Gudbrandsdal Horse Breed
Very much resembling the Swedish and Finnish native pony, being also hardy, strong, and rather small, are two Norwegian breeds. Most of the horses are to be found on the north or west coasts of Norway and are usually dun with a black stripe along the back. The Gudbrandsdal Valley (Ostland) breed is very well known abroad and in Sweden and Poland, and can be seen all over Norway. It is a horse of medium size with a good gait.
Any consideration of this horse should be made in connection with all the Scandinavian and North European horses, which, as remarked elsewhere, are remarkably similar in many characteristics.
Danubian Horse Breed
This is the third principal Bulgarian breed, based on the Nonius breed of the G. Dimitrov Stud Farm. The Danubian horses are of medium size, massive but compact, with energetic movements. The average height is 15.2 hands.
The Danubian is a good performer for a medium-heavy load, and for equestrian events, especially jumping, and is used as foundation stock for the improvement of the horse population in Northern Bulgaria along the banks of the Danube river, and in the plains of Southern Bulgaria.
Special measures have been taken for the development of these horses over the past ten or 15 years. The foundation stock includes at present 100 English Thoroughbred mares and 16 stallions, mostly imported from Russia, Poland, Germany and Romania.
Konik Horse Breed
There are several native breeds of pony in Poland, which go under the general name of Konik (meaning ‘small horse’). These all have their own names; Hucul, Zmudzin, Bilgoraj Konik, and many others. The Bilgoraj Konik, in particular, is said to be a direct descendant of wild horses.
In 1936 attempts were made by Professor Vetulani of Pozan University to breed the forest horseback to its original wild state. The great forest of Bialowieza was made into a national park, and among the animals brought back there was a stallion, ‘Tref’, and a mare, ‘Czajka’, both of which had the remarkable property, possessed by certain animals, such as the hare, grouse, etc., of turning white in winter, a characteristic unusual of the horse.
Every winter they changed their mouse-grey summer coats, with the black dorsal stripes, into white coats, only the face, fetlocks, mane, and tail retaining the normal dark color. After three years of breeding, there were eighteen horses in the park at Bialowieza, of which eight had been born in the forest. Some of these inherited the characteristic of changing from a summer coat to a winter coat. The same Professor Vetulani asserts that the wild horse, described by Herodotus as grazing in the northern marshy land may well have been this Polish wild pony grazing in the Polesie bogs situated close to the Bialowieza Forest.
Apart from the Konik, the greater proportion of the Polish peasant horses being to the type of Mierzyn, which means a medium horse between two sizes, usually 13 to 14 hands. The small size, as in all these native pony breeds, is more than compensated by their outstanding qualities of hardiness, endurance, ability to live on next to nothing, vitality, and great fertility, which they always transmit unimpaired to their progeny. Both the Konik and his cousin the Mierzyn are remarkably long-lived and capable of work up to a considerable age. It is quite common in Poland to see a 25-year-old pony still able to work.
In the Baltic States also there is a very popular horse called the ‘Konik horse of the trotter type’, which is, in fact, a working horse. It is derived from a small native horse graded up for many generations by trotter stallions. This breed represents a medium-sized, tough, and good-tempered working horse, and is held in high esteem for its hardiness, endurance, speed, and unexacting food requirements. In short, its virtues are the result of its vigorous upbringing in severe climatic conditions.
Scandinavian Horse Breed
This term includes the ‘Fjord Horse’ of Norway, the Gudbrandsdal, another Norwegian indigenous breed, and the native ponies of Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic States.
In appearance and ancestry, so far as is known, they belong to that group of horses comprising the ponies of the British Isles and North-west Europe generally, deriving from what Professor Cossor Ewart has called Equus celticus. At the time when extensive animal migration seems to have been in progress, the British Isles were joined to Europe by land, which tends to support the idea of common origin.
The Finnish horse of today is of medium size, very agile and nimble-footed, with great staying power and toughness of constitution, good, hard feet and strong legs, body thick and muscular. It is mainly used for draught in either wheeled carts or sleighs.
The Swedish horse, according to R. Bolin in ‘Contribution of the Knowledge of the Origin of the Horse in Sweden’, was originally introduced into the country from the Baltic regions from a type supposed to have originated in Ukraine. There have been found in Sweden the neck vertebrae of a prehistoric horse identical with the Russian tarpan. Besides this native animal, which varies very little from the Finnish pony, there are various cultivated breeds in Sweden that are considered separately.
