Ever wondered how many Spanish horse breeds are there? You might be surprised to find out there are more than 20 breeds of horses and ponies that originate from Spain alone. The ancient continent gifted us with some of the most distinctive horse breeds. Even though some are highly endangered, they can all be saved if we invest time and effort into this.
Spanish Horse Breeds that Still Exist Today
Here are the most popular Spanish horses that managed to survive up to the 21st century:
The Andalusian Horse
Andalusian horses enjoy worldwide fame and numerous prizes in equine sports and competitions. The breed is also known as the pure Spanish horse or the Pura Raza Española. Unlike most Spanish horse breeds, the Andalusian has changed little over the years. They are also known as Spanish dancing horses thanks to their swift way of carrying themselves. For more information about this breed, you can check out our article on Andalusian horses.
Even though the Andalusian horse is the most popular Spanish breed, there are plenty of others that originated from the Iberian Peninsula.
The Burguete Horse
Originating from the Navarre region in Northern Spain, the Burguete breed is one of the many Spanish horse breeds that are on the brink of extinction. It has Breton blood and is presently used for heavy work. It is among the few horse breeds that have not been used for equine-related sports successfully. Today, the Burguete horse is used for heavy work and, sadly, for meat.
The Hispano-Arab Horse
The Hispano-Arab horse is considered one of the most successful Spanish horse breeds. It came to life by crossing Arab and Andalusian horses in the northern region of Spain. The breeding process started at the beginning of the 19th century, but its breed standard has only been published in 2002. In 2010 there were almost 6,000 of Hispano-Arab horses in the world, but most of them were located in Andalusia.
Just like their ancestors, the Hispano-Arab horses are well-built, have a slender outline, and are light steppers. They are most used for equestrian sports but are reliable work horses as well.
The Hispano-Breton Horse
Developed by crossing horses of Pura Raza Española with Breton draught horses, the Hispano-Breton breed is another Spanish horse breed that is threatened by extinction. The average Hispano-Breton has a compact and muscular body and a straight head profile. In sports, they are used for general and endurance riding. However, they are mainly used for work activities.
The Basque Mountain Horse
Originating from the Basque region in Spain and France, the Basque breed is listed as endangered with only 4,500 individuals in 2013. They are muscular, with rather long hair and a wide face and nose. Basque mountain horses are considered multi-talented equines and are used for a variety of equine sports and work. Therefore, great efforts are being made to preserve the breed and increase the population.
The Galician Horse
Originating from Galicia, in North-Western Spain, the Galician horse shares a lot of its DNA with Portugal’s Garrano breed. It is believed that their ancestors were brought in the Iberian Peninsula by Celtic immigrants around 600 BC. It is one of the many Spanish horse breeds that were used as war horses in the past. Their secondary purpose was agricultural work, which has been preserved until today. Nevertheless, Galician horses are now mainly used for meat.
The Mallorquín Horse
Mallorquín horses are among the rarest breeds today. They originate from the Majorca island and is also considered a critically endangered breed. There were less than 200 Mallorquín horses in 2003. Their coat can only be black and variations of black, with few facial markings and no leg markings. Their short and thick mane stands upright on their arched neck. Their head has a convex profile and a refined, elegant bone structure.
The Menorquín Horse
Menorquín horses originate from the island Menorca and are also endangered, with less than 3,000 individuals counted in 2011. Just like the Mallorquín, Menorquín horses can only be black with a limited number of only white markings. They are very calm and obedient, showing a discernable grace and elegance in movements. They have strong bodies and limbs, convex head profiles, and round, joyful eyes.
Although many kinds of literature refer to Mallorquín and Menorquín horses as being from the Balearic breed, they have plenty of distinctive features to be 2 separate breeds.
The Marismeno Horse
This breed is indigenous to the Guadalquivir River area, but can presently be found in the Doñana National Natural Park, South-Western Spain. The breed was only recognized in 2003 when recovery and preservation processes began. Although considerable efforts have been made in the last decade, Marismeno horses still are one of the many Spanish horse breeds threatened by extinction.
The Retuerta Horse
Also known as the Caballo de las Retuertas, (Caballo = horse in Spanish), the Retuerta horse is indigenous to the Spanish Andalusia region. It is highly appreciated for its resemblance to the ancient Iberian horses from which most of the Spanish horse breeds today originated. It is one of the oldest horse breeds in Europe, with a history that goes over 3,000 years back. Another noteworthy characteristic of Retuerta horses is the fact that they live isolated from other horse populations, in protected areas or small communities.
The Sorraia Horse
Another highly endangered horse breed, the Sorraia are extremely well adapted to harsh environmental conditions. They are famous for resembling their ancestors, having a convex profile, dun-colored coat, and primitive markings. The relationship between Sorraia horses and other breeds is not yet known. However, many theories consider them descendants of the now long-extinct breeds that founded most of the Spanish horse breeds.
Of course, many of the Spanish horse breeds have been lost as the years went by. The political situation in Europe’s last millennium deeply affected the number of horses and horse breeds we can still find today. Although some seem to have been lost forever, others can still be saved from extinction. It is up to us to preserve them and make sure this doesn’t happen with other breeds, as well.
Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4.
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