The Berber horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, which was almost extinct in the meantime and is still struggling to survive.
In its pure, original form, the Berber is one of the best leisure horses of all: fiery and noble, but not as nervous as the Arab-Berber, who emerged much later, reliable, good-natured, intelligent, and healthy.
In the article, you will learn more about the tough Berber, a wonderful horse for relaxing and high-performance recreational sports.
The Berber is an ancient horse breed that is often confused with the Arab Berber, which emerged much later. The Berber horse has always been closely associated with the Berber people.
When the last members of this proud nomadic people settled down in modern times, the Berber was close to extinction. In addition, the strong-nerved utility horse was displaced in many areas by the faster Arab-Berbers.
However, because the quieter and more healthy Berber has its own advantages over the Arab-Berber, there have been initiatives in the North African countries of origin for a long time (also state-sponsored) to preserve the original Berber horse.
With increasing globalization, the Berber and Arab-Berbers also began to conquer the European world of recreational horses. Because the real, original Berber is still very rare, the focus here is often on the fiery Arab-Berber, which, however, is often difficult to control for recreational riders with limited time and experience.
The Berber himself, on the other hand, is an almost ideal leisure horse: He has an impeccable character, good health, and strong nerves and also pampers the rider with very comfortable gaits.
Origin and breed history
The Berber is one of the oldest horse breeds at all; For almost 4,000 years it has proven itself in the service of people. Originally, Berbers were bred in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
The breeding area soon spread to the neighboring states until it encompassed almost all of North Africa. In the ancient world of North Africa, the Berber was an indispensable companion, but also famous and feared as a warhorse.
In addition to the famous elephants of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, tough and brave Berbers climbed across the Alps. Through the conquests and wars of the Arab population groups, the Berbers became sought-after refiners of European races.
Godolphin Barb, one of the three legendary pedigree stallions of the English thoroughbred breed, was a Berber; The Berber has clear traces z. B. also left in the Spanish horse.
When the latter moved to the new world with Christopher Columbus, the Berber genes were passed on to almost all American breeds from the Mustang to the Quarter Horse.
In the Middle Ages, the Berbers rose to be the coveted riding horses of European kings and emperors; In the early modern era, Berbers also caused a sensation in Europe as stars of the high school of equestrian art.
With German regiments, the Berbers even came as far as Austria, Poland, and Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries.
However, since only proven horse connoisseurs are able to recognize the noble blood of the outwardly inconspicuous Berber, the Berber in his “new home areas” usually fell into oblivion as quickly as he was sidelined in his original home at the beginning of modernity.
It was not so difficult for the conspicuous Arab-Berber, although the first evidence of the breeding of this “old breed” was only available from the 7th century and only from 1830 on.
The breed with one of the longest racial histories in the world, however, remains the pure, original Berber, which perhaps because of this has been gaining more and more followers all over the world for some time.
The now international Berber breed is organized today by the World Berber Association OMCB (Organization Mondiale Du Cheval Barbe). Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Belgium, Germany, France, and Switzerland are currently registered as members authorized to keep the studbook.
The appearance of the Berber
The Berbers are beautiful, compact, square horses with not too long, curved necks. The molds represent the most common coat color in all conceivable nuances, around 80 percent.
The age-old Berber breed has retained all the colors available in horses in its genes: Berbers are black, brown, and foxes, cream-colored duns and cremellos; even brightly colored palominos appear.
The Berber’s head is small, fine, and wiry; the very special character of the Berber horse, which is discussed in the next paragraph, is reflected in the eyes.
The withers are good and expansive, the back rather short and strong, the croup is full and evenly rounded. The legs are absolutely straight, dry, and strong, the small to medium-sized hooves are healthy and hard.
Due to its angular position, the hindquarters are very suitable for gathering and quick reactions to the rider’s aids. The trunk (the foundation) is praised as extremely “stable” in the Berber, which is why even very tall riders can use the full range of riding aids on a Berber.
Temperament and essence
Berbers are intelligent and curious, but also relaxed and not easy to be frightened – wise from ancient experience, you could say. Berbers are also not specialists, such as an English thoroughbred, who just want to run and nothing else.
The Berber is an all-rounder with instinct and brains who can be enthusiastic about many things.
Whether western riding and high dressage, carriage rides in the city, on the obstacle course, and in the field, extensive trail rides, or horse-friendly jumping tournaments. The Berber is primarily characterized by its versatility.
If you are interested in teaching your Berber some circus lessons, he will surely join in with enthusiasm. Berbers are also great “family horses”.
Reliable and patient with children, but also so motivated and attentive that they are in a good mood to adapt to the peculiarities of all family members.
Leisure horses owned by owners who work or are stressed by school or studies usually live best when they are looked after by several people.
This is especially true for the Berber, every endless repetition quickly makes him grumpy. All this also applies to the Arab-Berber, who, however, unlike the Berber, can only develop his full potential with really experienced front runners and in the leisure sector, completely underchallenged, often causes more trouble than joy.
In most cases, the Berber is the better horse for recreational purposes, even if he may not quite achieve the beauty, speed, and endurance of the better-known Arab-Berber.
He compensates for that thoroughly: The Berber shows more courage and more loyalty and, above all, considerably more nerve strength and robustness than the Arab-Berber.
Husbandry and nutrition
Keeping a Berber horse is easier than keeping many other horses because the balanced mind of the Berber can cope with even less than optimal keeping conditions for a while.
But only if you constantly and regularly confront him with challenging tasks and constantly offer him enough activity.
What should you pay attention to when keeping? A box with a view of the outdoors or a small run outside, work in the hall / on the riding arena and in the area, a lot of activity spread over the day, regular stays in a lush pasture.
