Breeds of Horses - A to Z
Originating from the area once known as the Barbary coast in North Africa,
the Barb is the all purpose horse of the area. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
are all part of the region once known as 'Barbery' and it has been noted for
its horses for over 2000 years. The history of the horse is not certain, but
it is believed by some, that it may even trace back to the wild horses that
survived the Ice Age, which would make it an older breed than the Arab. What
we do know is that it has played an important part in breeds all over the
world and that its influence on other breeds is second to the Arab. The
spread of Islam was the major contributory factor for both the Arab and the
Barb being introduced into Europe.
In 711 the Muslim army landed in Spain with their Barb horses. During the
Moorish occupation of Spain the Barbs were crossed with Spanish stock, in
particular the Andalusian.
In the following centuries many Barbs were imported into England, Richard II
(1367-1400) was famed to have one called 'Roan Barbary' and Henry VIII was
also known to have imported them. Also during the sixteenth century the
Spanish Conquistadors moved into and colonised parts of Texas and Argentina,
their Barbs integrated with the wild horses, the 'Mustangs' and the
'Criollos'. In the seventeenth century large numbers continued to be
imported to England.
The breed is extremely hardy and enduring. It has a good turn of speed over
a short distance. Less attractive than the Arab, it stands at about 14.2 to
15.2 h.h. It is predominantly grey, bay, brown, chestnut and black. The head
is long and convex with large eyes and well shaped ears; the neck is arched;
flat shoulders and defined withers; short, strong back and body; sloping
hindquarters with a low set tail; slender, strong limbs; hard, sound feet.
It is capable of surviving on meagre rations and in the wild. The most well
known modern day Barb horses are the ones used in the Algerian and Tunisian
cavalry by the Spahis men and the ones seen at North African festivals in
the rifle firing charge.