Evidence of the prepotency of the Iberian horse can easily be seen by looking at the SORRAIA and the similar GARRANOS which remain as totally wild horses even today along the Iberian Peninsula. It is thought that the ancestors of these horses were perhaps amongst the very first horses to be domesticated within Europe. These two breeds had a major impact on the development of performance horses both in the US and Europe from the 16th century to the present date.
The two breeds are classed as primitive horses in a similar in appearance and make up to the Tarpan and likely being a direct descendant of that horse and perhaps the Asiatic wild horse. Likely to arrange was far wider than it is today be concentrating around areas are provided permanent water supplies, warm or even temperatures and good pastures. Larger versions would have been seen on the plains with smaller versions in the steppes and the mountains
Previously there has been a land bridge between Europe and Africa during ice ages from years gone by so though they are primarily Iberian they have also been influenced by the North African bar and Arab horses. The current horses of course have also been affected by an amount of crossbreeding with escaped domestic horses in the abandoned mounts of invading forces in the Middle Ages. They are ancestors to the modern day Andalucian, Lusitano, and Alter-Real.
The history of Iberia long before its division into the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, Portugal, Navarre, Aragon, and Granada in the period between 1212 and 1402 was a continuing saga of invasion and occupation. Carthaginians, Vandals, and Visigoths, together with their horses, moved into, and sometimes through, the area that was to become so important in terms of the development of the equine races.
The Vandals who had settled in Andalucia migrated to Africa, leaving what remained of the Visigoths to be conquered by the Moors, who were followers of Islam and came from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
The influence of the Moors was decisive on both the human and equine populations of Spain. They invaded between 311 and 312 when over 25,000 men and their horses, predominantly Barbs from North Africa , crossed into Spain, and their empire did not begin to decline until 1212 when its armies were defeated at Las Navas de Tolosa by the combined forces of the kings of Aragon and Castile. Granada, the last Moorish state, did not fall until 1492
To this day, the indelible imprint of the Moorish Empire remains apparent in the art, architecture, people, and horses of Iberia. As well as Barbs, many Arab horses of pure desert descent entered Spain; an early Caliph of Cordoba, for example, kept no fewer than 2,000 Arab horses in his stables by the River Guadalquivir. Nonetheless, the overriding impression is that the evolution of the Iberian Horse resulted from an ongoing cross-fertilization between the indigenous stock and the Barbs of North Africa.
THE SORRAIA AND GARRANOS
The Sorraia Pony was a plains horse whose traditional lands were the areas between the rivers Sor and Raia which run through Spain and Portugal the two rivers making up the horses name. The Garranos however is a mountain horse stemming from the fertile Mt valleys and steps of Garranos do Minho and Traz dos Montes, north of the Sor in Portugal.
The antiquity of the breeds is obvious though it has been deleted by constant crossbreeding with Arabs over thousands of years leaving them with an appearance to his far less primitive than that of their ancestors. The Garranos are sturdily built ponies with a small well shaped head slightly concave as a result of breeding with Arabs
The Sorraia has seen less impact from crossbreeding another horses and is notably more primitive in appearance. Many individuals could be easily mistaken for a Tarpan with exceptionally similar conformation, colour and coat texture though their appearance was even closer prior to 1960 when the wild herds had seen even less impact from breeding with domestic horses. They lacked concave head of the Garranos in fact their head is somewhat convex
The modern Sorraia is an attractive h in many ways resembling a miniature Andalucian or Lusitano. They stand a relatively tiny 1.22 and 1.32 m (12-13 hh). They are extremely hardy and able to tolerate extremes in temperature both hot or cold and require little feed to thrive. Typically herds of Sorraia will be found living quite happily on land most horses would find inhospitable. The coat colour is deer grey, primitive dun colour or sometimes a muddy palomino yellow. They often exhibit primitive horse markings such as dark points, and zebra or eel striping. They have black manes and tails with long black tipped ears set high on their head typical of the primitive horse.
The horses were used to centuries by the local cowboys to perform a variety of light agricultural tasks such as stock herding and light filled work. The industrial revolution saw them lose favour and as a result numbers dwindled however the breed has now been protected by the state in an area has been set aside to encourage the conservation and continuation as a breed.
There are no breeders or individual Sorraia or Garranos ponies in Australia and this is unlikely to change this article simply had to do my pet site because they are such an interesting breed being great examples of a bridging species from primitive to modern day horse. Part primitive part Iberian and some part Arab.