The Barb horse is one of the world’s oldest breeds, with a history that dates back to 600 A.D., though one theory suggests it may be a survivor of the Ice Age, which ended over 20,000 years ago.
While the Barb horse is certainly its own distinct breed, it is renowned for its impact on countless other breeds. It gets its name from the Barbary Coast of northern Africa, though it has not been confined to that part it world. Instead, it was highly influential in creating modern and extinct breeds, including today’s Thoroughbred, American, and Connemara horses. The Arab is another common and highly influential breed, and it is thought to have crossed with the Barb in the 600s, as modern Barbs share DNA with Arabs, which may be evidence of shared ancestry. Another theory suggests that the Barb is actually a descendent of the Arab horse.
When Muslim troops and their Barb horses invaded Spain in the year 711, their presence and subsequent conquering of land led the Barb to breed with local Spanish horses. From this crossbreeding, the modern day Andalusian and Lusitano horses were born.
Contemporary breeds of the Barb include those produced in the countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. An international organization to promote the breed was established in Algeria in 1987. Though it is hard to find a purebred Barb today, even in its native lands, its historical influence on horses around the world cannot be ignored, as it is still recognisable in many modern breeds. It is suggested that purebred Barbs may still be found in the coastal African country of Cameroon, where it lives with native tribes that have refrained from crossbreeding it with other horses.
The Barb horse has a long, thick neck and a large, lean body. Its tail is carried low on its hind, a physical trait that is unique to the Barb. This breed typically ranges in height from 13-15 hands high. The most common colour of Barb is gray, though other colours are not unheard of, including bay, black, brown and chestnut. It is not as well-renowned for its appearance as the Arab horse, though it is certainly still a beautiful creature. Since the Arab is the more popular of the two types, the Barb is continuously bred to acquire more Arab characteristics. This may lead to the Barb eventually being considered a type of Arab horse rather than a distinct breed of its own.
Common personality traits of the Barb typically point to its strength and agility. It is a fast breed, having contributed its speed and endurance to modern racing horses such as the Thoroughbred. While the Barb is best known for its athleticism, it is also known to have a somewhat unpredictable personality. Some horses of this breed are gentle while others have a fiery temper; often times Barb horses possess a combination of the two.
The Barb horse is hardy and healthy, not known for any breed-specific medical conditions, though it can develop common equine ailments such as colic, joint problems and respiratory illnesses. Swift medical attention and regular veterinary checkups can make a huge difference. A healthy Barb horse can live to be 20-30 years of age.