Name of breed: Giara
Country of origin: Island of Sardinia, Italy
Breed origin: The origins of the Giara horse are uncertain, with one theory suggesting it may have been brought into the island of Sardinia by the Phoenicians or the Greeks in the 4th or 5th century BC. It has characteristics of oriental horse types, particularly that of the Barb. In the past, some theorized that it was a unique subspecies because of a Neolithic horse fossil which dated to 6000 BC, but similar speculations in other breeds have been largely disproven.
Distinguishing features: The Giara was developed in an area of south-central Sardinia noted for a stony plateau with steep terrain at about 500 metres above sea level. Due to this harsh environment, the horse is small (averaging between 11.1 to 13.1 hands high) but hardy and able to acclimate to unfavourable conditions. Despite its small stature, the Giara is still considered a true horse.
Modern day Giara: Present throughout Sardinia until Medieval times, the wild population now lives only in a restricted area of Southern Sardinia, on the large Giara Plateau. Today, some are used for farming and riding. Most recently, the Giara has been crossed with Arabian horses to create the Giarab, a new breed suited to equestrian sports.
Image credit: Museo del Cavallino Della Giara