The Chamurthi or Spiti Pony is indigenous to the Pin Valley which is found in a Buddhist tribal district called Spiti. Located in the state of Himachal Pradesh in north-western India, Spiti is a unique and isolated area – a high altitude desert which is closed off from the rest of the country for 6 months of the year by snow on the high passes which access this region.

To the east lies Tibet, in the west is another remote district often linked with Spiti, called Lahaul, to the north is the famous high altitude area known as Ladakh, and to the south lie the foothills of the Himalayas. Once the high passes are crossed, you enter a completely different landscape.

The land is a kind of moonscape with rushing, glacier-fed rivers and streams, rocks of all different hues – red, ochre, purple, blue – and of course the magnificent mountains of the Himalayan range. Most of the valleys are above 12,000 feet. The entire region of Spiti has a population of only about 10,000 people.

Pin Valley, Spiti

Pin Valley, Spiti

Tucked away in a corner of this stark but wondrous landscape is the Pin Valley, where there are more ponies than people. The villages here are considered quite "green" as they are able to grow more trees and crops than other parts of Spiti, and this is the valley that is famous for its special pony, the Chamurthi.

The ponies are seen everywhere in the valley, grazing on what appears to be a lunar landscape filled with rocks. They are the main form of transportation in an area which has only one excuse of a road entering a narrow gorge off the main Spiti valley and linking it with the first village. The culture of Spiti is entirely Tibetan, only international boundaries have decreed that it is part of India, and luckily so. The language, religion, and lifestyle have remained intact and it is like the Tibet of many decades ago.

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