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The Criollo Horse of South America - page 2

I repeat, that, what in other species constitutes an excellent zootechnical method by the rapidity with which is increases and betters the production of meat, wool, etc., in the breeding of the Criollo horse gave negative results.  In effect we replace an excellent, balanced animal, which has arrived at its position after a broad natural selection, by a product of artificial selection in which appear more of the externals of conformation and speed, than the good working of the motor, in view of the work for which it is destined.

The mixing continued for fifty years, giving as a result an enormous majority of cross breds, becoming more infused with Thoroughbred blood, - which was the case around Buenos Aires, - and which finally convinced the ranchers that they had no more good saddle horses.  The excessive delicacy of the cross bred racer (Note 11), used for peon work principally, the rapidity with which he broke down, the torpidity of his action on rough ground, his lack of resistance to the blasts of the hard winters and many other reasons no less important for a good motor saddle horse, show what a vacuum the loss of the old native stock had left, especially as the last lines of the old stock were carrying on like young colts after twenty-five years or more of good service.  (Note 12.)

The mixed breeds of our army are determining proof of the inferiority of the cross bred.  The Criollos for endurance have no equal.

In the army maneuvers of 1914 at Entre Rios the beautiful mixed breeds from Buenos Aires left on foot most of our mounted troops;  but the regiment from San Martin mounted on Criollos never lost a man.

It seems that it was necessary to mix breed ad absurdum before the public woke up.


4.  Renaissance of the Criollo Race (From 1875 to o1890)


The celebrated Matias Ramos Mejia, horse lover, and the best horseman and rider, also others, did much to bring back the native horse.

Much negative work was done in spite of many authorities who strove to have breeders return to the original stock.  In 1916 some examples of pure Criollos were shown.  Then the stud-book was originated in which pure breds were registered.  This work was done by the Rural Argentine Society under the presidency of Dr. Joaquin S. de Anchorina.  But the mixed breeding had gone so far in the wrong direction that many horses not at all types of pure Criollos were presented for registry.  Many stallions were rejected by judges.  Such action saved many provinces from the mixed breed.

The Society guaranteed all names of horses registered.

The Association today (1923) consists of 48 Criollo Clubs; - only two or three important breeders are not included.  There are as many as 1,000 individual horses registered.


5.  Conformation of the Race


Two varieties compose the breed.  Each preserves certain Cephalic characters and other general ones inherited from the two bloods.  Thos two bloods, - earmarks of the Spanish horse of the 16th century - were the Arabian and the Barb.  That double and distinct variety (Note 13) I have been able to prove studying the Criollos from the greater part of the provinces and National territories.  Likewise it is found in the horses of the Republics of Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The Cephalic conformation which is the most persistent trait in all animal species, through time and different means, is also the one which first is appreciated as different between the two types of the Criollo race, there being always apparent in the Arabian type a greater development in the transversal diameters and a lesser development in the longitudinal ones - a difference also found in the rest of the body.  The lines of the head and body of the Arabian are rectilinear and those of the Barb convex [round].

Climatic and topographical conditions have modified the types, such as those of the marshes and of the mountains.  But the characteristics of the race are always the same.  The Arabian is rectilinear while the Barb is convex.

These two types, I had the opportunity of describing in a paper which I prepared for the breeder.  They were adopted by the Rural Argentine Society in September of the past year.


A. Asiatic Type (Arabian) is rectilinear in shape and of average to middle length.

Temperament: Active, neither lymphatic nor nervous.  It is valiant and brave and willing when it reaches the moment for work.  (Note 14.)

Height:      (Note 15.) Maximum 1.52 metres (14 hands 3 7/8)

                     Minimum 1.40 metres (13 hands 3 7/8)

Girth:         From 1.86 metres (73.22") to 1.70 metres (66.92")

These measurements cover the experience of ten years and were verified by the Palermo Expositions where from 1920 to 1923 the champions and reserve champions were measured.

No male champion nor reserve champion exceeded in height 1.48 metres (14 hands 2").  The best male champion, a four year old, did not exceed 1.45 metres (14 hands 1").

Concerning the zootechnic excellence of the race it is found proven by European specialists, the highest authorities in animal work, Drs. Baron and Crevat, who have determined the following formulae:



_____   = 2.1125


(T) represents girth measurement and (A) represents height to highest point of the withers.  The quotient represents the index of the usefulness of the horse for saddle work.  This formula tells us the best type of saddle horse and it applies to the Criollo champion of 1923, which is:

1.752   3.0625
____ = _____ = 2.1120
 1.45  =    1.45
This quotient is almost identical with that of the ideal type resolved upon by the European authorities.


