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Inside Pakistan’s Mona Depot: A Horse Haven

The ‘Living Animal Kingdom’ Mona Depot

Clip clop, clip clop, run, dance, eat and neigh horses at the ‘Living Animal Kingdom’ Mona Depot, nestled on the outskirts of Punjab in Mandi Bahauddin, which has a history that dates back to its inception in 1902. It’s where horses resoundingly echo their presence with the rhythmic clip-clop of hooves. But what led to the establishment of this unique facility, and why did the Pakistan army deem it necessary?

The origins of the Mona Depot trace back to the military’s requirement for mules for defence purposes, a necessity that prevailed through the years, but wanting more is what nourished excellence, and this is what Brigadier Naeem, Commandant at the Mona Depot aimed for.

In the wake of Pakistan’s independence in 1947, a new vision emerged. In 1955, Arabian stallions and mares found their home at the Mona Depot, marking a pivotal shift. According to Brigadier Naeem, the Mona Depot, often called the ‘Living Animal Kingdom,’ is a singular entity dedicated to breeding and caring for horses for defence. However, these horses aren’t confined to military use but have been presented as diplomatic gifts to various heads of state, including Turkish leaders in bygone eras.


From Mules to Majestic Arabians

The Mona Depot takes pride in its diverse collection of Arabian horse breeds, each renowned for its unique and captivating characteristics. These remarkable horses are known for their elegantly elongated necks, exquisitely refined wedge-shaped heads, and an unmistakable head and tail carriage that sets them apart. With an impressive roster of over 600 distinct varieties, this exceptional training and breeding centre has garnered international acclaim, consistently drawing trainees and enthusiasts from diverse corners of the globe.

Within the nurturing confines of the facility, these exceptional horses receive meticulous care and attention, ensuring their health, vitality, and the preservation of their distinctive qualities. Here, the art of breeding and raising these magnificent creatures is perfected, resulting in horses that embody the beauty of their breed and possess the athleticism and grace that make them highly sought after.

Their excellence is noticed on the global stage. These fine horses, products of the Mona Depot’s dedication, are sold at significant prices to various Arab and foreign nations, where they continue to capture hearts and win accolades for their exceptional qualities. Whether gracing the polo fields of distant lands or contributing to the rich tapestry of equestrian traditions, these Arabian horse breeds from the Mona Depot stand as a testament to these magnificent animals’ timeless allure and enduring legacy.


Innovative Breeding Methods

The Mona Depot transcends its role as a mere equine breeding centre to emerge as a strategic linchpin in the military’s defence budget, becoming a cornerstone of financial stability for the nation’s armed forces. This sprawling facility proudly stands as Asia’s largest horse breeding establishment, spanning vast expanses in the Punjab region.

However, what truly distinguishes this remarkable endeavour, orchestrated by the Pakistan army, is its pioneering approach to breeding—marked by ingenuity and uniqueness. Here, the process goes beyond tradition, venturing into the realm of cutting-edge techniques involving test tubes and surrogates. In the heralded month of June 2021, the Remount Mona Depot achieved a significant milestone, celebrating its inaugural successful embryo pregnancy. Major Khalid, the accomplished veterinary doctor at the depot, proudly proclaimed an impressive 70 per cent success rate achieved through artificial insemination (AI).

This innovative and forward-looking methodology transcends the boundaries of conventional breeding, presenting an array of substantial benefits. Notably, it has led to substantial savings in import costs, thereby fortifying the military’s fiscal prudence. Equally important, it has cemented the Mona Depot’s role as a reliable source of sustainable horse production.

Captain Rabiya, a distinguished specialist within the depot’s veterinary cadre, delves deeper into the significance of this groundbreaking breeding initiative. She emphasizes that while the process may be time-intensive, its driving force is the pursuit of financial prudence and the prolific production of foals. In bygone days, acquiring a single horse would demand a considerable financial outlay, but thanks to the Mona Depot’s innovative methods, the military can now procure multiple horses at a substantially reduced cost.

In essence, the Mona Depot’s innovative breeding techniques contribute to its stature as a world-class equine breeding facility and underscore its pivotal role in bolstering the nation’s defence budget. Through ingenuity, vision, and a steadfast commitment to progress, the depot stands as a beacon of efficiency and resourcefulness, ensuring that the legacy of its equine inhabitants continues to flourish while simultaneously fortifying the nation’s fiscal resilience.


Horses with a Sacred Mark

Within the hallowed grounds of the Mona Depot, an enchanting and spiritually significant phenomenon unfolds – the presence of horses bearing the ‘Prophet’s thumb’ mark, a divine emblem that transcends generations. As the venerable Brigadier Naeem shared, this sacred mark adorns only a select few among the many horses born here, echoing through time as a testament to their exceptional lineage.

Among these distinguished equines, the illustrious “Bhurak” emerges as a true luminary, a six-time champion on the illustrious polo fields, earning him the distinguished title of the ‘Hallmark of Excellence.’ The legend enveloping this remarkable mark traces its origins to a horse once owned by the Prophet himself, a connection that elevates these horses to a plane of extraordinary reverence and significance.

As the sun-dappled fields of Mona Depot bear witness to these remarkable steeds, their presence and heritage continue to weave a tapestry of wonder, uniting the realms of legend and reality. These horses, adorned with the ‘Prophet’s thumb’ mark, stand as living embodiments of a profound spiritual connection, a testament to the enduring legacy of faith and devotion that transcends time and tradition.


Equestrian Diplomacy

What’s noteworthy is that it’s not just Pakistani riders who receive training at the Mona Depot. Foreign individuals from various countries also undergo training here. Captain Delan Pariya from Sri Lanka and Noor Muhammad Hassan from Jorden are just two of the many who have come to Mona Depot for instruction. Captain Delan shares his experience, saying, “I was sent here by my army to learn horseback riding, along with mastering equestrian sports like tent pegging, jumping, and polo. Within a month, I acquired the skill of riding a horse under the guidance of Pakistan army officers, overcoming my initial fear. I plan to return home and impart this knowledge to my fellow officers, all thanks to Mona Depot.”


A Legacy of Dedication and Heritage

Pakistan’s military distinguishes itself globally through its continued use of cavalry. In an era where warfare has evolved dramatically, Pakistan remains one of the few armed forces still employing horses for military purposes. These equine warriors undergo rigorous training to navigate the complexities of modern wartime scenarios and counterterrorism operations. They are specifically prepared to operate in hostile conditions, including the challenging terrains of Pakistan’s eastern and western regions, where they must brave intense artillery fire and deafening noise.

The responsibility for breeding these Arabian horses and other breeds falls squarely within the purview of the Pakistani army, establishing one of Asia’s most expansive reserves and equestrian training centres. Not only are the mules and horses trained at the Mona Depot for defence purposes, but they also serve as a sustainable energy source, generating electricity for weeks and months.

The ‘Living Animal Kingdom’ Mona Depot is a unique and indispensable asset for the Pakistan army. Its rich history, innovative breeding methods, and continued use of cavalry underscore its significance in military operations and diplomacy. This facility serves as a symbol of excellence and plays a crucial role in the military’s budget and energy sustainability. Through its commitment to nurturing exceptional equine breeds and training riders worldwide, the Mona Depot is a testament to Pakistan’s enduring dedication to its military heritage.


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