Friday, October 31, 2008

What in the World is a Barb ?

More than 3,000 years ago, horses from southwestern Asia and the Persian plateau went with their human masters along trading/sailing routes of the Mediterranean and were crossed onto the Afro-Turkic horses of North Africa. The journey did not end there and this breed type went further along to the shores of modern Spain, Portugal, Cornwall and Brittany. These horses, when bred with the native, draft-type, Iberian horses, produced unusually hardy foals capable of greater endurance than either their sires or their dams. The ensuing centuries of trade, commerce and wars resulted in what could be best described as pragmatic breeding; they used the best of the available ‘type’ from horses in each region they traveled to create the hardiest, most useable horse that would best fit their needs. In the fifth century A.D., Gothic invaders stole herds of Iberian horses during their incessant warfare and took them to North Africa on their constant raids, where they were backcrossed on to the blood of their ancestors, the horse of Afro-Turkic extraction/type. Enter stage right, the Barbary Horses, or Barbs. While the Iberian influence was evident in these horses, the infusion of Afro-Turkic bloodlines resulted in a lighter body type. Less refined than the Arabian, another ancient breed heavily influenced by the Afro-Turkic stock. These horses were hardy, fast and courageous enough to be used for warfare by the Berber warriors. The conformation characteristics included sub-convex, profiles, short and round cannon bones rather than oblong, short backs with low-set tails which allowed them to manuever quickly in warfare and coil thier loins for leaping (airs above ground) during battle.

While I am not a historian, Dr Deb Bennett is and is also a world renowned Paleo-archeologist. Much of what I have researched is directly from her various books, articles and website content found on her own website which I have posted in my favorites . More specifically, the article she wrote titled The origins and Relationships of the Mustang, Barb and the Arabian Horse does a wonderful job explaining in much more depth this history of these horses.

I have owned several horses over the years and have found few that I could say match the sensibility, intelligence, and sensitivity of the Barb. They are a versatile breed that make excellent all around using horses and combine stamina, endurance and hardiness.

For additional information and Robert Painters account of his work with the horse , visit

1 comment:

Esther Garvi said...

Dear Joanna,

I just found your blog through a fellow endurance rider and was intrigued that you ride barbs. I live in West Africa, where the barb is the local breed. It's a wonderful horse! I started riding in 1998, bought my first mare in 2004 and now have 6 horses all in all; two of which have been bred from our mares. The main sport here is racing, and the local barb will normally achieve a speed of 50km/h in deep sand. I recently started training endurance with our horses as they have their own particular gait, and are hardworking animals who love to be out in the bush and meet new scenery. Distance seems to be just the right thing!

Is your barb gaited?

Warm greetings from West Africa,