These same zootechnic experts have deduced another formula which permits our determining the weight which a horse can conveniently carry on his back while at a trot or a gallop, which I consider interesting in its application to the Criollo race.  Here is the second formula of Baron and Crevat:


56 x T2
Applied to the champion Criollo of 1923 it gives the following expression: 56 x 1.752        56 x 3.0625
_______  =    _________ = 118 kilos 275 g.
      1.45                   1.45              (approx. 261 lbs.)


It means that the average Criollo can carry easily the average weight of a cowboy or soldier.

Frequently there is recommended for war, by some men, a horse greater in height than the Criollo, because they are not aware that raising the height decreases the strength of the animal (Note 16).  In fact this same European formula demonstrates to us that if the horse of 1.52 metres multiplied by 1.86 metres can carry with ease 127 kilos (280 lbs.), the horse of 1.60 metres with the same girth measure can carry only 121 kilos (266 lbs.)  In other words, a greater height gives more beauty for driving and military reviews but less power for work.  And to those who think that the deficiency is overcome by increasing the girth measure in proportion we quote the French Professor Dechambre who observes and proves with mathematical experiments the impossibility of doing it arbitrarily.  Increasing, in excess, the girth gives the animal an overabundance of gross weight.  This overabundance passing beyond the average weight of the saddle horse (400-450 kilos - 882.4-992.7 lbs.) makes him more and more unfitted for that work.  The excess weight causes loss of agility;  more effort for carrying its own weight;  greater waste of the legs;  strong and violent reactions in the joints and tendons;  greater food consumption and slows down the leg action.

The experience of the cattle raisers (the actual field men) teaches also that the horses 1.40 metres - 1.45 metres (13 hands 3 1/8" - 14.1") in height with correlative girth measure are those which give the best results for the man who does the work, especially during harsh and long winters.  And the horse that survives in the heavy field tasks proves to be the best for war service.


A. F. Tschiffely with Mancha, one of the two Criollo horses on which he made the remarkable ride from Buenos Aires to Washington.  Mr. Tschiffely deserves the greatest credit for bringing himself and the horses through alive.   In a letter to me dated march 15, 1929, he says: "The American 'mustang' and the Argentine 'Criollo' are almost brothers as far as blood is concerned.  Unfortunately the mustang has disappeared and the same fate nearly befell the ancient horse of the 'pampas'.... I brought both (the horses) back with me, and now they are back with the old 'tropilla' (herd).  Both are in excellent condition and Mancha feels so independent again that he bucks like a bronch when a stranger mounts him.  Both will remain here until they die, and then they will be donated to the National Museum here."  In a letter to me dated Dec. 24, 1929, he says:  "Both the horses I used on my long test-ride to Washington are in excellent condition and work every day on Dr. Solanet's estate."  T. C.
Mancha and Gato, pure Criollos, selected by Dr. Solanet from his stud for the world's record ride described herewith. 
The greatest triumph yet achieved by the Criollo, as a test for the toughness of all muscles and the stamina of all organs including the brain;  and the longest and most gruelling ride on record, was that successfully completed by A. F. Tschiffely, who, with two 17 year old horses, rode from Buenos Aires to Washington, 9600 miles, starting in April, 1925 and finishing 900 days later with the same horses.  They are here shown "crossing the Ticlio (16,625 ft.) before reaching northern Peru where they made 100-mile journeys without water or food of any kind."  The greatest elevation reached was (18,000 ft.) at "the El Cóndor Pass between Potosi and Chaliapata, Bolivia."  The extremes of temperature from sea level to 18,000 ft. and the varied footing, crossing swamps and deserts and climbing rock trails of mountains - the while finding their own fodder from the growth of the varied zones and assimilating such fodder - are sufficient proof of the value of the Criollo blood, especially when one contrasts it with the delicacy of the modern "racing machine."  Mancha and Gato came from the arid regions of Patagonia.  
Fifty Miles a Day for Over Two Weeks:  "Lunarejo Cardal," engineer Abelardo Piavano up.  This is a pure Criollo - bred at the "Cardal" stud - photographed 10 days after completing the Buenos Aires-Mendoza record ride in 1925.  This 14 year old horse carrying 209 lbs. (95 kilos) travelled 857 miles (276 leagues) in 17 days (average, 50 7/17 miles per day).  It would be interesting to compare this ride with some of the endurance tests made in the United States.  Since the United States Tests were for distances less than one half of that of the Argentine - although more weight was carried - and as I have no detailed data of the conditions of the Argentina ride, a comparison is not of great value.  However, one of the longest United States rides shows the following accomplishments:  "Crabbet," pure Arabian gelding, of the Maynesboro Stud: Chestnut, 15 hands 2", weight 925 lbs., 12 year old, travelled from Red Bank, N.J. to Washington, 310 miles, carrying 245 lbs., at about 60 miles a day for 5 days: total elapsed time, 49 hrs., 4 mins.  Of the 17 horses starting in this 1921 Test only 6 finished.  Crabbet, showing the best condition, won.  T.C.

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