14 Popular Italian Horse Breeds

Italian Horse Breeds
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino

What comes to mind when you hear Italy? You probably imagine the beautiful countryside, stunning art, delicious food, and wine.

However, Italy is home to some of the most beautiful horse breeds in the world, and in this article, we shall discuss 13 native Italian horse breeds.

Italian Horse Breeds

1. Italian Heavy Draft

The Italian Heavy Draft was created in 1860 at the Deposito Cavalli Stalloni stud in Ferrara, Italy. They are also known as the Rapid Heavy Draft, the Italian Working Horse, and the Cavallo Agricolo Italiano da Tiro Pesante Rapido.

The Italian Heavy Draft was initially developed by cross-breeding the Delta stallions with Thoroughbred, Hackney, and Arabian horses.

Then, in 1900, Boulonnais, Ardennes, and Norfolk-Breton blood were added to make a heavier horse. The breed quickly became a reliable choice for agriculture and even military use.

Furthermore, the Italian Heavy Draft horses stand between 14.2 to 15.2 hands tall. They are typically chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, but they can also be bay, red, or roan.

Their muscular frame includes a short neck and back, a deep chest, and strong hindquarters. Moreover, their uses include driving, riding, agriculture work, and meat. 

2. Bardigiano 

The Bardigiano horse is also on the list of Italian horse breeds. This horse breed hails from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and gets its name from the small town of Bardi. 

The mountainous and rocky terrain in the area contributes to the toughness and agility of the Bardigiano. They serve as show, pleasure, and therapy horses.

In addition, the Bardigiano is a small horse that stands between 13.2 and 14.1 hands tall. It comes in various colors, including light bay and chestnut, but is mostly recognized in dark bay. They are docile, calm, and quiet horses that are suitable for use as a child’s horse.

3. Italian Trotter

The Italian Trotter is the result of a selective breeding program for harness racing. They are a new breed, dating back to the late 1800s. This horse breed has the stamina of the French trotter as well as the speed of a Standardbred.

To create the Italian Trotter, Thoroughbred stallions were crossed with French Trotters, Russian Trotters, and Standardbred mares. They quickly became one of the world’s fastest trotting breeds.

Furthermore, the Italian Trotter stands around 16-17 hands tall. It comes in various colors, the most common of which are bay, black, and chestnut. These fast horses have an athletic build and a straight profile. They are exceptional harness horses as well as riders.

4. Calabrese

Among the different types of Italian horse breeds are the Calabrese. This horse breed gets its name from the Calabria region of Italy, where it originated before the founding of Rome.

They are currently a cross between the Andalusian, Thoroughbred, and Arabian breeds. And people mostly use it for pleasure, sport, and riding.

In addition, the Calabrese horse stands at 16 to 16.2 hands tall and is commonly grey, bay, black, or chestnut in color. They are friendly, willing horses who can be spirited, energetic, and powerful.

5. Haflinger

The Haflinger, or the Avelignese, is a hardy breed indigenous to Austria and Southern Tyrolean Mountains. They are quite popular not only in Italy but all over the world.

Their history began in 1874 when the foundation sire 249 Folie was born from a half-Arabian stallion and a refined native Tyrolean mare.

All purebred Haflingers must be able to trace their ancestry back to 249 Folie via seven stallion lines: A, B, M, N, S, ST, and W.

Despite their small size, Haflingers have a draft-like build, refined head, deep chest, and muscular body. They stand at 13.2 to 15 hands tall and are chestnut in color, ranging from chocolate to light gold, with a flaxen mane and tail.

In addition, these horses have long been used as packhorses in the Tyrolean Mountains due to their hardiness. Today, they have various purposes they serve, including dressage, driving, jumping, trail riding, western pleasure, and other activities.

6. Catria 

Catria is also among the different Italian horse breeds. This horse comes from the Monte Catria mountain in the Marche region of Italy. It was developed by cross-breeding Maremmano with the Freiberger (from Switzerland). 

Furthermore, they are smaller horses, measuring 14.2 to 14.3 hands in height, typically grey, roan, bay, or black in color. The Catria is a serious, calm, strong, and hardworking horse that works well in mountain agriculture. This horse is a sport, agricultural, and saddle horse.

