Name of breed: Losino
Country of origin: Spain
Breed origin: The Losino horse is an ancient breed believed to be the last remaining representative of the Castilian horse, a sub-type of the Iberian horse named after the medieval kingdom of Castile where it originated. Horses have roamed the land now encompassed by Spain and Portugal since the last ice age, and many breeds developed naturally as the species expanded into new territory. The Losino was one such breed, changing physically and mentally to adapt to the mountainous, rocky terrain of the Losa Valley and surrounds. As humans settled in the area, they gradually came to use the native horses not as a food source but as partners in their pursuit of survival and prosperity. Through the ages, Losino horses were used as cavalry mounts and packhorses, for herding and farm work, as a means of transport and for breeding mules. They were exported all over Spain but once outside of their native territory, they were often crossed with local horses to produce offspring more suited to the unique characteristics of each region.
As the industrial era rendered horses increasingly unnecessary for transport and farm work in all but the most remote areas, the population of Losinos decreased from 1,455 mares in 1933 to 834 mares in 1951, to 60 mares in 1984. Most of these remaining mares were semi-wild, and many had no contact with a Losino stallion. Compounding the problem were the many hundreds of part-bred Losinos that had resulted from various efforts to ‘improve’ the breed with Arabian, Anglo-Arab, Breton, Andalusian and Welsh Cob stallions, and later efforts to produce a horse for the meat market using Breton stallions. Most Losino mares were being used to produce mules, too, so very few Losino foals were born.
In the mid-1980s, efforts were made to gather the last remaining Losinos and form breeding populations in the town of Pancorbo and the Losa Valley. Although the genetic purity of some of the horses couldn’t be ascertained, their build and size were good indicators of their heritage. Breeders put faith in the incredible strength of their genetics, shaped by nature for thousands of years, to override any previous outside influences in the coming generations. Most of these horses were still allowed to live in semi-wild herds and their populations have gradually recovered in the decades since.
Distinguishing features: The Losino horse is not a domestic breed developed by humans from its wild ancestors, but rather a wild breed that has been domesticated. Only in the last hundred years have humans attempted to alter the Losino breed, and the results have been less than ideal. Ultimately, indigenous horses will always be the most suited to their native area, and there is much to be learned from their unique genetics.
Losino horses are incredibly hardy, thriving on wild vegetation year round, and they require very little upkeep. Most stand between 13.1 and 14 hands high, although they can be as short as 12 hands and, rarely, as tall as 14.2 hands. They are always black, with either no white markings or a small star on the forehead. In winter they grow a long, thick coat that turns reddish, as do the ends of their long, abundant manes and tails. Their head has a straight or slightly convex profile, often with a slight dip between the forehead and the nose. Although not refined, there is an elegance to their features, with large, expressive eyes, fine, curved ears, a flat forehead, wide nostrils and fairly thick lips. Overall, Losinos have a balanced build, with a robust neck and back, a wide, muscular chest, well sprung ribs, broad, rounded hindquarters, clean legs and hard hooves. Once domesticated, they are faithful, affectionate and even-tempered partners for adults and children alike. They are quick learners, fearless trailblazers and hard workers.
Modern day Losino: Today, the Losino population has exceeded 370 individuals. In their native territory, Losinos are still used to maintain natural environments in free-roaming herds. Once domesticated, they are especially great children’s mounts, able to turn their hooves to virtually any discipline. Their upbringing in the mountains also makes them ideal for trail riding.