Oriental Horse Breeds

The Barb

The Barb, sometimes called the Berber, is one of the oldest of the oriental horse breeds. It is one of the pervading Eastern influences on most of today's horse breeds, particularly old Iberian stock which in turn founded most of the American breeds.The conquistadores took their Iberian horses to the Americas resulting in the eventual development of a myriad of different breeds. The mustang, paso fino, criollo, quarter horse, appaloosa and Peruvian stepping horse all owe part of their make-up to the Barb.

Over many centuries it has had a profound influence and has helped found many of the most successful breeds of today. It has not achieved the world-wide popularity of the Arab although it has had a similar impact on many of the breeds, in particular the older breeds. Its homeland is North Africa in the area corresponding to old-time Barbary ie Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

Arizona's Spanish Barbs
Amazon Price: $25.95 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 3, 2015)
These horses date back to the late 1600s
and the horses of the Jesuit missionary
and explorer, Father Eusebio Kino.

The Barb is the hardiest of all the oriental breeds. It is highly resistant to, fatigue, disease and changes in climate. It is tough, fast and responsive. It is a late maturer and does not reach maturity until six years old. It was highly prized as a war horse both by the Tuaregs in its native Africa and in Europe.

The Tuaregs were a fierce nomadic tribe and the only Berbers to successfully defend their extensive territories from the Arab invasions. Thus their horses remained uncontaminated by the Arab. It was a superb warhorse.

Berber warriorsCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berber_warriors_show.JPG

It is a lightly built, athletic, desert horse standing between 14 and 15 hh or sometimes a little higher. True Barbs are bay, brown and black. Those with Arab blood may be chestnut or grey. The head is rather long and narrow with pronounced jaws, a straight or convex profile and low-set, open nostrils. The ears are of medium length, fine and pointed.

The neck is of medium length, well muscled and arched. The back is short and straight, the quarters sloping, the tail low set and flowing. It has a wide, deep chest and long, sloping shoulder. The legs are slender but solid with broad joints, long cannons, and prominent, clearly defined tendons. As with many desert breeds, the hooves are extremely hard and well-formed, with tough horn. It is not as spirited or as beautiful as the Arabian nor does it have the floating, springy action. The mane and tail are more profuse than that of the Arab.

Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America
Amazon Price: $29.95 $8.68 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 3, 2015)
A guide to the numerous horse breeds of
North America.

It is probable that the breed was introduced into Europe in the 8th century at the time of the Moorish invasion of Spain, where it gave rise to the Andalusian. Barbs were repeatedly crossed with Arabs and became so rare that purebreds could only be found among remote tribes in the mountains and desert of Morocco.

The Barb is little known outside its homeland where it is used for riding, racing and display.

Other breeds influenced by the Barb include the thoroughbred, Welsh mountain, camargue, percheron, lipizzaner, oldenburg, kladruber, carthusian, andalusian and Swedish warmblood.