Records mentioning the Tulpar go back to the 10th century. As such, many myths and legends have developed over the course of history. One states that a Tulpar was used to create the first fiddle. After he passed, his Tuvan owner was seeking both entertainment and a way to memorialize his Tulpar.
Another legend states that the Tulpar only opens its wings and flies in the dark. This way, no one can see that it has wings. This legend further states that if anyone does see the wings of the Tulpar it (the Tulpar) will disappear.
There are about 150 million Turkic people today. Kazakhstan has the largest Turkic population today. Islam and Turkic mythology don’t always align. But many Turkic people embrace the animist religion. This is where nature was a central component and contributed to mythology, including Tulpar.
One instance of the Tulpar today is in the military. The Turkish military named one of their infantries fighting vehicles Tulpar after the mythological horse. Indeed, Tulpar also graces the Mongolian and Kazakhstan state emblems. Today, its ties between mythology and video games make it appear in popular culture.
Gamers often purchase a Tulpar while playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance Wiki. There are also real-life horse games that pay tribute, in a roundabout way, to Tulpar. Lake Tulpar-Kul is in Kyrgyzstan. It hosts annual horseback games for the local people each July, which are also popular for tourists to watch. Throughout the rest of the year, the grasslands surrounding the lake are only home to the nomadic people and their horses.
Sources: Britannica, Japanese Mythology, Kathmandu and Beyond, Medium, Otokar, UNESCO, and the University of London.