Ride Around the World Horse: The Barb of Morocco

In the spirit of this year's Ridefest theme, "Ride Around the World," we're going to explore a horse breed from across the world each week. 

The Barb

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Environment: Desert
Origin: Prehistoric
Blood: Hot
Colors: All solid
Uses: Saddle

The Barb is second only to the Arabian as one of the founding breeds of the world's horse population. Its derivative, the Spanish Horse, provided the basis for many of the foremost breeds of Europe and for most of those of the Americas. The Barb must also be recognized as having a part in the evolution of the Thoroughbred.

Breeding: The breed comes from Morocco, in North Africa. It is postulated that it may have constituted a group of wild horses that escaped the effects of the Ice Age. If so, then it is a breed as old as, or older than, the Arabian. At some time, the Barb must have acquired a percentage of Arabian blood, but its conformation owes nothing to the Arabian ideal; this points to the existence of a massively dominant gene. In recent years, there has been much refinement of the traditional Barb, which was the superlative mount of the Berber horsemen who played such a large part in the Muslim Conquest. Although there is no definitive answer to the vexed question of the Barb's origin, it is held that fundamental differences do exist between the Barb and the Arabian.

Characteristics: Not an impressive horse, the Barb has a sloping quarter, a low-set tail, and a plain head with a skull formation verging on that of the primitive horse types. The profile is straight and sometimes Roman-nosed. Nonetheless, the breed's endurance and stamina are unlimited, and indicative of primitive vigor. It is also exceptionally agile and can travel very fast over short distances. 

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Edwards, Elwyn Hartley; Langrish, Bob (PHT). “Barb.” Smithsonian Handbooks Horses, Dk Pub., pp. 172-173.

CJ BankheadRidefest, Event