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The Horses of Camargue

Our Spring catalog equine model, “Mister”, was not only a wonderful sport by patiently posing for us, but also a great ambassador for his breed, the Camargue horse.  Mister was one of the renowned white horses of Camargue, romanticized by imagery of the region, depicting herds of them galloping through the marshlands of southern France.

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Mister on the beach at Saintes Maries de la Mer

The Camargue horse is also known as “the horse of the sea” due to its native environment of France’s Rhone delta.  Its origins are generally unknown, but it is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world. For hundreds or even thousands of years, these horses have lived wild in the Camargue wetlands.

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Trailriding through the Camargue marshlands

Adult Camargue horses appear white but are considered gray, meaning that they have black skin underlying a white hair coat. As foals, their coat is black or dark brown, but as they mature their coat becomes increasingly intermingled with white hairs. They are relatively small horses, usually 13.1–14.3 hands at the withers (4 ½-5 feet tall at the shoulder), yet they have the strength to carry an adult rider. They have a short neck, deep chest, compact body, strong limbs and a full mane and tail. Their hooves are tough and wide, well acclimated to the marshy terrain.

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A Camargue yearling, before its coat has started to change from brown to white

Camargue horses are known for their intelligence, stamina, hardiness and agility, traits developed over centuries of living under semi-feral conditions in a harsh environment. The calm temperament and athleticism of the Camargue horse has made it a popular choice for equestrian games, dressage, and long distance riding.  It is the traditional mount of the gardians, the Camargue “cowboys” who herd the black Camargue cattle. The gardians tend to the horses, with annual roundups for health inspections, branding, and gelding.

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Camargue mares grazing in the wild marshes of the Rhone delta

The Camargue breed was recognized and promoted by Julius Caesar, and was recruited by Napoleon for use by his army.  Camargue horses went to battle overseas as well, and were thought to first come to the Americas as warhorses, where hardiness and a calm temperament were required.  They were put to work again around 1865 during the construction of the Suez Canal.  In 1978, the French government began registering the Camargue horse breed, requiring foals to be born out of doors and seen to suckle from a registered mare as proof of parentage.

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Mister shares the spotlight

On the beach near Saintes Maries de la Mer, southern France, modeling the Camargue Cardigan.

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2 Responses to The Horses of Camargue

  1. caspagnola@hotmail.com' Carol S. says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I love the Camargue.

  2. jean@bigbarkpr.co.uk' Jeannie Rennie says:

    wonderful pictures, they make one want to see them in their wonderful habitat!

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