This text was once a letter sent to a breeder friend. I would like to share these thoughts about the responsibility of choosing to work with a natural breed such as Siberians.
Dear friend, I am wondering if you like horses and if you ever heard about “Camargue” horses?
The Camargue is a breed of small rustic horse in a grey dress, from the homonymous region, south of France in the Rhône delta, on the Gard and Bouches-du-Rhône . This horse traditionally lives in freedom in its original marsh and its genealogy remains mysterious, although it is considered one of the oldest breeds in the world.
Mentioned from Roman antiquity and compared to horses we see on Lascaux paintings: The French palaeontologist Vera Eisenmann believes that this race could be «a relic of prehistoric wild horses. ».
Camargue horses live mostly in freedom and sometimes are used by men with working purposes but most time released back at the “marais” after the work is done.
These horses developed certain characteristics along the years to live and thrive on the Camargue marais: Its stature and morphology, its particularly resistant hooves adapted for life at the marais etc.
Camargue people are very proud of their small, strong saddle horse and all attempts of mixing the breed with the purpose of making it “taller” were discouraged and discontinued by “Les Haras nationaux” and Camargue horses are one of the symbols of the region.
The only colouring accepted for Camargue horses is GREY (and only ONE shade of grey) because it is the original colouring of the horses in their natural state and habitat.
I am certain there might have been crosses here and there now and then: farmers who own other breeds, also sorcerer apprentices who wanted to see the result of a certain match and even natural mating with other breeds that were brought in to the area by men. I am sure we can find in the region that odd brown Camargue looking like horses, most likely in a stable, result from one of those eventual matings.
With human influence and sometimes even under the influence of Mother Nature: mutations, a change in an ecosystem by natural reasons, several possibilities become then possible.
It doesn’t mean that these changes should be encouraged, cultivated or bred.
Breeding horses is a very complex affair and working with a NATURAL breed even more complicated. Camargue horses could be wiped off the map very easily! It is very important to watch over their genetic pool and preserve their natural characteristics i.e. Preserve their genotype and phenotype.
We all appreciate equine beauty and grace, but breeding in my opinion is not only about colours and patterns. Colours and patterns are the least important point in a serious breeding program.
A black and white, spotted Camargue? An Appaloosa looking Camargue?
I am not a horse expert, but the Appaloosa pattern, being already a complex mix of breeds and its colour pattern, is genetically the result of various spotting patterns overlaid on top of one of several recognised base coat colours. Obviously, Appaloosa horse genes (and pattern) are most definitely not from this very French area of the globe.
Regarding looks, some people might think this mix would look lovely but to obtain such horses sacrifices would have to be made. We are talking here about sacrificing the Camargue genetic pool. Would it be worth it, especially when there are already other breeds with similar looks (Appaloosa)?
Imagine this: there are Appaloosa horses brought into Camargue and left wandering in the land and farms. We notice some spotted little ponies around.
Those less educated or careless (irresponsible) Camargue breeders might think it is a great idea to make more of these ponies, especially if there is demand and other countries are ready to pay good money for them! Let’s create Carmagueloosa and try to have it accepted as a Camargue horse, a variety of Camargue horse or perhaps a sister breed.
To work with a natural breed, responsibility and a scientific approach is needed. Do you want to see real Camargue horses walking about in the marais in 20 years and preserve these horses so the generations to come can also appreciate its grey beauty galloping on Camargue? If you answer is “yes”, then the genetic pool must be preserved otherwise you will leave for the generations to come a horse that is “kind of what” used to be a Camargue horse”.
Horses are horses (cats are cats)… If nothing is changed by human hand, Camargue horses will continue to be grey and sturdy for long years ahead. It is a mistake to make a parallel between men and animals.
When talking about mankind, it is a totally different matter. Men have feelings, dreams, and we move and love. Animals that belong to certain regions in the globe developed certain characteristics because of the area and its way of life and we can even talk about the ecosystem they evolved in. Preserving natural breeds is a bit like preserving nature. A tom cat (or a Camargue stud) will be happy mating with any healthy female not matter what colour, pattern or shape. To preserve a natural breed it is our role to select the right matches to preserve the breed.