The Camargue horses are a prehistoric breed native to the Camargue area in the south of France. Its beginnings are still partially strange, it is still thought to be one of the oldest horse species on the planet. For centuries, possibly thousands of years, these small horses have lived wild in the harsh environment of the wetlands and wetlands of the Camargue in the Rhine delta, which covers part of the departments of Gard and Bouches-du-Rhône.
There they developed the stamina, endurance and agility for which they are known today. Traditionally, they live in semi-wild conditions in the marshy lands of the region. The Camargue horse is the traditional mountain of the Guardians, the “jeans” of Camargue who graze the black Camargue bulls used in bullfights in the south of France. The Camargue horses galloping through the water are a popular and romantic image of the region.
🐎 Characteristics of the Camargue Horses
Camargue horses are always gray. This means they have black skin under a white coat like adult horses. They are born with a layer of black or dark brown hair, but as they grow into adulthood, their layer of hair mixes more and more with white hairs until it is completely white.
They are small horses, usually 135 to 150 cm (13.1 to 14.3 hands) on the cross, and weigh between 350 and 500 kg (770 to 1,100 lbs). Despite their small size, they have the strength to carry adult animals. Considered robust and intelligent, they have a short neck, a deep chest, a compact body, well-articulated, strong limbs, and a full head and tail.
The head has many similarities to the prickly horse. He is often heavy, square, and expressive, with bright, wide-open eyes, a straight profile, a flat forehead, and well-chiseled cheek bones. The ears are small, short and well spaced. The forelock is full. The breed has a medium length neck with abundant hair.
The chest is deep and wide, and the shoulder is powerful and muscular. The cross must be defined but not exaggerated. The Camargue horse has a medium-length back, well supported, and a slightly sloping full rump, well-muscled hindquarters, and a low, full tail.
the Camargue horse it has long, well-proportioned legs, strong and resistant, with large knees and claws. Their hooves are hard and tough, with soles that are large and wide, suitable for their original swampy habitat.
🔹 History of the Camargue Horses
Some researchers believe that the Camargue descended from the ancient Solutré horse hunted during the Upper Paleolithic period. The Camargue race was appreciated by the Celtic and Roman invaders who entered the Iberian Peninsula. Its genealogy is closely related to the Iberian horses, especially those of the northern part of the peninsula.
The original Spanish jaca was probably a cross between the Celtic pony and the Camargue. It was later improved with crosses with types of horses from northern Europe and finally with the horse from the south of the peninsula, as the Moors extended their influence to the Pyrenees.
As a result, Camargue genes probably penetrated America through the influence of the jaca, the war horse brought to new lands where resistance was a requirement. Breeds such as the Chilean horse and the Creole show signs of some characteristics that are common in the Camargue breed. The horses of the Camargue were used on a large scale during the construction of the Suez Canal in the 1860s.
In 1976, to preserve breed standards and purity, the French government set breeding standards and began registering the main breeders of the Camargue horse. In 1978, they created the genealogical book of the breed. To be registered, foals must be born outside and must be seen to breastfeed a mare registered as proof of kinship.
Foals born within the defined region of Camargue are registered in sous berceau, while those born elsewhere are registered hors berceau (“out of the cradle” or “place of birth”). They have the square, heavy heads of primitive horses, but the influence of Arabian blood, Barb, and thoroughbred can also be seen. Gardeners take care of the horses, which are rounded annually to perform health inspections, markings and fillings of inappropriate material.
In England, the only flock of breeders is at Valley Farm, in Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, Suffolk. Valley Farm is also home to the British Camargue Horse Society, which represents the Camargue breed in Britain by maintaining a textbook for Camargue horses bred in Britain and by registering the ownership of Camargue Horses in Great Britain.
🍀 Camargue horses are in danger
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne zoonotic neurotropic virus capable of causing lethal meningoencephalitis (WNE) to infected hosts, such as birds, horses, and humans. Due to their sensitivity, horses serve as sentinel species in risk areas. We study a population of Camargue horses living in the south of France in two areas with endemic WNV circulation where WNV outbreaks were recorded in 2000 and 2003-4.
Two sets of microsatellite markers located in the genomic regions of MHC and Ly49 were genotyped, as well as multiple SNPs in ten regions of candidate genes related to immunity. The associations between genetic polymorphisms and WNE resistance / susceptibility were evaluated. While unique marker associations were weak, genotypes of two SNP compound genes located within the Mavs, NCR2, and IL-10 genes, and the HMS082 and CZM013 microsatellites were associated with WNE susceptibility.
Combinations of the CZM009, ABGe17402, and ABGe9019 microsatellite markers were associated with simple seroconversion with no clinical signs of WNE (resistance). In addition, a distribution of polymorphic markers between WNV-IgG seropositive horses and a WNV-IgG seronegative horse control group was tested.
An SNP in the OAS1 gene (NC_009151.3: g.21961328A> G) was significantly associated with the seropositive phenotype (pcorr = 0.023; OR = 40.5 CI (4.28; 383.26); RR = 8.18 CI (1.27; 52.89) in the Camargue In the compound genotypes, SNP markers for the Slc11a1, Mavs, OAS1, TLR4, ADAM17, and NCR2 genes and ten microsatellites showed a nonrandom distribution between the seropositive and seronegative horse groups.
A more detailed analysis of the associated markers could contribute to our understanding of the anti-defense mechanisms -WNV in horses.
⭐ Data about this horse
• Despite being an ancient species, camargue horses were officially recognized as a breed only in 1967.
• Adult horses have black skin under white fur.
• At birth, these horses have black or dark brown hair. As they grow and become adults, their fur mixes with white hair, until the whole body is covered with white hairs.
• Camargue horses are herbivores and have teeth adapted to their eating habits. Its incisors are useful for tearing plants; while premolars allow them to chew food properly.
• During the spring, these horses feed on Samphire and new shoots of tall reeds. In winter, its staple food is dried grass and goose foot.
• Camargue horses can easily walk long distances and even withstand extreme conditions. They can also survive without food for a long period of time.
• These horses have a firm foot, which gives them excellent riding ability on dangerous terrain.
• Camargue horses are known to have survived the harsh conditions of the Rhône delta wetlands for more than centuries.
• These horses have a calm temperament and are extremely lively. In addition, they are very intelligent and have great endurance. These features make them the best choice for equestrian games and long distance driving.
• The horses of the Camargue are small in size, but can comfortably transport the elderly.
• They belong to prehistoric times.
• Camargue horses are semi-wild and therefore do not have large breeders.
• These horses live in herds and also mate within their herd. However, in some herds, the dominant stallions expel the young males. They then form flocks of bachelors and, once mature, earn a flock of mares for themselves.
• Young people stay close to their mother in the first months and breastfeed for up to two years. However, in case the mother becomes pregnant again in the same year, the young woman is weaned only after 10 months.
• Stallions use their hooves and teeth to fight each other.
• The horses of the Camargue have large square heads, with large and expressive eyes. They have extremely strong legs, with clean joints, along with long forearms and strong helmets.