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10 Native South and Latin American Horse Breeds

10 Native South and Latin American Horse Breeds

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From the Andes Mountains to Machu Picchu, South America is full of adventure and stunning sights. In addition, you can find some of the most incredible horse breeds in South America.

South America is home to some of the most beautiful horse breeds, many of which are gaited as well. The most recognizable South American and Latin American breeds include the Mangalarga Marchador, Puerivan Paso, Paso Fino, Falabella, Criollo, Chilean Horse, Campeiro, Campolina, Brazilian Sport Horse, and Pampa.

Many of these exquisite horses owe their origins to Spanish horses.

Here are ten Latin and South American horse breeds.

1. Mangalarga Marchador

Mangalarga Marchador mare with a bay coat trotting in a field
Belarmino Essado /

The Mangalarga Marchador is the national horse breed of Brazil and is highly-prized among the people. In fact, Brazil is home to over half a million of these incredible horses.

The Mangalarga Marchador dates back to the mid-18th century. Francisco Gabriel Junqueira imported Lustanios to Brazil and began breeding them with Barbs and horses local to the area, resulting in smooth-gaited horses.

Junqueira named these horses he was breeding Sublime. He then sold Sublime horses to a farm called Mangalarga in Rio de Janeiro and the breed quickly grew in popularity.

Soon, people began referring to the horses as Mangalarga. In 1934, the Mangalarga Breeders Association formed to establish a clear breeding direction and function of the breed. Horses must undergo inspection by breed judges to be registered.

Mangalarga Marchadors are famous for their incredible endurance and ability to work cattle. Though they do not perform a true trot, they walk, canter, marcha batida, and the marcha picada.

The marcha batida and the marcha picada are both four-beat, somewhat ambling gaits that are medium-speed and incredibly smooth.

Mangalarga Marchadors have an elegant, Baroque style build with arched necks, powerful hindquarters, deep chests, and also muscular bodies. They have a straight profile with ears that point slightly in.

Mangalarga Marchador horses are on average 14.2 to 16 hands tall and are primarily pinto, bay, gray, or chestnut in color. As a versatile breed, Mangalarga Marchadors excel at endurance, cutting, reining, working cattle, hunt seat, and dressage.

2. Peruvian Paso

Peruvian Paso horse standing on the lawn of a house being held with a head collar on
Lorraine Swanson /

The Peruvian Paso’s origin traces back hundreds of years and they have since become an important breed in Peru. In fact, the Peruvian government protects them and Peru has even declared this exceptional breed as part of the Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

In the 16th century, Spanish Conquistadors brought over horses that made up the foundation of the Puerivan Paso breed. Peruvian Pasos descend from Andalusians, Barbs, and the Jennet, an extinct horse breed.

Due to the harsh terrain in Peru, they are famous for their endurance and hardiness, as they are capable of withstanding tough conditions.

Peruvian Pasos do not trot but instead perform two other gaits, the paso llano, and sobreandando. Both of these unique horse gaits are four-beat ambling gaits with the paso llano having a 1-2-3-4 rhythm and the sobreandando having a 1-2, 3-4 rhythm. The sobreandando is often the faster of the two gaits.

Peruvian Pasos are on average 14 to 15 hands tall and come in a variety of colors. They have an elegant yet powerful build, with a thick neck, proud head, and refined legs.

Thanks to their smooth gaits, they are popular at shows and make wonderful trail riding horses.

3. Paso Fino

Paso fino stallion galloping free in summer evening ranch
horsemen /

The Paso Fino is one of the most famous gaited horse breeds in the world. They have a rich history that goes back over 500 years, with roots in Spain.

During their voyage to the Dominican Republic, the Spanish brought over Barbs, Jennets, and Andalusians. The Spanish bred these horses together and spread them throughout Latin America.

Due to their smooth gaits and excellent endurance, Paso Finos were popular workhorses for plantation owners in Puerto Rico and Columbia.

