Friday, January 15, 2010

On Zebro Hide and the Sorraia

In the book, DAILY LIFE IN PORTUGAL IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES there is a mention of the use of zebro hide to make sturdy and resilient outdoor footwear:
"But the rough, arduous life of those days required outdoor shoes of leather, almost in the modern style. These were made of well-oiled zebro hide or calfskin; those of better quality were of deerskin, sheepskin, or polished goatskin." pg. 45


I can personally attest that the Sorraia horse has a tough hide, which would no doubt make for excellent work boots. The skin of Altamiro and his half-Sorraia offspring, is different than that of our domestic horses and also different than that of our draft mules and the density of their hair coat (Zorita and Altamiro, especially) is also noteworthy...its incredibly short and thick. In summer it is sleek, yet maintains an incredibly density. The skin ripples more underneath the hair and sometimes even appears to sag a bit around the eyes (more noticeable in the youngsters) and the overall sense reminds me of what I imagine an elephants skin would be like.

The most telling piece of evidence I have, however, for the resiliency of the Sorraia hide is frequently demonstrated by the "hard knocks" Altamiro can take from the heels of his pasture mates. Mistral, our Arabian gelding, is also one who rarely backs away from being kicked and has weathered some pretty severe hard knocks himself...but he always sports a crescent shaped hairless scrape or cut after such encounters. With Altamiro, he always comes away completely unscathed.

See for yourself in this bit of video footage taken last week during one of Altamiro's sneaking away from his mares and foals to come and rough house with the other herd. In this instance he and our draft mule Jerry are "horsin' around":



video

I'm taking this as another bit of evidence that the Sorraia is indeed the Zebro of antiquity. ;-)

8 comments:

peter .be said...

all horsecolors, yes also the socalled basecolors black, bay and chestnut, are in fact mutations (degenerations) of the color-of-origin, which is dun or even grulladun. It's alot about pigment partition in skin and in the hairshafts. Pigment is what makes skin and hair resistent to UV-light, to wear and tear of all sorts.
It is really sad that "dilution-colors"(which dun, to me, is not !)especially in the lusitanobreed are such a hype....

Spanish Sulphurs said...

I have noticed that Sulphurs also have tough hides. Not tough like cattle hide, but tough for a horse. They also tend to have more "deer" like coats. Sulphurs are also unable to flag their tails like modern bred horses. Instead, they pick their legs up like a deer and roll their shoulders out with their heads up and tails held up at a little higher angle than horizontal. It is an interesting observation noted by many Sulphur owners and breeders. Here is Sulphur's Cuervo so you can get an idea of what a Sulphur looks like when excited.

http://i243.photobucket.com/albums/ff208/barbhorses/Sulphur%20horses/cuervostruttin.jpg

I will try to get my mare on film to share. They look really odd when you are use to looking at modern bred horses when they are excited. lol

Annemiek said...

Lynne,

What a wonderful video! Interesting how Altamiro reacts. He does not seem to be offended at all by Jerry’s kicks. It’s just sports, or so it seems. I was wondering does Altamiro use kicks when he means business, or does he strike with his front legs?

Miek

Lynne Gerard said...

Thanks to Peter_.be and Spanish Sulphur for relaying their comments.

Miek asked,"I was wondering does Altamiro use kicks when he means business, or does he strike with his front legs?"

Absolutely! Altamiro makes use of all the equine arsenal at his disposal, but whenever a "play game" escalates into something a bit more intense, it is always short lived and there (thankfully) have been no injuries or hard feelings in the aftermath.

Anonymous said...

Janet says. . .

Just browsing thru the articles I missed before. . .the mule strikes me as a bully 'of sorts' in that Altimiro doesn't seem to be anticipating the kicks at all. There is some feeling here of subtrofuge or false body language, trickery or perhaps a basic communication difference between the mule and the horse. . . ? What horse would remain there to be kicked if they anticipated the blows at all, cued in by body language from the mule?

Just looking for more answers or ideas to this strange little scuffle, where the stallion gets kicked 3x!

Lynne Gerard said...

Janet wrote:
"Just browsing thru the articles I missed before. . .the mule strikes me as a bully 'of sorts' in that Altimiro doesn't seem to be anticipating the kicks at all. There is some feeling here of subtrofuge or false body language, trickery or perhaps a basic communication difference between the mule and the horse. . . ?

It may be because I know these equines so well, Janet, but I can assure you that what you are seeing is typical rough and tumble "boy games"...and rest assured both Altamrio and Jerry know precisely what actions they are provoking in each other.

Altamiro has actually provoked Jerry in such a way that would bring out the kicks. If Jerry hadn't kicked, Altamrio would have gone on to the next phase of the game which would be to mount Jerry --an act of domination that Jerry was certainly not going to participate in game or not!, and so effectively ended things clearly saying "no".

I've watched these types of games hundreds of times, and it is more like Altamiro is a boxer who is using the mule to hone his skills of dodging the blows as well as taking the hits in places that do no harm.

Had this been a real fight, Altamiro would have gone after Jerry for kicking him (and Jerry would have made his kicks more vicious), instead he accepted that the sparring match practice was over and the two walked away, friendship intact.

You may not believe me, but I can tell you that Altamrio is completely in control of things in this game and so is Jerry.

Watch again and see if things don't now look different to you.

"What horse would remain there to be kicked if they anticipated the blows at all, cued in by body language from the mule?"

Laugh! Why a proud Sorraia stallion, of course!

Thanks for reading the Journal of Ravenseyrie, Janet and taking time to leave your questions and comments.

Lynne Gerard said...

I'm glad Janet happened to leave a comment on this journal entry a year after I originally posted it, because it brought me back to reading something Peter wrote:

"all horsecolors, yes also the socalled basecolors black, bay and chestnut, are in fact mutations (degenerations) of the color-of-origin, which is dun or even grulladun."

I know Darwin certainly thought that dun/grulla were the original colours of horses (and other creatures), but I cannot say that I have read any other source that would suggest that black and bay are degenerations of the original wild species colour. Admittedly my reading and understanding of colour genetics is limited, so far. I'd like to learn more. Are there any texts (in English) that you might suggest for me to read that validate what you have written, Peter?

If you prefer, you may email me at:
ravenseyrie@xplornet.com

Lynne Gerard said...

Peter, I did recently read an article about the variations in coat colour of North American Whitetail Deer. In rare instances, their original wild colour is affected by mutations that cause albinism, melanism and piebaldism.

You are saying this is the same/similar situation for horses, yes?