Origins of Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse

Origins of Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse

The Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse breed was originated from the old Andalusian horse brought by the Spanish conquerors. A breed of great strength and hardiness, they quickly adapted to the harsh conditions of the new geography of the Pampas and to the needs of the native and gauchos, specially those from the current province of Buenos Aires.


The ancient Andalusian horse didn’t have Arabic origins. The studs that existed in the days of the conquest, in Cordoba, Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera, had its origins in the Barb (or Berber) horses from northern Africa, brought centuries earlier by Moorish invaders.

These horses, mixed with the native ones originated the famed Spanish horse, then known as ‘horse rider’ referring to the warriors of the Moorish tribe, who were eminent breeders and warriors.

They expanded in the Castilian kingdoms and implemented, sports and practices known as the ‘school of the rider’, which gave way to the traditions, styles, methods for breaking and riding that still pervade among gauchos in Estancias.


criollo horse buenos aires

Parade of Criollo Horses


The Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse breed is born

The horses of the conquerors gave rise to different types of South American horses.
“From those stallions and mares, exposed to different weathers, fed with different pastures, employed on different tasks, the descendent horses got adapted to the geographies, treacherous diseases and risks of the environment. In turn, somatic morphologies and physiological gifts managed by the crosses and selections imposed by men appeared, either within the wild herds or the cavalries.


During Colonial times, the Criollo horse became part of the history of those lands, it contributed to the construction of the new countries. The Criollo horse generated a culture around himself, a new venue for human expression. It helped indigenous groups to become riders too -Araucanos, Pampas and Tehuelches- to prolong their freedom with help of these animals, which joined their collective life, becoming their weapon, vehicle, food and passion.


Some of the animals used for warfare, brought in 1535 by Don Pedro de Mendoza, were set free after Buenos Aires was destroyed. Thanks to the conditions of the pampas, that little lot of horses adapted and reproduced portentously. The descendants formed herds of hundreds of thousands of wild horses –known as baguales- which were regarded in amazement by the Spanish conquistador Garay when he arrived to those territories in 1580.


The colonial life and stormy history of the nascent Argentina revolved around cattle and horses. Sales of leather, beef and tallow sustained the country. The cattle ranches were handled using horses until the introduction of barbed wire. The gauchos emerged as the most complete expression of man on horseback.


criollo horse estancia ombu

Some Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse in the Pampas


Decline and new rise of the Argentina Criollo Gaucho Horse

Argentina was a country populated by native horses descendent from the Andalusian breed. However, from the mid-Nineteenth Century, British and Percherons horses were introduced to the country. The indiscriminate crossbreeding spread in search of higher horses. However they were not very functional for war, livestock or travelling. By the early Twentieth Century in some areas of the province of Buenos Aires it stopped being usual to find pure Criollos.


Some ranchers, including the Argentine zootechnist Don Emilio Solanet, noticed such a serious situation and undertook the task of restoring the purity of the breed. Solanet found pure Criollos in the distant lands of Chubut. He bought a number of mares and stallions from an indigenous leader and led them on a historical journey of 1800 miles to his farm ‘El Cardal’ in the province of Buenos Aires. From that batch of horses, carefully preserved by isolation and the zeal of the indigenous tribes, the pure Criollos resurfaced. From such an effort the breed registry was born and its traits asserted.


Among the Criollo horses acquired by Solanet in Chubut, there were two mature ones ‘Gato and Mancha’. They did, between 1925 and 1928 the historic raid Buenos Aires -New York that covered 22,500 kilometers by mountains, desert and jungle. This is one of the most demanding functional testing distance that positioned the Criollo breed as the best on longest routes. Both horses returned to ‘El Cardal’ by boat, and died at thirty years of age.


criollo horse areco estancia


Breed standard of the Criollo Horse

The breed standard adopted by associations of Criollo breeders in Argentina is: mesomorph, average height between 1.40 and 1.50 m hands. Chest 1.70 to 1.86, near land. Broad-based head and fine vertex. Medium lenght, robust neck, muscular and slightly prominent cross. Wide and square rump, good bones, remarkably broad chest, big muscular structure. Usually trot and gallop, although some pace, durable and adaptable to very stringent conditions.


Predominant colors are chestnuts, dun, auburn, roan and tobiano layers. Features are the dark stripe along the spine, also known as ‘mule stripe’, and the cebraduras or zebra stripes on the legs.


History of the Criollo breed written by Fabian Corral Burbano de Lara



In the Estancia there are near 80 criollo horses for horseback, simply pet them or admire in freedom in the pampa: just book this tour for this experience: Full Day Tour Estancia departing from Buenos Aires

Argentina horses Rehab center

Argentina horses Rehab center

Argentina horses Rehab center : Departing from Buenos Aires in kilometer 95 of National Route number 8: before arriving to the town and Estancias of San Antonio de Areco, namely the actual core of the horse race and of the Gaucho tradition, where well-known establishments for thoroughbred horses reproduction and breeding are settled, and also only 30km away from the city of Pilar, the epicenter of Polo playing.

There, with a strategic location stretching over 36 ha that used to belong to Estancia El Candil stud farm, the “Centro de Rehabilitación y Hospital de Equinos Kawell” (Horses´ Rehabilitation Center and Hospital Kawell) was built, with the investment of US$ 8 million.


The nursery of the Argentina horses Rehab center

Nursery of the Argentina horses Rehab center


In the only Argentina horses rehab center, the facilities of the Equine Service Rehabilitation comprise 32 boxes of 4×4 meters in what used to be the Estancia, “monturero”, a walker tour for up to 8 horses, underwater treadmill, oval swimming pool of 120 meters in perimeter with live underwater monitoring, treatment room, two showers, solarium track proprioception, inside walking track, outdoor track, pickets and fences.


horseback ride tour

Training at the Rehab center


Kawell, which in Mapuche language means horse, it is today a center combining clinical medicine, world-class rehabilitation services, investigation and teaching.


Some of the equipment of the Argentina horses Rehab center:

Anesthesia equipment fitted with fans, multiparametric apparatuses, computerized radiology, high definition ultrasound, scanners with color Doppler and a Centellography Department that is the first in South America.


Argentina horses Rehab center buildings

The Argentina horses Rehab center buildings


As far as rehabilitation is concerned, Kawell is fitted with a system of aquatic therapies tours including a 1-million-liter pool. The treatment includes a walker, showers, and an aquatic belt placed under the water where the horse can walk in a semi-floating position.


horses thematic tour Areco

horses thematic tour Areco


The equine swimming pool has an oval-shaped and a depth of four meters. There is an island from where you can follow the movements made by the horse in the aquatic therapy. “There will be salt water, heated to 20°, which is the optimum temperature for the animal,”

The rehabilitation also goes through physiotherapy, magnetotherapy, laser therapy, ultrasound and electro-stimulation.


areco tour horses


Kawell facilities includes the only hyperbaric chamber for horses in Latin America.


The surgery department:

It is fitted with all the cutting-edge elements: “We have a 24-hour service, and a spacious operating room with a bed.
The joint work of the hospital and the rehabilitation center and the unique equipment and professionals makes Kawell the only one with this complexity in the world.


If you would like to contact: The Kawell Center

Or if you prefer to make an special Horse thematic Tour in San Antonio de Areco gaucho town you can contact: Private tours in pampa Argentina departing from Buenos Aires to San Antonio de Areco


San Antonio de Areco