Name of breed: Murgese
Country of origin: Italy
Breed origin: The Murgese horse originated in the Murge, Apulia area of Italy during the period of Spanish rule. It is thought that the breed developed by crossing imported Barb and Arabian horses with native horses, including the famous Neapolitan horse.
The breed was extremely popular as Italian cavalry mounts during the 15th and 16th centuries, but then declined in numbers until it almost reached extinction.
The Murgese horse breed we see today was developed from horses selected in 1926, when the herdbook was finally established. The horses selected to revitalize the breed were a group of 46 mares and 9 stallions. As of 2005, the Murgese population numbers more than 1500 breeding animals.
Distinguishing features: The Murgese is a hardy breed of horse generally standing between 14 to 15 hands high and often black or blue roan. Stallions are rarely gelded, since they are very docile and can be ridden without problems. In fact, all Murgese horses are known to be VERY kind, with a lovely nature and willingness to learn. A feature that the breed is famous for is their extremely hard hooves.
Many Murgese horses are bred and raised in a semi-wild herd state in the scrubby and hilly woodland of Murge, living outside all year round and foraging for food. This has made them extremely hardy and resistant to many diseases.
Modern day Murgese: Generally used for trekking and cross-country riding, the Murgese horse has also been used for farm work and light draft work.
Image credit: Manor Farm San Paolo