Paso Fino horses don’t perform a trot but instead perform a four-beat evenly-spaced lateral gait where each foot hits the ground independently at precise intervals in a regular sequence. This results in a rapid, unbroken rhythm. They perform their signature gait at three speeds, the Classic Fino, Paso Corto, and Paso Largo.

Bold yet elegant, Paso Finos have a well-muscled body, well-arched neck, expressive head, and refined legs. They stand around 13- 15.2 hands tall and come in a variety of colors. Paso Finos make brilliant show and trail horses.

4. Falabella

Small Falabella pony trotting in a lush meadow field
horsemen /

Native to Argentina, the Falabella is a breed of miniature horse. These pint-sized horses are said to be the original miniature horse.

To the surprise of many, Falabella horses actually trace back to Andalusians and Iberian horses. After unsuccessful attempts to conquer Argentina, the Spanish left their horses behind.

Patrick Newtall began breeding local Criollo stock with descendants of these Spanish horses in the 1800s to create a smaller horse.

Upon Newtall’s death, Jaun Falabella, Newtall’s son-in-law, took over breeding. Falabella were later bred with Welsh ponies, small Thoroughbreds, and Shetland ponies to create miniature-sized horses. After a lot of inbreeding and ups and downs, he created consistency within the breed.

Falabella horses have the proportions of a regular horse, but in a miniature size. All horses stand around 30-34 inches and come in a large variety of colors, with leopard-spotted being among the most popular.

Falabellas have refined heads, elegant yet hardy builds, and friendly personalities. They are popular as companions and show horses, competing in driving and in-hand.

Also Read: 5 Smallest Horse Breeds in the World.

5. Criollo

Criollo horse standing in a field by a tree while being held by a human off camera
Daniel Bastos /

Native to the Pampas region of South America, the Criollo breed comes from early Spanish horses. They are the descendants of horses that came to the Americas from Spanish Conquistadors. 

Criollo horses trace back to early Andalusian horses and are closely related to Spanish Barbs. Originally bred for war, they have compact and sturdy builds with excellent endurance. They are able to thrive in tough conditions as they worked regularly used on plantation owners to tend to land and animals.

Criollos have been a popular choice of mount for Gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina. During the 19th century, English horses and Percherons were introduced to the bloodlines, however, the results were less than desirable.

Zootechnist Don Emilio Solanet took on the task of reinstating the purity of the breed, leading to a formal registry.

The Criollo horse is on average 14 to 15 hands tall with a muscular neck, strong body, and broad chest. Criollos are famous for their versatility, excelling at rodeo, ranch work, polo, endurance, and trail riding.

6. Chilean Horse

Chilean Horse grazing in the Argentinian wild
kavram /

As one of the oldest breeds in South America, the Chilean horse’s origin traces back to Spanish horses. Also called the Chilean Corralero, they are the oldest registered stock horse in the Western hemisphere.

In 1557, governor Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza arrived in Chile with 42 horses, which were the beginning of the Chilean horse breed.

These horses, of Spanish blood, were popular among locals for work and as war horses. Geographical isolation led to a pure form of the breed, influenced by the environment and the needs of the local people.

Chilean horses have close ties with the huaso or Chilean stock herders. They are popular in Chile for working cattle and rodeo. In fact, contestants of the Chilean Rodeo can only ride Chilean horses.

Chilean horses have muscular necks, deep chests, and strong bodies, with some of the thickest manes and tails out of any horse breed. They stand at 13.1-14.2 hands tall, with all colors but albino being accepted. Thanks to their natural cow sense, Chilean horses excel at ranch work, rodeo, and trail riding.

7. Campeiro

A black Campeiro horse standing in a South American field being held by a woman off camera

The Campeiro is a gaited breed that is native to Brazil. Also known as the Marchador das Araucárias, they come from the area of the Araucária forests of southern Brazil.

In the early 1540s, Captain Alveres Nunes brought Spanish and Portuguese stock to Brazil. During his expedition, some of the horses were lost and formed wild herds.

