Horses have played an incredibly important role in Mexican culture for centuries. From Spanish conquistadors to Mexican charros, horses have been used for many purposes and played important roles in Mexican history. Only two horse breeds are native to Mexico.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the history of horses in Mexico. We’ll also talk about the most common horse breeds used throughout Mexico and what makes them so special.
Read on to learn more about Mexico’s famous horses!
History of Horses in Mexico
Horses were not originally from Mexico. In fact, horses were not introduced to Mexico until the early 16th century.
Who Brought Horses to Mexico?
Explorer Hernan Cortes brought horses with him to help him conquer Mexico from the Aztecs. By 1525, Cortes and his men had brought so many horses over to the new world that they started breeding.
Ranchers cared for the horses and they were often used to carry Cortes and his men as they explored Mexico, mainly to look for treasures such as gold.
Small cavalries often paraded around Mexico exploring and protecting against any opposition to the new leadership.
Eventually, horses became a regular commodity in Mexico used for farming and transportation.
How Horses are Used in Mexico
Today, there are over 10 million working horses in Mexico.
These horses are mostly found in the rural areas of Mexico and are typically used in agriculture, cattle ranches, construction, mining, tourism, and transportation.
Horse racing is now an incredibly important part of Mexican culture, especially when it comes to providing a livelihood for many families.
What is a Mexican Charro?
A Mexican charro is a horseman or Mexican cowboy who puts on a display with their horse wearing an elaborately decorated outfit and a sombrero on their head.
Mexico has the “Charreria” which is essentially a Mexican rodeo and is considered a national sport there. Charros ride horses for entertainment at these events.
These events generate lots of income for Mexico from both locals and tourists who attend.
Horses Used for Food in Mexico
Mexico is the world’s second-largest producer of horse meat.
Although horses are not typically eaten in the United States, it is a common form of meat in Mexico as they are harvested the same way cows and pigs are.
Horse meat is also exported from Mexico to other countries that eat horse meat.
Common Breeds of Horses in Mexico
There are some breeds of horses that are more common in Mexico than others.
Whether they were the first breeds or breeds that came around later, all of them play an important role in Mexican culture.
Native Mexican Horse Breeds
Azteca are one of only two horse breeds native to Mexico. The first Azteca came into existence in 1972 so they are a very new breed of horse.
The development of this new horse breed is largely credited to a Spanish businessman and philanthropist Don Antonio Ariza Cañadilla.
Cañadilla’s vision was to create the first breed of horse that was perfectly suited for the Mexican charros and their unique showmanship and riding.
Development of the Azteca Breed
The Azteca Horse Research Center and local ranchers played a large role in the development of the Azteca making sure it was a horse that possessed beauty, speed, strength, endurance, and high intellect.
Breeding was first done in the Rancho San Antonio region of Mexico. The result was a fairly rare breed that is known for its large muscles, solid colors, and beautiful coat.
An American subtype of the Azteca horse may also come in a paint coloration due to the recent addition of American Paint Horses in their bloodlines.
Azteca horses must be listed in the Mexican registry and their strict registration rules including ancestral bloodlines and physical examinations.
The breed standard is strict on specifying solid colors for the Azteca but does allow white markings on the face and lower legs. A solid gray color is probably the most common.
National Horse of Mexico
The Azteca breed is recognized by the government of Mexico as the National Horse of Mexico and is a source of great pride in the country!
This foundation breeds for the Azteca are a combination of the Andalusian horse, American Quarter Horse, and Mexican Criollo horse bloodlines.
Azteca Horse Uses
The Azteca horse is used for a wide variety of activities including pleasure riding and western and English horse events such as rodeo and dressage.
You can learn much more about the Azteca horse breed at the American Azteca Horse International Association website.
You can also contact the International Azteca Horse Association at 519-458-4410.
Galiceño is the original horse breed from Mexico! The Galiceno breed of horse comes from descendants of Spanish horses brought to Mexico in the 16th century.
Their name (and bloodline) comes from the Galician horses of northern Spain, as well as the Garrano horses of Portugal.
The Galiceño horse is known for its beauty, intelligence, and endurance. It is a prized breed among many Mexicans due to its strength, calm demeanor, and gentle nature.
Though the horse is as small as a pony, it is physically able to carry a grown man due to its strong lower legs and impressive muscles.
Galiceño horses are an athletic breed of small to medium size and possessing great stamina. They’re also sweet horses known for being an intelligent breed as well as being quick to learn.
They are a perfect first horse for children, especially those learning to be charros.
Andalusian horses, though not native to Mexico, are an essential part of Mexican culture.
Andalusian horses came from Spain and were one of the types of horses brought over by Cortés in the 16th century.
They are also the genetic ancestor to Mustangs, Pasos, Criollos, Quarter Horses, Saddlebreds, Foxtrotters, and Walking Horses.
They are also related to Azteca horses. In the 20th century, Mexico started with Andalusian stallions when trying to establish Aztecas as the national horse.
Because of their intelligence and agility, the Andalusian stallion is often used in Charreria events and Mexican bullrings. They are beautiful, strong horses that easily catch the eye of any audience.
As previously mentioned, Criollo horses are genetic descendants of Andalusian horses, which are Spanish horses that came to Mexico in the 16th century.
Because of this relation, Criollo horses are incredibly strong, hardy, and easily adapt to challenging weather conditions.
They are also an excellent choice for Charros in Charrerias due to their strength. In Mexico, Criollo horses are often used in rural areas for transportation, food, and protection.
