Name of breed: Criollo
Country of origin: South America – Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay
Breed origin: This breed of horse is synonymous with the gaucho, and dates back to 1535 when a shipment of 100 pure bred Andalusian stallions arrived with the Spanish in Buenos Aires. When the hostility of the natives forced the Spanish to abandon Buenos Aires just five years later, they were forced to release close to half their horses into the wild. When Buenos Aires was resettled in 1580, the wild horse population was estimated to be close to 12,000. Settlers later came and started capturing the horses for riding and use as pack animals.
Throughout the 19th century, a large proportion of the horses were crossed with imported European Thoroughbreds, coach and draft stallions which created a larger, longer-striding multi-purpose saddle cart horse. But this crossbreeding nearly ruined the native Spanish horse type, and in 1918 the Argentine breeders decided to create a pure-bred Criollos registry.
Distinguishing features: The Criollo is a tough, hardy horse breed with a strong and muscular body, broad chest and sloping shoulders. This breed of horse is intelligent, willing and sensible. They usually mature as galloways, averaging 14.3hh and the difference between the maximum and minimum height for mares is only 2cm! The breed is famous for their endurance capabilities as well as their ability to live in extremely harsh conditions, since their homeland has both extreme hot and cold weather. They are frugal eaters, thriving on little grass and have good resistance to disease.
Modern day Criollo: To speak of the Criollo horse is to speak of the Gaucho – the horse is his indispensable accessory. Today this horse is used mainly as a working-cow horse, but it is also used as a trail horse. They are also excellent rodeo and endurance horses.