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Camargue Horses

As the name suggests, these horses come from the Camargue, a wetland area at the mouth of the River Rhône. They constitute a distinct breed, which, like the Camargue bulls, live in semi-liberty. The Camargue horse is one of the oldest breeds in the world, closely related to the prehistoric horses whose remains have been found elsewhere in southern France. At birth they are coloured dark brown or black, but turn white around the fourth year (In layman's terms they are white horses, but to horsy folk they are grey, since they are not uniformly pure white all over).

Like the Camargue bulls, they are smaller than their modern cousins. At around thirteen or fourteen hands they are technically ponies. They are used in rounding up Camargue bulls. They are never stabled, but well able to survive the humid summer heat and the biting winter cold.

Riders are called gardians. Gardians are as near to anyone comes nowadays to living the cowboy way of life. They play a major role in guarding Camarguais traditions. They live in traditional cabanes, thatched and windowless single-storey structures furnished with bulls' horns over the door to ward off evil spirits. A guardien's traditional tools are a trident and a black hat.

The Camargue is a rugged horse that breeds true to type. They are lively but have a good natureand are particularly suited for riding. They have an even-temper but are lively, agile, brave and hardy. They will travel long distances with ease and are capable of enduring extreme weather and extended periods without food. Their broad hooves are evolutionary adaptions to their wet environment. Camargues are not shod.

Camarges are used to manage the bull herds. They also provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the Camargue region on horseback. Camargue horses thrive in Sea water - they are often called "the horse of the sea" .

These horses represent one of the oldest breeds in the world. They are bred in an area bounded by Montpellier to the west, Tarascon to the north and Fos to the east, passing through Salon-de-Provence, an area which encompasses the "Ile de Camargue ", the plains of the Gard and the Hérault, and part of the Crau.

The breed has existed in the area since prehistoric times. Its origins are shrouded in mystery. It may be descended from the extinct Soutré horse, whose bones (datinf from 17,000 years ago) have been found in the southeast of France. Horse images in Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux provide further evidence of Prehistoric horses in south-western France. Many peoples have settled in the Camargue, including the Celts, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks. The horses brought with these peoples may well have influenced the Camargue breed over time. Today the breed is strictly protected.

Like most horses (but not all!), the the Camargue horse is a herbivore. The teeth are adapted for eating grasses and herbs: incisors tear the plants and premolars behind the incisors chew them. In spring the Camargue horse grazes on new shoots of tall reeds, and on an indigenous plant called samphire. In winter they survive on dried grass and goosefoot, a plant too tough for most grazing animals. The horses' behaviour is regulated by the amount of food available. When it is scarce the Camargue horse may graze for up to 22 hours a day. When it is plentiful, it will graze only at dawn and dusk.

Horses of the Camargue run wild - or at least semi-wild - in small herds consisting of one stallion, his mares and progeny. Fillies are usually caught and branded as yearlings and colts considered unsuitable for breeding are gelded at three years old. Breeding is semi-wild but under supervision of the Biological Research Station of la Tour du Valat. Scientists have been able to observe the social interactions and lifestyles of Camargue horses contributing to our understanding of equine behaviour.

Camargue horses are gereraly born either black or brown, but turn grey with maturity at around 4 years. An adult stands between 13 - 14 hands.

 

   

 

 

 

Conformation:

  • Large square head with a straight or slightly convex profile.
  • eyes are large and expressive
  • ears are broad and short with a broad base.
  • neck is short and muscular, deep at the base. mane and tail are long and thick.
  • withers are pronounced
  • back is straight and short.
  • croup is short and narrow
  • chest wide and deep.
  • shoulder is straight and short;
  • The legs are extremely hardy with clean joints, a long forearm, and very good hooves.


Association des Eleveurs de Chevaux de Race Camargue
Mas du Pont de Roustry, 13 200 Arles, France
Tel: +33 (0) 4 90 97 86 32,
Fax: +33 (0) 4 90 97 70 82

 

Height: 13-14.2 hands
Sexual Maturity: Female, 18 months. Male, 1-2 years.
Mating: Late spring
Gestation:11-13 Months
No. of young: 1.
Habit: Sociable; living in small, free-ranging herds, mainly in salt-water marshland like the Camargue
Diet: Ground vegetation: leafy grasses, herbs, and plants.
Call: Ranges from a soft whinny to a shrill piercing cry.
Lifespan: 20-25 years.

 

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The Gard (red) in the Languedoc (orange) within France (yellow)).
The Gard
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