The Sorraia is breed of horse that is native to Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula. Although its exact origin is unknown, it is known to have developed in southern portions of this area, but only first became recognized by the scientific world in the twentieth century. One theory regarding its origin suggests that it is a descendent of a wild horse that once inhabited the area, while another theory suggests that it is similar to mustangs, having developed from Spanish horses that were brought to the area.

Genetic studies have been conducted to find the relationship between the Sorraia horse and other breeds. These studies have found that although the breed is physically similar to other Iberian breeds, they are not closely related. Other studies have shown that the breed is and is not related to Przewalski’s horse, suggesting that it may have been through a recent genetic bottleneck. This would explain the physical and genetic similarities and differences between the Sorraia horse and domestic and wild horse breeds.

The Sorraia reaches a height between 14.1 and 14.3 hands and has a large head with a distinct convex profile and large ears. The neck is long in proportion to its body and its legs are lean, although strong. This breed is typically dun or dun grullo in color and often displays primitive markings, black hair on the tips of the ears and muzzle, horizontal leg striping, and a dorsal striping. The manes and tails of this breed are bicolored, with darker hairs holding lighter hairs near the tips. White markings do sometimes occur on purebred Sorraia horses, but these are not typically preferred. Adult horses can have layered hair on the neck and chest that creates a barring effect and foals can have numerous stripes along the body that resemble the stripes of a zebra.

Because the breed developed in a harsh environment, it is well known for being hardy and having good endurance. It has an independent temperament but is easily trained, making it a good farm horse for native farmers for centuries. Today, the breed is not used for farm work but is the focus of conservation efforts in many area of Europe, all of which work to bring the Sorraia out of its Endangered status.

Image Caption: Altamiro, Purebred Sorraia Stallion. Credit: Selona/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)