Horsehead Fiddle: The First Violin?

The Connection of Violin and Horse

Legend has it that the original violin, called a chuurqin, was born in Mongolia. In Central Asia, 6th Century, a boy loved his steed more than life itself. According to one Mongolian legend, the horse was slain and came to the boy in a dream. It said for him to use his body to make a fiddle so they would be together forever.

Clearly, the relationship between people and horses was a crucial union for survival on the steppes of Asia.

This is a tale from the book “On the Trail of Genghis Khan” by Tim Cope. On his trek, he stays the night in a yurt with a Mongolian family. The matriarch pulls out a stringed instrument known as the morin khuur, or horsehead fiddle.  

“Boasting a trapezoid-shaped box, carved horsehead at the top of a long stem, and two long, parallel strings – mare’s – it had been handcrafted in a tradition probably unbroken for at least a millennium.”

The ancestor of the morin khuur was the chuurqin.

And it is this story that made me marvel, so I had to stop reading.  I had always wondered at the pull I feel when violin and horse are in the same arena, that it makes complete sense to be playing the violin as I walk with a horse. They lick and chew, lower their heads, looking expressively at me, ears pricked and completely relaxed.

I wondered why.

Now I know. Legend has it that it is a very ancient union. How thrilling!