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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Argentine Criollo (AC)   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The Argentine Criollo is the oldest native Argentine horse breed. It was always famous for its extraordinary endurance, and was extensively used to create new breeds in Argentina. Today, it is considered as one of the horses with the best stamina in the world.

During the 16th century, Barb, Arabian, Andalusian, Garanno, and Sorraia horses were introduced to South America by the Spanish conquistadors. Many of these horses escaped into the wild and became feral. Living in the Argentine wilderness, the horses had to survive hot summers and freezing winters while constantly searching for food and water. Over time, only those who had the stamina for these long searches were able to survive. These feral horses became known as Baguales, and those who were captured and tamed became known as Argentine Criollos.

Ever since the Argentine Criollos were tamed they have been famous for their incredible stamina, which was depicted in various stories and records that date as early as the 18th century. According to these records, Argentine Criollos were required to cross thousands of kilometres in harsh terrains, such as arid deserts and tall mountains, while carrying a rider with cargo, and coping with shortage of food and water. Despite these hardships, not only did the Argentine Criollos survive these journeys, but they managed to complete them in a good shape and in an impressive amount of time. These achievements made the Argentine Criollos famous in Argentina, as well as in nearby countries.

Originally, these long journeys were performed out of necessity, such as needing to pass a message from one place to another as fast as possible, across large distances. While today there is no more need for such lengthy journeys, it is important to remember that these journeys allowed breeders to constantly test the stamina of their stock. This is why in today's Argentina, Argentine Criollos are still being tested annually for their endurance, and those who don't pass the test are banned from breeding.

In such tests, purebred Argentine Criollos have a minimum of 65 hours, but a maximum of 75 hours, to cover a distance of 750 kilometers. In addition, during the entire test, horses are allowed to feed only on the vegetation that they find along the road, just like the Argentine Criollo horses who completed the long journeys hundreds of years ago. Unlike them, however, today's horses are assessed in various checkpoints along the course, and those who are in a bad shape are removed from the test.

Back in the 19th century, the Argentine Criollo was highly valued for its hardiness and endurance, which is why it was used extensively for creating other breeds, and namely the now extremely popular Argentine Polo Pony. Crossbreedings were so common that by the beginning of the 20th century, the purebred Argentine Criollo began to disappear.

Luckily, the breed was saved by Argentine breeders who continued to breed and preserve purebred Argentine Criollos. Today, the Argentine Criollo is one of the most popular breeds in Argentina. It serves as an endurance and pleasure riding horse, and as a mount for gauchos, who use this breed to work cattle and to compete in gymkhana events.

Argentine Criollos are robust horses who have a sturdy conformation and a muscular build. The head is short and has a straight or subconvex profile, the ears can be curved inwards, the neck is arched, and the croup is rounded with a light slope. The legs are sturdy, and are shorter than the legs of most other breeds. This gives the Argentine Criollos a noticeably rectangular frame. The mane and tail are very thick, though the mane is often kept short. Last, many Argentine Criollos may also have a little feathering on their fetlocks.

Argentine Criollos are usually bay or dun in color, but the colors of black, brown, chestnut, grey, roan, palomino, buckskin, and smoky black also exist in this breed. In addition, many Argentine Criollos have white markings and some also sport sabino markings on their face, legs, and body. The coat is usually solid, but the patterns of sabino, frame-overo, and, more rarely, manchado, also exist in this breed. Tobiano, on the other hand, doesn't exist in the Argentine Criollos- but does exist in Brazilian Crioulos (see the 'Brazilian Crioulo' for more information.)

It is very important to remember that Argentine Criollos who lack too much color and have only pink skin are banned from registration and breeding. This means that double-cream dilutes (CC), dominant white, and maximum sabino don't exist in this breed. Therefore, crossing Cc horses with each other, or crossing Sbsb horses with each other, can result in a grade foal. In addition, pinto horses who lack too much color (e.g. have maximal pinto coats) will be penalized as well.

Argentine Criollos stand between 13.2hh and 14.3hh.


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