Some say that the Camargue horse has an oriental or Saracen origin, due to the forsaking of Arab horses during the barbaresque invasion in the south of France in the 8th century. We can presume that those horsemen only rode males, not females. So, if crossings have been done, they were absorbed into the local horses.
According to some scientific research, the origin of the Camargue horse would be the solutre horse, who lived in a marshy land, near the Quanternary Sea. Both have the same characteristics (same skeleton, same stature...) From his cradle, they went down to the Rhone Delta.
So, we can admit that the foreign crossings had no influence on the present Camargue horse and that he's really the descendent of the solutre quaternary horse, with the same characteristics, thanks to the deep and permanent action of the environment in which he lives in half-liberty.
Main characteristics of the Camargue horse (according to the standard of the specie Approved by the National Stud-Farm in 1978.)
-Pale gray coat when adult.
-Stature: from 1,35 meters to 1,45 meters.
-Weight: from 300 kg to 400 kg.
The Camargue horses live in marshes. This hard way of life (lack of grass, heat) makes the Camargue horse resistant to abstinence and bad weather (no stable).
The only work of the breeder is to choose a stallion who will stay in the breeding the whole year. The breeding happens in total liberty, without any human intervention. The births, from April to July, happen in total liberty too. The foals are born black or dark gray, with a white blaze on the forehead (most of the time). To 6 months, time of the weaning, he will always follow his mother. He will then lose his birth hairs to become, at 5 or 7, white (exactly pale gray). At 1 year old, he will be lassoed to be branded on the left thigh. Each breeder has a different brand (Blazon, initials, symbols) to recognize his cattle. From 3 to 4 years old he begins breaking in. He will then be caught to be led to a stable, where he will get used to man, and then, gradually, to the saddlery. Now, the Camargue horse is a real saddle-horse. He's absolutely necessary to the "Guardians" for the work bulls. He's also used for leisure ridings.
Association Des Eleveurs de Chevaux de Race Camargue, 13200 Arles
John Thompson, Animal Photography, Marylebone Mews, London W1G 8PY.