With over 600 horse breeds over the world, some are bound to be more common than others. There may only be a few in an entire country. Despite not being as popular of horses we see day-to-day, these breeds have fascinating histories. Each has a story of their own, and how they ended up being so few and far between. Do you recognize any?
The Zaniskari is a rare pony breed from the mountainous region of Ladakh in northern India and has adapted to living in a high-altitude environment and can endure temperatures as low as -40 °F. They are often gray but can also be black, chestnut, or bay. The average height of a Zaniskari horse is 11.3 to 13.3 hands. In India, the Zaniskari are popular riding and polo ponies noted for their sure-footedness and good endurance.
The Giara Horse is an Italian horse breed native to the island of Sardinia, where they call the rocky basaltic plateau home. It’s possible the ancestors of the breed came to the island with the Phoenicians or the Greeks around 500-400 BC. Giara Horses have been a part of local culture for centuries, and there are still free herds roaming the plateau to this day.
The Noma Horse or Noma-uma is a rare Japanese horse breed from the island of Shikoku, and is the smallest of the eight native Japanese horses. They’re no bigger than a Shetland Pony, although it’s hardy and agile on mountainous terrain. Today, the breed is mainly a tourist attraction, but some places also use it for riding or equine therapy purposes.
The Vyatka Horse is an endangered horse breed named after the Vyatka River of Russia that descends from native Estonian horses that came to northern Russia with Novgorod colonists in the 14th century. Today, the Vyatka Horse is usually bay, chestnut, black, or roan in color. They are relatively small, standing around 13.5 hands at the withers.
The Henson Horse, from northeast France, dates back to the end of the 1970s, when the region’s demands for horse riding holidays increased. This prompted breeders to create a leisure horse breed suitable for equestrian tourism. Henson Horses have good endurance and several breeders allow their herds to graze freely in the wetlands of France during the winter.