Historically horses are not mentioned in Sweden until the 6th century, by which time the Swedes were renowned for their horses. Generally, the horse appears late in Scandinavia, as may be gathered from their mythology. Thor, the most ancient of the northern gods, is never shown on horseback or in a chariot; the later deities, however, have taken to the horse, Odin on his eight-legged grey ‘Sleipnir’, Heimdal on a yellow-maned horse.
In Norway, in addition to the horse of the Fjords, there is an original type of island horse known as the Gudbrandsdal, which was well known in North Europe and has been one of the past founders of the modern Swedish breeds. He is a larger animal than the Fjord horse and a good riding horse too.
In the Baltic States are horses of the same primitive types, notably the small Estonian or Smudish (Zmudzin), the Zemaitukas. A Baltic derivative of these types is the Pange, which is a cross between native mares and trotter stallions and is very popular as a riding and working horse. It ranges between 14 and 15 hands high, and has all the tough enduring qualities of its ancient forbears, together with good temper and speed.
In reviewing this breed it is well to have in mind what has been written of the Fjord, the Gudbrandsdal, and indeed any and all of the North European breeds, because of their close affinity, and in the main their original tap-root. Just as the tropical and semi-tropical climates have produced the ‘hot-blood’ type of horse, as exemplified by the Arab, so the cold northern climates have evolved the ‘cold-blood’ breeds such as that now described.
Criollo Horse Breed
The Criollo is the native pony from South America, derived from the original Arab and Barb strains brought to South America through Spain at the time of the Conquest. Having suffered rigorous natural selection covering a period of some three hundred years of wildlife, their chief characteristics and qualities of great hardiness and ability to live underexposure have been attained.
At the time of the invasion, the Spanish cavalry ranked as the highest to be found in Europe. In the formation of the Criollo, the oriental blood brought by the Moors to Spain was more potent than that of the horses existing in the Iberian Peninsula, by reason of its greater purity and selection, which lasted through eight centuries of Mohammedian domination, and in consequence, it may be assumed, had considerable influence on the conquest of the New World.
In the South American pampas, driven into a wild environment following the destruction of Buenos Aires by the Indians, new natural selection began to take place, resulting in much physical perfection due to the severe struggle for existence. The weak and organically unsound perished, while the survivors became the progenitors of the Criollo breed.
Such formidable disadvantages as prairie fires, great changes of temperature, dust storms, frosts and floods (not to mention wild dogs) had to be contended with. No doubt it is to the advantage of the horse that he has acquired the peculiarly helpful and characteristic colouring of khaki or dun, which is similar to that of the sandy wastes, straw, or burnt-up pastures or gravel of the countryside. In short, the Criollo adopts protective colouring, as do many other animals and plants in nature.
It is a small wonder that the breed is outstanding in those virtues that are so necessary to the real utility horse. The Criollo has figured largely and successfully in many endurance tests, both official and otherwise. It may be noted here that the two famous horses “Mancha” and “Gato” were Criollos, and that they, at the ages of 15 and 16, took part in that epic of endurance when they carried Professor A.F. Tschiffely from Buenos Aires to New York, overcoming incredible difficulties and covering 13,350 miles at an average of 26.5 miles per day, and achieving a record in altitude of 19,250 feet. An outstanding incident of this amazing journey was that they travelled 93 miles across an Ecuador desert without water in temperatures of 120 degrees.
Description: Dun, striped, skewbald or piebald. Medium-sized. Weight, about 940lb. Height, 13.3 to 14.3 hands. Head, broad at the base, poll narrow, broad forehead with plenty of skulls, but narrow face. Neck, of medium size. Withers, muscular and clearly defined. Shoulders, semi-oblique. Generous ribs, showing little light underbody. Back, short and deep. Croup, semi-oblique. Forearms and legs, broad and muscular. Cannon-bone short with tendons well separated. Joints are clean and rounded. Chestnuts are small and only in the region of the hocks. Pasterns medium length. Character and disposition, bright and active.
Having regard to the work which this horse has been called upon to carry out in the past, and is in fact now doing in great numbers in South America, it is not surprising that it has an admirable framework on the best of legs.
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