Breed Report: Barb

The Barb is little used outside his native area in Northern Africa, and yet he has almost as great an influence as a foundation bloodline as the Arab.  He played a major role in the development of the Andalucian as well as the Thoroughbred.  He has the qualities of an Arab for sure, but not its refined looks.

ORIGIN: North Africa

ENVIRONMENT: Desert and semidesert

USES: Riding

HEIGHT: 14.2 to 15.2 hh ((58-62 in)

COLORS: Black, brown, gray, and bay


It is quite possible that the Barb was one of a small group of horses that survived the Ice Age, which would make the breed older than the Arab.  Certainly, his primitive head lends credence to him being an ancient breed.  The Barbary coast, that is, the coastal region of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, was home to the Barb horse.  They spread along with Islam, and hence the arrival of a Muslim army in Europe in the early 8th century saw the spread of the Barb Horse also.  He was the mount of the Berbers who led the early Muslim conquests, invading Spain in 711 AD.  In modern times, the most famous use of  Barb horses was in the Algerian and Tunisian cavalry regiments of the French Army.


The Barb is remarkably quick and agile.  Although the head has a straight profile, unlike that of the Arab, the neck is distinctly arched.  The legs are slender and very hard, and the hooves are extremely tough.



While not classically beautiful in the same way as the Arab and Thoroughbred, there is a lot to like about the tough, knowing look of the Barb; perhaps telling us he has been around longer than we think!

The Barb Horse can show tremendous speed over short distances, and that is dramatically exhibited during the wild, rifle firing charges that feature in many North African festivals.

Debby Sly: Encyclopedia of Horses.  Bath, UK 2008, p. 190/91


5 Replies to “Breed Report: Barb”

  1. Great breed report here :)) I lived on the Island of Molokai’i, Hawaii, and story has it that the tough, small local horses there trace back to the barb-type horses that came to the islands during the early years of explorers who first brought those original horses to the Hawaiian Islands. You might want to see my blog — the small horse with girl standing is a barb type horse from Molokai :)) Dawn

    Liked by 1 person

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