Latin American Horse Breeds

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Much of South America’s culture is strongly rooted in tradition and heritage, and horses have played a significant role in that culture. The South American continent is home to four beautiful and unique breeds: the Criollo, the Peruvian Horse, the Paso Fino and the Mangalarga Marchador.

Each of these breeds can be traced back to the horses first brought to the New World by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Over time, each breed became distinct, with its own conformation and movement.

Criollo horse competing in reining
Criollo

The Criollo is believed to be descended from Spanish, Barb and Portuguese horses once owned by Don Pedro Mendoza, founder of the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina in the 1500s. Criollo enthusiasts believe many of Mendoza’s horses escaped into the Argentine plains, where their descendants lived wild for four centuries. The breed became exceptionally hardy as it adapted to the harsh environment with little access to food or water. Continue Reading >>

Peruvian Horse
Peruvian Horse

The Peruvian Horse is closely related to the Spanish Jennet, a horse brought to the New World by the Spaniards in the 1500s. Known for its ground-covering four-beat gait, the Jennet passed this trait down to the Peruvian Horse. The Andalusian and Barb are also believed to have influenced the breed. Continue Reading >>

Paso Fino
Paso Fino

The Paso Fino originated in the 1500s and is descended from horses brought to the New World by Spanish Explorers. At the time Columbus prepared for his second voyage to the New World, easy-gaited Jennets were common in Spain. With their comfortable gait, medium size and athletic ability, these horses were considered ideal for the daunting task of exploring and conquering the vast, unknown territory. Continue Reading >>

Mangalarga Marchador
Mangalarga Marchador

The Mangalarga Marchador’s origins can be traced back to 1807, when the king of Portugal fled his country to escape capture by Napoleon’s armies. The king chose Brazil for his exile, taking his family and several of his favorite stallions with him. Known as Alter Real horses, the stallions were descended from Andalusians and other horses native to the Iberian Peninsula, as well as to the Madeira and Canary Islands. Known for its elegant stature and quiet temperament, the Alter Real was a breed developed exclusively by the king. Continue Reading >>

Many of these breeds have been considered well-kept secrets in their home countries, but with the increasing interest in gaited horses and these horses’ athletic abilities and amiable temperaments, they’re not likely to remain so for long. The secret is out.

Audrey Pavia is a freelance writer and the author of Horses for Dummies.


This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe!

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