In 1728, another group of explorers stumbled across the horses, capturing some to start a breeding program. They selectively bred them to enhance their ambling gait, using them for plantation work.

In the 19th century, Thoroughbred and Arabian stock were introduced to refine the breed. A breed association formed in 1976, with the studbook forming in 1985. Their ambling gait can be lateral or diagonal, while being faster and smoother than a trot.

Campeiro horses are hardy, with an arched neck, wide chest, and well-muscled body. They stand around 14-15 hands tall and are most commonly bay, chestnut, or gray, though they can come in other colors as well. They are popular work horses on farms and also make great show horses.

8. Campolina

Campolina horse stallion trotting in a field
Nicole Ciscato /

The Campolina is a gaited Brazilian horse breed. They are named after Cassiano Campolina, a farmer who developed the breed in the late 1800s.

In 1870, a friend of Campolina gave him a black Barb mare, which he bred with an Andalusian stallion. The resulting foal, named Monarca, became the foundation stallion of the breed.

Over the next 25 years, Campolina bred Monarca’s bloodlines with Clydesdale, Anglo-Norman, American Saddlebred, Holsteiner, and Mangalarga Marchador horses.

By the 1930s, the breed standard was officially established and the studbook closed. Thanks to their willing energy and exceptionally smooth gaits, they quickly became a popular horse across Brazil and throughout South America.

Though the Campolina is a relatively new breed, there are approximately 85,000 Campolinas registered, with over 7,300 registered breeds. They have a four-beat ambling gait referred to as the ‘true marcha’.

Campolinas are recognizable for their signature convex profile, as their head curves near their eyes. They have an arched neck, well-muscled body, and refined yet strong legs.

Campolinas are on average 16 hands tall and are often dun, bay, buckskin, pinto, or silver gray. They are a versatile horse breed mostly used for ranch work, trail riding, dressage, and driving.

9. Brazilian Sport Horse

Brazilian Sport Horse trotting beside a fence in a field
Photo by Marina Cervato. Owned by @harasconcorde

Developed in the 1970s, The Brazilian Sport horse is a relatively new breed. They are becoming increasingly popular in the sport horse world thanks to their outstanding athletic ability.

In 1970, bloodlines of the Cirillo, Trakehner, and the Anglo-Argentine were combined to create a horse with athleticism and a solid work effort.

In addition, Andalusian, Thoroughbred, Oldenburger, Westphalian, Irish Sport Horse, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Selle Francais, and Belgian Warmbloods also influenced the breed. This resulted in a tireless sport horse that continues to grow in popularity across South America, North America, and Europe.

Despite being a new breed, there have already been five Brazilian Sport horses in the Olympics. In 2000, a Brazilian Sport horse took third place at the World Breeding Championships for Young Horses and later second place at the American Championship for Young Horses.

Brazilian Sport horses have an athletic build, balanced build with willing, hard-working personalities. They stand around 16 hands tall and are commonly chestnut, bay, and gray. These agile horses excel at dressage, eventing, and jumping.

10. Pampa

Pampa horse breed native to Brazil standing in the South American wild
Andrea Izzotti /

The Pampa horse is a gaited breed native to Brazil. Only pinto horses can be registered.

Pampa horses evolved from Spanish horses that were brought over in the 16th century, along with Dutch and Portuguese horses, that later became wild. These horses were also crossed Campolina and Mangalarga Marchador, along with other breeds that are often spotted to get their own signature coat color.

Pampas are hardy horses, capable of withstanding tough weather and terrain. Local tribes developed this unique breed based on their personal needs. They soon became popular for their beautiful coats and smooth gaits.

Pampa horses have a straight or a slightly convex profile, a slightly arched neck, and a well-muscled body. They stand around 13.3- 14.2 hands and come in a variety of pinto patterns. They are a great choice for endurance, working cattle, and trail riding.

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