Breeds from Around the World: Part Two – Garrano

Posted on October 22, 2020

In this series of blogs, we’re taking a look at horse breeds from around the world. In this issue, we go to Portugal to learn about the Garrano horse.


The Garrano Horse of Northern Portugal

Living wild and semi-wild on the Iberian Peninsula, this breed is so old that Iberian paleolithic cave paintings depict horses that bear a striking resemblance to the Garrano horse. Today, wild herds of Garrano horses live in various mountainous parts of northern Portugal.

Wild Garranos in the Peneda-Gerês National Park

Roots in the Last Ice Age

During the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, many animal species in northern Euope migrated from the north to the south, where the climate was more favourable. A population of horses settled on the Iberian Peninsula, which are believed to be ancestors of the Garrano.

See wild Garrano horses

Garrano horses in the wild.

Development of Other Breeds

Crossed with other native and non-native horses, the Garrano has helped develop a number of different breeds. An example is the Galician pony of north-western Spain, which combines Garrano, Sorraia and Andalucian bloodlines.

Garranos also crossed the Atlantic Ocean with Portuguese explorers and helped to establish the Brazilian Criollo and the Galiceno horse of Mexico.

Garranos have had a hand in developing other breeds

Breed Characteristics

The Garrano is a small, light horse, which typically weighs around 290 kg and is no taller than 13.1hh. Solid, dark colours such as bay, brown and dark chestnut are most common, with minimal white markings. The breed has a small head, with large eyes and a straight, or slightly concave profile. The neck is short, thick and muscular, and leads to a deep, broad chest. The legs are solid, with wide joints and round hooves. Despite their height, these horses are exceptionally hardy and strong, with great endurance. They are willing to work and quick to learn, with a friendly, relaxed temperament. Garranos are also very agile, thanks to thousands of years spent traversing difficult terrain in the mountains.

Garrano horses are quick to learn

A Horse of Many Talents

The Garrano horse is closely linked to the people of the Minho in the north of Portugal. For countless generations, the Garrano has been part of the lifestyle, history and traditions of Minho’s rural communities.

The Garrano is strong enough to perform light agricultural work and agile enough to transport both people and goods along the region’s steep, winding mountain roads. They are no longer needed as working animals, but the Garrano is still used today as a riding horse, especially in equestrian tourism in the north of the country.

Explore the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Garranos make great riding horses (far right)

The Garrano Today

The Garrano is considered an endangered breed and has been protected since the 1970’s. Today there are around 2,400 Garranos in existance, although not all are purebred. Mainly concentrated in the mountainous regions of Minho, Trás-dos-Montes, Serra de Arga and Serra de Santa Luzia, where they graze common lands.

There are around 2,400 Garrano horses in existence

A large proportion also live in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, thriving in a wild landscape of mountains, forests and valleys. Here, the Garrano horses share their territory with Iberian wolves, for both species are protected within the park.

Garrano horses (left) are in their element in Peneda-Gerês

Where Can I See a Garrano Horse?

If you’re keen to know more about the Garrano horse, then why not book a place on In The Saddle’s Wolves and Wild Horses ride? Spend a week exploring the beauty of Peneda-Gerês National Park, see herds of wild Garranos and perhaps even ride one of Pedro and Anabela’s cherished Garrano horses.

Call us on +44 (0) 1299 272 997 or email for more information.


5 responses to “Breeds from Around the World: Part Two – Garrano”

  1. Rhonda Welzel says:

    I am so excited. I just had my horses DNA done and I didn’t tell them anything about her other than approximate age and she came back #1 Garrono #2 QH. I was told she was 3/4 Andalusian and 1/4 QH! Yay. so excited to learn about this breed.

  2. Lynn says:

    I have a horse that came off the range in Washington State. Her DNA shows her to have Garrano in her mix. She looks very much like these ponies although she is taller. She was quite easy to tame and is a delightful horse to own and ride. I was told by a horse DNA expert that the wild/feral horses on the American range that test as Garrano were brought over by Cortez. I don’t have data to back that up. But I must say that everybody who has one of these part Garrano horses really enjoys their personality. They all seem to be very intelligent and are easy to teach new things. I could not ask for a better horse. In fact I like her better than the bloodstock and show horses. In an emergency she would be first to be saved out of the whole barn

    • Olwen Law says:

      Hi Lynn
      It’s quite amazing to think of the melting pot created by horses travelling all over the world.

  3. Mary Schmitt says:

    I have a Comstock Mustang (Virginia range, Nevada). His DNA said galiceno, but conformationally looks more like Garrano…thick neck, wide chest, good bone, round feet. Excited to hear about this link to Galician.

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