7. Murgese

The Murgese horse originated in the Murge, Apulia region of Italy and was developed from Arabian and Barb horses during Spanish rule. They may have also bred with other native Italian breeds, including the Neapolitan breed.

Murgese horses were a favorite among the Italian cavalry in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, as time went on, their population decreased, and they were in danger of going extinct. Fortunately, a selection of 46 mares and nine stallions were used to create a herdbook.

Furthermore, these horses are 14.2 to 16 hands tall and have a blue roan or black coat. People use them for driving, riding, and farm work.

They resemble Friesians in appearance, with a light head, strong, arched neck, and muscular body. However, most people love them for their kind, loving dispositions. 

8. Esperia Pony 

The Esperia pony is among the Italian horse breeds that have its name from the region where it originated. This horse breed is a cross between wild horses from the area and Turkish breeds.

People mostly use them in competitions and serve as show and pack ponies. The Esperia stands 13 to 14 hands tall and is usually black in color.

Also, these ponies are hardy, able to withstand extreme temperatures, and go for several days without water. They are willing, calm, and docile ponies who can be very steady and attentive.

9. Sardinian Anglo-Arab

The Sardinian Anglo-Arab, which is native to the island of Sardinia, is a popular sports horse throughout Italy. They have been selectively bred for over a century.

Ozieri Army Remount Station was the first to use the Sardinian Anglo-Arab as a Calvary mount for the Italian army. 

Native Sardinian mares mixed with Oriental-bred stallions and later with French-bred Anglo-Arabians and Thoroughbreds to produce a reliable cavalry horse. However, the target was later a horse with at least 25% and at most 75% Arabian blood.

The Sardinian Anglo-Arab has gained popularity as a mount for eventing, dressage, jumping, and even racing since the 1960s.

They have an athletic body, a refined head, and are quick-tempered and intelligent. Also, these horses are typically chestnut, bay, brown, gray, or black and stand 15–16 hands tall.

10. Giara 

Unlike most of the horses on this list, the Giara horse is a native of the Italian island of Sardinia and a wild animal. They have been around since at least 6,000 B.C. and have been kept from reproducing for the majority of that time.

They are small horses that range in size from 11.3 to 12.2 hands and are typically black, bay, or chestnut in color. You can ride the Giara, and they have a restless, robust, hardy, and strong personality.

11. Tolfetano 

The Tolfetano is among the Italian horse breeds and is native to the mountainous Monti Della Tolfa range. Although they have ancient bloodlines, their exact origins remain a mystery.

However, according to researchers, the Tolfetano breed may have Berber ancestry. They grew into a tough, dependable breed as a result of their harsh environment and lack of resources. 

In addition, Tolfetanos are a famous working horse among butteri and were once a military mount. They have muscular, stocky builds and stand between 14.1 and 15.2 hands tall. These agile, gentle horses are frequently bay, black, or chestnut in color.

12. Maremmano 

The origins of the Maremmano horses are unknown. However, breeders think they’re the descendants of North African horses, specifically the Barb.

The bloodline has been expanded to include Thoroughbred and Arabian horses. Uses for the Maremmano horse include riding, sport, and endurance.

In addition, this horse is typically grey, bay, or chestnut in color and stands 15 to 16 hands tall. They are loyal, intelligent, and docile horses that are obedient and friendly.

13. Ventasso

The Ventasso is a rare breed of horse indigenous to the upper Val d’Enza valley in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. There are only about 50 of these magnificent horses left today. 

Documentations of the Ventasso trace back to the Serenissima Farnese, Duke Ferdinand of Bourbon, and the Duchy of Maria Louisa of Austria.

In the 1960s, breeders crossed Maremmano stallions and Lippizan with Ventasso stock. Today, though rare, the breed has many uses, including polo, mounted games, and endurance.

In addition, Ventasso horse breeds have a straight profile, a deep chest, and a strong neck. They typically have a bay, gray, or black coat color and are 14.3 to 16 hands tall on average.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our article on the different Italian horse breeds. However, Many of these horses are dead or on the verge of extinction, which would be a terrible loss for Italy and the rest of the world. 

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