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origin of the creole horse

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Discover the history and the origin of the Latin American creole horse.

To better appreciate and understand the breeds of each country in this vast continent, you may wish to consult the pages dedicated to these attractive creole breeds.

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This brief resume of th history of the horse from the pampa can seem insufficient to satisfy completely your curiosity. That is why two new pages will permit you to enrich your knowledge of the history and the origins of the Criollo Horse.

The pre-historical period evokes the apparition and the extinction of the horse in America and more precisely in the South of this continent.

The historical period starts with the spanish conquest of South America. The text explains the surviving of the iberical horses that will allow the apparition of a new equine breed, the Criollo breed.

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Origins of the Criollo horse of the Pampa

Brief introduction

The creole horse (Criollo in Argentina) of Latin America is a direct descendant of the horses brought to the New World in the time of Christopher Columbus by the Spanish conquistadores during the 16th century, most notably by Don Pedro Mendoza, founder of the city of Buenos Aires.

Many of his war horses escaped or were abandoned, and quickly returned to a wild state, in an ideal environment for their development. These were Portugese, Barbe and Spanish (particularly Andalouses) horses, who transmitted their blood and their principal morphological characteristics to the Criollo breed.

During four centuries, the Criollo breed adapted to the environment of the open plains of South America, which lead to a severe natural selection. This adaptation to the living conditions permitted the Criollo to develop its reknowned qualities of resistance to disease and drought.

First the Indians, then the Gauchos, turned the Criollo into their mode of transportation, their hunting or working companion, and their partner in games. Since, the Criollo has always been the horse of the Gaucho for his work with cattle.

© Argentina,
Secretaria de turismo

Its hardiness is the pride of Criollo breeders, who organize competitions of endurance over distances up to 750 km (465 miles) covered in fourteen days. The horses are heavily loaded (110 kilos, or 245 lbs, of rider and saddle) and feed only on the grass found on the region covered. The horse who finishes the competition without being eliminated by the judges or the veterinarians will have lost weight, but appears just as energetic as the first day of the contest.

At the end of the last century, the introduction of European and North American stallions brought about a degeneration of the breed. A rigorous selection lead by a handful of interested breeders lead to the reconstitution of the breed, which was admitted in 1918 to the Argentine studbook.

Today, in almost all the countries of South America, breeds descending from the Criollo are raised and protected. Argentina claims the Criollo horse the closest to the breed standard.

Criollo horses in the wild

Photo © Gwénola Pesántez

Criollo horses photographed at 4400 metres of altitude in the Páramo de Cotopaxi (Ecuador). Wild, they are the descendants of Spanish horses that became adapted to the altitude and the cold climate.

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