The rare Garrano horse, from Gaelic gearran, is a pony of the Iberian horse family and is an endangered breed of horse from northern Portugal, mainly used as a pack horse, for riding, and for light farm work. An ancient breed, the Garrano has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years but is in decline due to predation and loss of interest in breeding for agricultural use. The Garrano is close to the Spanish version Cabalo Galego.
The Garrano itself is the oldest of its kind among the other breeds in the north of the Iberian Peninsula and south-western France which are identified as native to the same Celtic Trunk. Among these, due to their phylogeny and morphology, are the Exmoor pony, the Galician Mountain horse, the Asturcón or the Pottok. Ancient cave paintings and carvings in northern Portugal visualise horses in the same type and colour.
Native to Minho and Trás-os-Montes in Portugal, the rare Garrano horse is one of the great herbivores that plays a fundamental role in the prevention of rural fires, consuming fuel material in large areas and has also been used for many centuries as a pack and work animal.
Because of its size it is considered a pony. It is a tradition to release and breed the horses in semi-feral state in the mountains. Some herds are completely feral in nature reserves, having once inhabited the whole North of Portugal.
The breed’s numbers have been depleted by wolf predation, as they are a preferred prey. They have also declined as they have become less attractive for agricultural work, as a result of which they have been crossbred with other breeds for meat.
The Garrano is, once tamed, an obedient, intelligent, robust, very rustic and sure-footed horse.
While Garranos were traditionally used in agriculture and as pack animals, today they are more used as riding horses, especially in equestrian tourism. They are ridden at small local horse races in the Passo Travado, which are pace races.
The very rare Garrano horse is a small and local breed and has been protected since the 1970s. In 2020 there were 2247 mares, of which only 1474 were purebred, 162 stallions and 435 breeders. The free living Garrano is one of the prey of the wolf, which is also protected in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Garrano — Minho Pony — Marrano — A raça Garrana
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