There is a region in the south of France that horse lovers primarily know for its gray wild horses: The Camargue.
The name is given to the Rhône delta region that starts south of Arles and stretches to the Mediterranean Sea. The land for the most part consists of wetlands and is used mainly for farming and agriculture.
In the nature reserve of the Camargue …
… you find an abundance of water fowl including the large flamingo.
In addition, semi-wild herds of Camargue bulls live here and most notably the Camargue horses.
Camargue horses – rugged, enduring, and spirited
In the vast marshlands of this area a small, rugged, enduring, and spirited horse breed developed over centuries. Camargue horses have not lived in this area without any human intervention. To influence the breed, infusions of outside blood have taken place many times. But these wild herds, due to various developments, were often left alone for years at a time and the “foreign blood” was eliminated by natural selection. To this day the horses of the Camargue therefore have the original genes of their ancestors.
Camargues are gray horses without exception.
They are born as dark foals and change color over age. Speckled or “flea-bidden” gray horses do occur in this breed. These animals generally reach a height of 13 to 15 hands. The horses have a distinct angular head with strong jaw muscles, large eyes, and small ears. The neck is short and strong, the shoulder steep and muscular.
For the most part these animals are used as work, riding, and pack horses. Many bull breeders employ them in their work and in bull fights. In this capacity their agility, courage, and dependability make them an essential partner for the rider. To this day many of the Camargue horses live in semi-wild herds in the Rhône delta. At present there are more than 160 stallions and about 950 mares registered in this breed. As selection is not entirely left to nature any more, strict rules for breeding exist in order to maintain the original traits of the animals. True “Camargue” horses are only those that were born in this region or in a bordering region of Camargue-like character. They have to be raised in a so-called Manade, a herd of at least 4 mares on 25 ha (about 50 acre) of extensively farmed pasture.
Horses born outside the “cradle” of the Camargue are registered as “Camargue Hors Berceau – but only if the father is breeding stallion of the Camargue breed.
Formidable horses in the fascinating landscape of the Camargue
Those who would like to firsthand experience these formidable semi- wild herds in the fascinating landscape of the Camargue should plan a vacation at a Camargue horse farm.
The horse farm Mas de la Pousaraque in Arles for example maintains 140 horses. There are 20 horses available so the experienced rider can explore the local landscape or learn to work with cattle.