The Mongolian words morin khuur translate literally to mean “horse fiddle” and the instrument is instantly recognizable by the distinctive pegbox carved in the shape of horse’s head. The tuning pegs on either side of the scroll are known as the ‘horse’s ears”. The strings of the instrument and its bow are traditionally made of horsehair, although they are now often made of synthetic material.
The morin khuur plays a prominent role in Mongolian music and culture. It is used to accompany folk singers and less frequently as a solo instrument and in small ensembles. Traditionally the people of Mongolia are nomadic herders and their love of the horse is an important aspect of Mongolian national identity. The horse on the scroll of the morin khuur and the instrument’s ability to imitate the galloping sounds of horses reflect this love.