Name of breed: Peruvian Paso
Country of origin: Peru
Breed origin: The Peruvian Paso is a light saddle horse known for its natural four-beat, lateral gait, the paso llano. Peruvian Paso foals can be seen gaiting alongside their dams within a few hours of birth. The breed has been protected by the Peruvian government since 1992 and has deservedly been declared part of the Cultural Heritage of the Nation.
Peruvian Pasos trace their ancestry to several breeds of horses: the Jennet, which existed in the Middle Ages and was noted for its ambling gaits; the Barb, which contributed strength and stamina; the Friesian and the Andalusian, which both added style, conformation and action. Horses arrived in South America with the Spanish Conquest, and the Peruvian Paso’s foundation bloodstock came from Spain, Jamaica, Panama and other areas of Central America. Over time, Peruvian studs selectively bred for the paso llano gait, conformation and temperament. The demands of colonial life necessitated strong, hardy animals that were comfortable to ride and easy to control. Over four centuries, the locals’ dedication to breeding the best gaited horses and the genetic isolation caused by the Peruvian landscape resulted in the modern Peruvian Paso.
Distinguishing features: The Peruvian Paso is distinguished by its four-beat gait, the paso llano. This ambling gait falls between the walk and the canter instead of a trot. It has four equal beats and is performed laterally — left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore. The paso llano is ideal for covering long distances in a short period of time without tiring horse or rider. Another trademark of the breed’s movement is the ‘termino’, a flashy outward-swinging motion of the front legs during their forward stride.
Standing between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high, the Peruvian Paso has an elegant yet powerful build. It has a heavy neck, deep chest, solid body, well-sprung ribs, a broad back and a low-set tail. It has strong hooves, and is traditionally competed without shoes. Chestnut, black, bay, brown, buckskin, palomino, gray, roan and dun coats are seen. The mane and tail are long and luxurious.
The Peruvian Paso’s temperament is proud yet gentle. ‘Brio’ – which roughly translates as ‘willing energy’ is a trademark characteristic: the breed is energetic, willing, responsive and proud. Intelligence, trainability and courage are important breed traits.
Modern day Peruvian Paso: These horses have achieved international popularity thanks to their excellent temperaments and the comfort they afford their riders. They are used for pleasure and trail riding, showing, cattle work, endurance riding and parades. There are also many breed-specific competitions, the two best-known being The National Horse Competition Caballo de Paso Peruano in Pachacamac and the Internacional de la Primavera held in the city of Trujillo, considered by many to be the cradle of the Peruvian Paso breed.
Image credits: Peruvian.Horse, Gay Travel Herald/Nathan DePetris, North American Peruvian Horse Association.