Proper nutrition is, of course, part of making sure your Berber is doing really well. What it looks like is just as controversial in many respects as proper nutrition for humans.
As for human nutrition, there is also a series of long-established scientific findings and a long tradition of appropriate feeding for horses.
The following basic rules apply to the nutrition of horses:
- Natural, species-appropriate diet: Horses living in the wild actually eat the whole day, and you should enable your Berber to consume this food when you keep them with humans.
- This type of food intake not only helps the Berber digest the food on offer but also provides them with activity throughout the day.
- You can achieve this if there is always fresh, fragrant straw available in the box to “nibble” on.
- You should also treat your Berber to a well-filled hay net, often with a few dried herbs in between.
- Hayage or silage are also suitable as additions to this so-called roughage.
- Here, however, you should inform yourself well beforehand about the quality offered and the change in feed.
- In addition to roughage, your Berber needs concentrated feed such as oats, corn, barley.
- The amount of concentrated feed must, however, be tailored to the performance that your Berber is currently doing.
- The last component is the so-called juice feed, fresh apples, beets, carrots, beetroot with high water content.
- Horses also like most sweet fruits, but they should be fed as a treat in between meals because they make you fat quickly in large quantities.
- You can also get advice on the right quantities in the stable and at the feed dealer. In any case, you should also carefully observe which likes and dislikes your Berber develops and always act accordingly.
Especially original horses like Berbers have much better instincts in this direction than other horses.
Education and care
There are some tried and tested tips for stable training and acclimatization:
- If possible, you should familiarize yourself with your Berber before taking it over.
Inquire thoroughly with the previous owner about their habits, preferences, and sensitivities.
- Do a lot of work with your horse in the beginning.
- In the beginning, do not challenge him to the full at work, but rather wait until you feel what he is offering.
- In the event of difficulties, get professional help straight away, especially at the beginning, so that these difficulties do not “become a habit”.
- When your Berber has got used to it, the “serious” equestrian training can begin, which will bring great joy to good riders.
Because a Berber has a lot to offer: the typical Berber horse walks energetically, resiliently, and diligently on its own, and the Berber is particularly capable of a collected gait on its own because of the angulation of the hindquarters.
Because he then steps under very far with his hindquarters, he offers incredible seating comfort in a gathering. This hindquarters also helps the Berber off-road: even on difficult ground conditions, he should almost never lose his natural balance.
If you’re lucky, you can even move your Berber in the tölt gait. Many Berbers are said to be predisposed to this particularly comfortable gait. Berbers learn quickly and are usually very talented, they can be ridden both western and classic up to high school.
Even at work, Berber always wants to experience a lot of variety, constant repetition should even be able to stifle his natural zest for work. This is why his training usually works best with very creative or very experienced riders.
If you are still at the beginning of your equestrian training, you should therefore work the Berber at least occasionally under supervision.
The dense coat of the Berber is so easy to care for that occasional grooming is sufficient when the Berber z. B. is allowed to go to pastures during the day.
During the acclimatization period, however, a little “overcare” doesn’t do any harm, but rather helps you to get to know your horse better.
When you are ready to open your mouth to your Berber without any problems and he does not mind that you gently scratch his ears, you can always shift down a gear.
Since every care for the curious Berber is always a piece of activity, he should always be looked after every day if he has to spend part of the day in the box.
Health and Typical Diseases
The Berber is one of the old, original horse breeds with which no common, typical diseases are known. Only the rare original imports suffer more often from misaligned legs and develop arthritic diseases somewhat more frequently in old age.
This is due to the fact that there are hardly any fences in North Africa and the horses are still traditionally prevented from running away by shackles on their legs.
The prerequisite for keeping your horse healthy at all times is above all good and appropriate feeding and the correct amount of exercise appropriate to its age.
The average life expectancy of a horse is around 25-35 years for large horses like the Berber.
This life expectancy is largely determined by the housing conditions, because species-appropriate housing, healthy feed, and, above all, sufficient exercise are the basis for a long, healthy horse life.
The oldest horse in the world, which died in the English village of Woolston in 1822 at the fabulous 62 years of age, did its physically demanding work as a drag horse for over 50 years.
The Berber is also a horse that has been used to daily, strenuous work for thousands of years, which you have to replace with a correspondingly high level of exercise.
Buy Berber horse breed
Pure Berbers are currently still a very rare horse breed: At the last official census in December 2005 there were 129 registered breeding animals in Germany; since then only about 20 to 30 foals have been added each year, but more of the “status symbol” Arab-Berber than the pure, original Berber.
The total number of Berber horses in Germany should still be in the three-digit range. What you would like to help to save and preserve this great horse, you can find breeders and often also sales addresses at the national Berber associations of the above-mentioned countries and also directly at the World Berber Association OMCB.
If you are just thinking about whether a horse is suitable as a pet – you should take your time with the answer.
You should also be sure that you can answer the following questions with “yes”:
- I am ready to take care of my horse for quite a long time every day.
- I have no problems sharing the care of my horse with others if that’s the only way to ensure that it is adequately occupied.
- I have the full support of my family, even if the Berber should cause unforeseen costs.
- If you can’t answer “yes” for sure, you should probably consider getting a dog or maybe even a rat.
You can’t go for a ride with either of them, but you can do a lot more other exciting things than with a horse.
If it really should be a horse, you still have to consider whether it should be a small horse or a large horse. When the decision to buy a large horse has been made, the Berber is a good choice in most cases.
You help to maintain one of the oldest horse breeds in the world and get a healthy, tough, persistent, and powerful comrade.
Absolute beginners are only advised to buy a Berber if they are well integrated into a community of experienced horse connoisseurs. When beginners – and also children – have to cope with the Berber temperament, which is quite noticeable in spite of all the equilibrium, it is very often overwhelming for them.