Name of breed: Bardigiano
Country of origin: Italy, native to the Emilia Romagna region
Breed origin: The Bardigiano is a small breed of horse from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. It is thought that the Bardigiano is descended from horses ridden by Belgian Gauls who invaded Italy during Roman times, the same ancestor thought to have produced the Haflinger. The breed also bears characteristics similar to the English Exmoor and Dales ponies.
The Bardigiano takes its name from the town of Bardi in the Apennines of Parma where the local terrain is steep and mountainous, contributing to a robust, hardy horse that is agile and sure-footed.
During the first World Wars, Bardigiano mares were used to produce first-class mules, and in the process the number of purebred Bardigianos significantly declined. However, following WWII small herds of pureblood horses were found, preserved by mountain agriculturalists in the area. In 1977 the breed was officially recognised in an attempt to preserve and document their bloodlines.
Distinguishing features: The Bardigiano is of average height (13.2 to 14.1 hands high), small and sturdy. The only recognised coat colour is bay, with dark bay being preferred. While the breed does produce other colourings (chestnut, light bay etc) these are not officially recognised by the studbook. The Bardigiano has a docile nature and are easy to work with, making them ideal children’s mounts.
Modern day Bardigiano: Widely distributed in Italy, there are breeders of the Bardigiano horse breed in 26 different Italian provinces. While the breed isn’t at risk for extinction, they are classes as vulnerable. They are used for a variety of activities that range from farm work to competitive driving and riding. They are also used extensively for pony trekking.
Image credit: Cavallo Bardigiano