There is a strong culture surrounding Criollos which includes songs and customs relating to the horse breed. They are known for their large muscles and broad build.
How Many Horse Breeds are Native in Mexico?
There are only two horse breeds native to Mexico.
The Azteca and the Galiceno are both native Mexican horses that are important to Mexican culture. Both make excellent workhorses and entertainment horses.
Mexico does have other horse breeds that are not considered native to Mexico, however, they are still important to Mexican culture.
Criollo and Andalusian horses are two of the most common horse breeds used in Mexico besides the Azteca and Galiceño.
These horses are both strong, intelligent, and beautiful, making them great additions to any Charreria or Mexican bullrings.
How Long Have Horses Been in Mexico?
Horses have been in Mexico for over 500 years! They were first brought to Mexico in the 1500s when Cortés brought them over from Spain.
In just a few years, he had brought enough to start breeding them in Mexico, making horses a common commodity there.
Since then, horses have been bred, sold, used as meat, and used in entertainment such as in Mexican Charrerias. However, these breeds haven’t always been identified by Mexico.
Azteca horses, for example, were first developed in Mexico in 1972, giving them a place beside Galiceños as one of Mexico’s own horses.
What Horse Breeds are From South America?
Horse breeds from South America include the Criollo, the Mangalarga Marchador, the Paso Fino, and the Peruvian Horse.
What Training does a Charro Require?
Believe it or not, charros normally start their training as children as “charro-ism” is normally a family tradition.
As kids, they learn how to perform rope tricks and other horse stunts on the backs of extremely strong horses. Other skills they learn include bronco riding, bull riding, and steer roping.
Charros need excellent physical health to do their stunts safely and correctly. They also need to take the time to train their horse’s specific commands so that they know what to do during a show.
It’s time-consuming and hard work but very rewarding for many people.
What do Charros do During Their Shows?
Charros perform many tricks during their show that they have practiced for many years. Often, charros will show off their lassoing skills or make their horses dance to music.
They may also perform other rope tricks and horse stunts on the backs of their horses.
While charros entertain the crowd, vendors will often sell food and drink to visitors to earn money for their company and the venue.
Music is a central part of the show besides the horses and the event fully represents a unique blend of Latino cultures from both Mexico and Spain.
Do Galiceño Horses Come in Different Colors?
Yes! Galiceño horses come in many colors including roans, buckskins, black, chestnut, bay, remello, line back duns, and palomino.
The main two colors that are not found in this breed are Pinto and Appaloosa patterns. If you’re looking to get a Galiceño horse, the stature of the horse is more important than the color.
Because this horse breed is smaller, it’s important that you get one that has great strength so that it can perform tasks as efficiently as possible, regardless of the color of its coat.
If you find a Galiceño with Pinto or Appaloosa patterns in its coat, you likely have a mixed breed and not a pure Galiceño horse.
What is a Mexican Dancing Horse?
Some people feel teaching a horse to dance or put on a show is cruel but dancing horses are part of many cultures.
You can see Mexican dancing horses at rodeos and performances put on by Mexican cowboys or charros.
How do you train a horse to be a dancing horse?
The most important aspect of training a dancing horse is forming a relationship with them. No horse will feel comfortable being trained if they don’t trust its trainer!
It’s important to note that fully training a dancing horse until they’re comfortable with dance commands can take 12-16 months or longer.
The most common way to train a horse to dance is to gently prod them to move their legs with a type of riding crop or staff.
What is a Mexican Burro?
In Spanish, the term burro is a donkey.
What is the difference between Mexican Horses and Mexican Donkeys?
While donkeys and horses may seem similar, they are actually different in several aspects. For one, horses are much larger than donkeys, at least in most breeds.
If you need an animal that is larger and stronger, you’ll have to go for the horse.
Donkeys are also slower than horses, due to their shorter legs. Because of this, donkeys will often fight threats rather than run from them like horses.
Their stubborn, defensive nature makes them a great addition to many farms as they will defend their territory against predators like coyotes.
Finally, donkeys are not as social as horses. Horses are happy to travel in groups of their own, while donkeys much prefer to be in pairs if they have a partner at all.
Are Donkeys and Burros the same thing?
Yes, donkeys and burros are technically the same species. “Burro” is simply the Spanish term for “donkey.”
In some places, however, “burro” is used to refer to specific types of donkeys that are smaller in size and have longer hair than other donkeys, though this depends on the region.
What is a Spanish Mustang?
The Spanish Mustang is an American horse breed that is the direct descendant of horses brought to the Americas by early Spanish explorers.
Spanish Mustangs are not considered wild horses as their ancestry is from domesticated horses.
Today Spanish Mustangs are wildly admired as highly capable horses and utilized in a variety of ways. Their cow sense is renowned and they excel at ranch work.
What is the American Azteca Horse?
The American Azteca horse is a variant of the Mexican Azteca horse. One noticeable difference is the American Azteca breed standard allows paint coloration.
They also don’t utilize Mexican Criollo bloodlines for breeding.
Horses are an essential part of Mexico’s culture, from the spectacular Charreria shows to horse farms. Because of horses, Mexico has been successful in multiple areas of its economy including agriculture and the meat industry.
Without horses, farmers would struggle to work and the national pastime of holding Charrerias would not be possible.
It’s hard to imagine a Mexico without horses. Horses grow Mexico’s economy and remain an important aspect of their culture, the two now inseparable.
If you’re ever in Mexico, remember the history of their beautiful horses, and be sure to check out a Charreria if you can!