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The Barb As A Foundation Breed

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Tags: Barb, Breeding, History and Origins

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In the development of horse breeds, early horse management and husbandry programs lacked the specific insight into genetics that modern breeding programs can take advantage of. For this reason most programs were a bit hit and miss, with problems often developing within breeding lines because of lack of knowledge by breeders. Typically breeders would look for desired traits in both stallions and mares, then breed the two horses anticipating that the offspring would possess the desired traits of both breeds. Many times inbreeding, or breeding that offspring back to the same line was believed to further enhance those qualities and to strengthen their expression. Of course inbreeding itself had further problems, leading to genetic conditions, often recessive, that then became established within certain lines.

The Oriental types of horses such as the Arabians, Turkomenes, Barbs, and even the Akha -Teke were much sought after by breeders of military horses as they were so hardy, athletic, and so well adjusted to living in a variety of different environmental conditions. The Barb horse in particular could withstand extreme heat and drought conditions and still continue to function on long marches and during military campaigns. They were also able to tolerate the cold much better than other Oriental breeds. The intelligence and ability to live off small rations or off almost non-existent grazing reserves also helped develop the demand for the Barb horses in breeding programs outside of the northern coast of Africa.

Since the Barb horse was used by the Islamic military movement of these times, everywhere that the military traveled the Barb horse spread. These means that the Barb was seen in what is now Spain, most specifically in the area of Andalusia, where it greatly influenced several of the Iberian breeds. The modern Spanish breed that the Barb had the greatest influence on is the Andalusian horse which is used in dressage competitions on an international level. From Spain the Barb, although not always in a pure form, spread throughout Europe and into the United Kingdom. The Royal Stud of England actually imported several Barb stallions directly from the Barbary Coast of Africa that formed the foundation of the modern English Thoroughbred.

The qualities that most early breeding programs were looking for by crossing the Barb included the stamina, endurance, hardiness, speed, and outstanding performance of the horse over the most challenging types of terrains and conditions. Typically in crossing with another breed they were also trying to increase the refinement, size, and improve the somewhat challenging temperament exhibited by many of the pureblood Barbs. In most breeding programs the desired traits were inherited by the offspring, forming many of the horses that we now know as great competitive horses, race horses, and general all purposes horses.

With the increasing interest in endurance type events there is greater and renewed interest in the Barb horse. The World Organization of the Barb Horse was first founded in Algerian in 1987and works to preserve and promote the Barb horse in modern day Africa and around the world. Due to the crossing with other horse lines and breeds there are very few purebred Barbs surviving today, but there are many Barb type horses that are being registered.


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