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The Camargue is an ancient breed of horses found in the Camargue area in Southern France. For centuries, possibly thousands of years, these small horses have lived wild in the harsh environment of the wetlands of the Rhone delta, the Camargue marshes, developing the stamina, hardiness and agility for which they are known today. They are the traditional mount of the gardians – the Camargue "cowboys" who herd the black Camargue bulls used in bullfighting in southern France. Camargue horses galloping through water are a popular and romantic image of the region.
Camargue horses are born black or dark brown in colour, but as they grow to adulthood, their coat lightens until it is pale grey or white. They are small horses, generally 1.35 to 1.50 m (13 to 14 hands) high. Despite their small size, they have the strength to carry grown men. Rugged and intelligent, they have a short neck, deep chest, compact body, well-jointed, strong limbs, and a full mane and tail.
In 1976, in order to preserve the standards and purity of the breed, the French government set standards for the breed and started registering the main breeders of the Camargue horse. In 1978, they set up the breed Stud Book. In order to be registered, foals must be born out of doors, and must be seen to suckle from a registered mare as proof of parentage. Foals born inside the defined Camargue region are registered sous berceau, while those born elsewhere are registered hors berceau ("out of the birthplace"). These tough little horses have the heavy, square heads of primitive horses, but the influence of Arabian, Barb and Thoroughbred blood can also be seen. The gardians look after the horses and they are rounded up for annual inspections, branding and gelding of unsuitable stock.
Their calm temperament, agility, intelligence and stamina has resulted in these horses being used for equestrian games, dressage, and long distance riding, which is growing in popularity in France.
The Camargue breed was well appreciated by the Celtic and Roman invaders that entered the Iberian Peninsula, and as a result this genealogy is closely tied with Spanish breeds especially those in the northern part of the peninsula. The original Spanish "jaca" was probably a cross between the Celtic Pony and the Camargue and it was later improved further by crosses with northern European horse types and ultimately with the southern peninsular horse as the Moors spread their influence towards the Pyrenees. As a result, the Camargue genes very probably penetrated America through the influence of the "jaca" warhorses that were taken to these inhospitable lands where hardiness was a requirement. Breeds such as the Chilean Horse and Criollo show signs of some characteristics that are common in the Camargue breed.
In England, there is currently only one breeding herd. They reside at Valley Farm, in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Valley Farm is also the home of the British Camargue Horse Society, which represents the Camargue Breed in Britain by maintaining a Stud Book for British-bred Camargue Horses and registering ownership of Camargue Horses in Britain.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia