Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vale de Zebro

I received this gorgeous picture book in April of last year and have been meaning to post a review of it here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie for quite some time. I felt this book had such potential importance that I didn't want to just tap out a brief synopsis of it. Finally, I came up with the idea that an interview with the author himself would serve to provide additional insight into just how meaningful the Vale de Zebro refuge in Portugal is and how it can be influential on a worldwide basis.

Here then is my interview with Hardy Oelke:

Ravenseyrie: Your devotion to the preservation of the Sorraia horses took an exciting turn when, in 2004, you were able to release back into the wild a group of Sorraias which had been bred in captivity. Part of what you feel is vital for these horses is the capacity to live autonomously in a wilderness setting. Could you explain why you feel this is so important for the Sorraias and what impact it has on preservation efforts?
Oelke: It is important for several reasons: One is Mother Nature's merciless selections, the survival-of-the-fittest situation. In domestic breeds, Man is selecting for traits and abilities he likes, and invariably loses soundness, vitality, sureness of instincts, etc. In the Vale de Zebro Refuge, any animal that can't make it without human help will not survive. So the project serves to restore the original qualities of these horses. Also, within the scope we can offer there, the horses make their mating choices; it's not the breeder who decides which mare is bred by which stallion.

A related aspect is social structure. There are few places left on this earth where horses can still live in families, where mature stallions, mares, foals, immature stallions and immature mares of several generations are allowed to live together, to freely interact and find their own balance and organize their social structure. This is something one cannot observe anymore in free-roaming mustangs, for instance, due to the constant interventions by the BLM, each of them tearing apart what social structures a "herd" may have had.

Yet another reason is wild behavior. In wild, primitive horses, that is a valuable quality. North American mustangs are proof that over centuries of fighting against, and running from, predators and of being hunted by Man, such wild behavior is restored, but in Europe we don't have that kind of situation. Koniks living in a basically wild situation have not redeveloped wild behavior, not even after many generations. When I had my first encounter with Sorraias, most behaved wilder than anything I had experienced before, except wild mustangs, so I regret that this is rapidly disappearing, and hope to restore it in the Refuge's horses. I'm happy to report that, since its beginnings, a definite development into that direction has taken place.

Ravenseyrie: Here in Canada, the feral population of horses on Sable Island has no natural predators and has not been managed in any way by humans for the past 70 years. The Sable Island horses' numbers are controlled by seasonal weather patterns and forage availability. This natural "culling" is so well maintained that a balanced ecosystem has resulted which now depends upon the presence of these horses on the landscape. Do you see the Vale de Zebro establishing a similar contained, self-maintained ecosystem, or do you expect you may have to occasionally remove horses from the preserve?

Oelke: A: The Vale de Zebro Refuge is definitely not large enough for an experiment like that. We are certain that we will have to remove horses from time to time, but the plan is that this is the only interference we allow. Also, the available forage is not for the horses alone, but is diminished to a degree in times of strong vegetation by a herd of cattle. This is also considered of vital importance, as the cattle grazing interrupts the life cycle of horse parasites, so this practise will keep the parasites in check.

Ravenseyrie: Presently, the Sorraias at the Vale de Zebro have split into two bands. How many bands do you feel the five square kilometer environment can support?

Oelke: At its present size, there will only be room for two bands, as far as I can see, with the possibility of an additional small bachelor band. We aim at keeping the total number of horses at around 20. This is not ideal, but it is the best we can do. We want to avoid a situation in which the land cannot sustain the horses all year round, and they would have to be fed at some time during the year. That would be counterproductive in many ways. In my opinion, leaving them to themselves as much as possible has first priority.

Ravenseyrie: I can imagine that the owners of the property are aware of the vital role they are providing in allowing the Sorraias to live a wild existence alongside the cattle which inhabited the area these past five years. What feedback have you received from these generous landowners?

Oelke: The owners are well aware of the importance of the project, and have been very supportive and idealistic. The cattle are not permanently in the Refuge, only at times when the vegetation is very lush, and allows the cattle grazing.

Ravenseyrie: They are to be commended, and I hope other idealistic owners of fallow lands (worldwide) make it possible for more of these types of preservations projects involving wild horses to come into being.
Have there been, or are there plans for the future, to have the Vale de Zebro habitat studied for the effects the Sorraia horses are having on the environment?

Oelke: Yes, definitely. But we are even more looking forward to studies of the horses' behavior, especially social behavior. Already some interesting observations have been made, some of which I mention in the book.

Ravenseyrie: And your book also shows lovely photos of the abundant variety of flora the property contains which studies are now demonstrating to be much healthier for horses than high protein/high sugar grasses and legumes.
Though there are many individuals who are making an effort to breed Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs in captivity, do you feel that more focus needs to be given to creating more natural habitats that allow for family units to dwell together in a varied environment?

Oelke: Absolutely. While there have been Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs that made good riding or driving horses, and it is absolutely legitimate to use them like that, this cannot be the answer to the preservation, or even rescue, of the kind. In the long run, the peculiar characteristics and abilities will only be preserved in a natural, wild setting. Whenever horses are bred for whatever Man has use for, there are traits that get lost. Only the survival in the wild ensures the preservation of the animal as a whole, as the marvelous combination of instinct, strength, frugality, fertility, surefootedness, balance, and not the least: beauty.

Ravenseyrie: With the shift in management of the public range lands in the United States favoring the interest of grazing cattle and indigenous wildlife, the mustang horses are being culled to a point of jeopardizing sustainability. While I feel it will be a tremendous loss to the world if free range horses are eventually removed from public lands in the United States altogether, are private preserves similar to the Vale de Zebro a viable option for some of these mustang horses?

Oelke: I certainly hope that wild horses are not going to be removed from public range land, that would be a great loss indeed because of the part they played in America's history. With respect to private preserves, something similar is already happening, has been happening for many years. I'm referring to ranchers who have been taking care of thousands of (formerly) wild horses for the BLM, which had found no adopters due to their physical makeup, or their age. They are using their private land, but they work for the government, of course. Then there are so-called sanctuaries, usually private initiatives, and depending on donations, which take care of a great number of unadoptable horses. They all do so with no regard to the special status some mustangs have -- they take them on as they come, in all colors and sizes and shapes. Regrettably, there isn't a single one devoting its efforts to the preservation of the Sorraia Mustang, in my view the most important and valuable mustang that exists.

Ravenseyrie: While I have a soft spot for all types of horses and feel even the mangiest mustang deserves its freedom, I would certainly feel especially disappointed if those North American mustangs which maintain a high degree of the Sorraia phenotype are lost through the changes in policies presently manifesting themselves in the United States. In what way do you suggest that Sorraia Mustangs (as well as other special strains of mustangs) can be preserved as a continued presence on public land in a way that is sustainable and acceptable to all parties involved?

Oelke: All it would take is the willingness on the part of either the BLM, or whatever other department may have authority over a herd, to manage a herd for Sorraia characteristics. The management of public lands is geared toward sustenance, no matter where. So far, the wild horses were largely viewed by the BLM as a burden and a problem, it would take a public vote of sorts to persuade a BLM office to manage a herd for that type. Not that any existing herd could even be a candidate, and the concept of "planting" a select group of horses in a cleared area is something most BLM officials shy away from, or declare to be not within their legal power, and funding would also be a problem. Also, it would have to be a fenced-in area, because otherwise these Sorraia types might interbreed with non-Sorraia types. Not many Herd Management Areas meet these requirements. However, every one of the many ranches holding unadoptable mustangs for the BLM would. The best chance may be that a large rancher will take a shine to these horses and decide that a band of 15 or 20 head of wild horses wouldn't make much difference on his land...

Ravenseyrie: Other wild horse forms, like the Przewalski horse and the Polish Konik, have received enthusiastic support from preservation groups, and have successfully been reintroduced to native habitats. The Konik horses, especially, have been recognized for the value in maintaining grassland habits which benefits all manner of biodiversity. Your project at the Vale de Zebro is the only one of its kind for Sorraia horses. What can be done to expand the numbers of Sorraia horses and encourage other property owners in Europe and elsewhere to participate in conservation efforts that incorporate Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses into similar projects?

Oelke: I wish I knew, and I would start working on it immediately. All I can hope is that the Vale de Zebro will become a role model and that sooner or later there will be another opening for a preserve. I am constantly putting out feelers, but so far, nothing has materialized. I would be more than willing to cooperate with or assist another project.

Ravenseyrie: If more individuals became involved in establishing preserves like the Vale de Zebro, what suggestions do you have for re-homing "surplus" numbers of horses that such projects are likely to generate?

Oelke: I wish we would be having that problem! Obviously, a new preserve could become a home for surplus horses of an already established one. We are approaching that point a Vale de Zebro in the immediate future, save something drastic would happen. As long as no other preserve is available, surplus horses will go to private owners, possibly breeders. Private breeders play their role in preserving the Sorraia horse, but they can't be the sole answer, for the above-mentioned reasons.

Ravenseyrie: Would you ever consider the PZP equine contraceptive as a viable option for maintaining sustainable numbers in preservation projects, as opposed to manipulating numbers through physical culling of "surplus" horses?

Oelke: No, or let's say, I hope to avoid that. The reason is because it interrupts the social structure. I would rather remove an animal or two of a given generation than not have that generation present at all. So far, we don't have that problem, anyway, as Sorraias are hard to come by, and I feel we'll find ready takers whenever we will be in a position to offer surplus horses.

Ravenseyrie: In these modern times, for most cultures and societies, horses are no longer necessary features of daily life and have rather become luxury "items" used for pleasure or equestrian sports. With the current depression in worldwide economies, such a luxury is something many people can no longer afford. When so many humans are struggling just to "get by", why should they care about the precarious existence of a small, primitive type of horse?

Oelke: That's a tough one. There will always be people who look at things only from a profit perspective, and others who are idealists. In our times, the profit hunters seem to rule, but fortunately, there are still people who are not solely driven by the almighty buck, but take interest in, and place value on, other matters. I think it is fair to say that nowadays the awareness regarding genetic diversity, and in the decline in the numbers of species, is higher than in recent decades. As far as the precarious existence of primitive horses is concerned, and why people should care, there is a great fascination that every horse person feels -- and not only horse people -- when observing them. There is also the fact that wild species as well as their primitive descendants possess traits and abilities that get lost in modern breeds. There will be a time when man-made breeds may be in dear need of a hybrid vigor that only the primitive cousins can provide, not only in horse, but in other livestock as well. Finally, they are worth preserving for their own sake, for future generations to enjoy. Man has wiped off this planet an incredible number of species and subspecies already, once they are gone, they are gone for good. What wouldn't I give to lay my eyes on a Tarpan in the steppe of southern Russia! And I know there are many like me...

Ravenseyrie: One last question for you, Hardy. "TAL DER WILDEN PFERDE / Vale de Zebro / The Valley of the Wild Horses" is a limited edition, self-published book, resplendent with hundreds of photos making it an expensive undertaking--what prompted you to create this book, knowing that the return on your financial investment would be barely covering your expenses?

Oelke: The Vale de Zebro refuge is not accessible to the general public, and any considerable number of visitors would defeat its purpose, but I wanted to share the views and atmosphere via the photos and some of the observations with those who cannot experience it first-hand. I hope that it is also serving as a promotional tool to hopefully convince others to engage in a preservation project. My main driving force to produce the book, however, was the desire to put in print the latest information regarding the Sorraia horse as a subspecies, or more correctly, the zebro, in particular the reasons why the zebro cannot have been a hemionus (half ass), like some authors claimed.
It was most generous of Hardy Oelke to participate in this interview and I'm so glad that he found the means to present the public with this book on the Sorraia horses and the Vale de Zebro refuge.

The text of this book is written in both English and German, with brief excerpts of d'Andrade's writings in Portuguese and has been kept in small type (almost too small, I find) so as to make room for more of Hardy Oelke's excellent photography. Many photos are documentary in nature, revealing elements of the Sorraia's life in this preserve, others are more ambient with the effect of sweeping one to an otherworldly place, filled with magical light and primeval equines so harmoniously blending into the landscape one wonders if they are real or imagined. Thankfully, they are real and are thriving in the Vale de Zebro!

This full colour 11 x 8 x 1/2" book was published as a very limited edition and is available for purchase for 44,- Euro plus shipping and handling.
To Order please write Hardy Oelke at


Spanish Sulphurs said...

To maintain genetic diversity, it might be wise for Hardy to import Argentine Criollos. After all, one of the founding sires of the breed was an Argentine Criollo bred by no other than Emilio Solanet!

That is interesting that Hardy is trying to turn this breed out into the wild. Most people are trying to domesticate! I know from experience that it is nice to have a horse that still has their instincts intact, other times, not so much! lol

I would be curious to see the ancestors of the Sulphur. The Sulphur only displays the ancient D1 and D3 mtDNA, which is actually older than that of the Sorraia. Yet, it is interesting to see some similarities in these unrelated breeds. Perhaps, it just all goes back to the Tarpan!

June said...

Very interesting - thanks for posting this interview!

Lynne Gerard said...

SpanishSulphurs (Kimberlee Jones) wrote:
"That is interesting that Hardy is trying to turn this breed out into the wild. Most people are trying to domesticate!"

I like this quote from Bill Phillips (retired BLM range management specialist) from his paper, "Dun Factor Horses - Kiger Mustangs and Additional Discussion About Horses":

"It is my opinion that domestic horses are just wild horses held in captivity. Also that each new foal is a wild horse with its instincts that developed over the 55,000,000 years still intact and needs to be domesticated as an individual."--Bill Phillips, July 2007

About the other usual style of comments you've left, Kim, I feel certain you over-estimate the influence Solanet's Criollo stallion had on the Sorraia. He was used minimally, (I don't have the studbook with me today--but it was maybe four mares as I recall), and ten years after the preservation effort was well under way.

On the other hand given that the Criollo horses have a link to the ancestral horse as represented in the Sorraia, it would not necessarily be inappropriate for the preservationists to use a perfect Sorraia phenotype specimen existing within the Criollo population, to cross with existing Sorraia horses. With the right candidate, the genetic vibrancy would be as valuable as is our crossing Altamiro with select mustang mares, which is self-evident in the six foals he has sired so far. This is because the ancestral form and primitive genetics are not the product of a man-made breed but have been honed by nature and persist, atavistically among certain Tarpan-like strains of horses even today.

June wrote, "Very interesting - thanks for posting this interview!"

Thank you, June. I am presently working at that promised journal entry devoted to the medical "emergency" we had last summer with Interessado. If all goes well, it should be up in the next couple of weeks.

Spanish Sulphurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spanish Sulphurs said...

The Sorraia has no history as a domestic horse as well as not having a history as a wild horse. What Hardy states is pure speculation based on what he thinks cave paintings resembles among other subjection information. It is the same thing as finding a bunch of dun mustangs with no history and proclaiming them to be the pure remnant of the Spanish horses of the conquistadors. You have no facts, just pure speculation that is once again based on stripes.

I would most certainly agree that the ancestor of the Sorraia had come over to the Americas. We know this happened due to mtDNA being found in the Americas that is shared with the Sorraia. However, the Sorraia itself as we know it today is appropriately labeled by Dr. Deb Bennett who worked at the Smithsonian Institute for 10 years and is widely held as an expert in equine anatomy as a modern breed. She states in her book titled "The Conquerors" that the Sorraia conformation is not primitive, but modern.

I think that in order for you to have credible comments that you need to branch out from only one source. Any person researching a topic will always have more than one source to quote. Which is why I have such problems with your comments as you only go from what Hardy states.

Lynne Gerard said...

SpanishSulphurs (Kimberlee Jones) wrote: "I think that in order for you to have credible comments that you need to branch out from only one source."

There are quite a number of non-Oelke sources in much of what I write, especially in this journal entry here:

Perhaps you missed this?

Spanish Sulphurs said...

What I mean is that you only include commentary that would support what you are saying and completely ignoring facts that do not and experts that do not.

Lynne Gerard said...

SpanishSulphurs (Kimberlee Jones) wrote:"What I mean is that you only include commentary that would support what you are saying and completely ignoring facts that do not and experts that do not."

This is good that you are learning to write what you really mean, instead of falling back on your well-worn repetition of the state of affairs as you see it, to which appropriate responses have been provided on numerous occasions.

Most readers of the Journal of Ravenseyrie are aware that as I (an admitted layman) present "food for thought" and relay the sources I feel are pertinent help us to piece together a likely scenario illuminating the prehistory of the Sorraia that not everyone has come to the same conclusion. The fact that I have not felt compelled to quote from Dr. Deb Bennett's writings is simply because her arguments and "evidence" have not convinced me that her "theory" is more plausible than other researchers. There are quite a number of researchers who were equally exhaustive in their piecing together the scant evidence and in doing so have developed different theories regarding equine origins and domestication. Who is to say which researcher is right?

We tend to gravitate to those theories that "fit" our conception of what may be the best scenario. Dr. Deb Bennett is no exception. When she provides her conception of the "seven subspecies of Equus caballus" she makes no mention of the experts who traveled the road before her--indeed you will not even find the work of Sanson, Ewart, Antonius, Nobis or Ebhardt listed in her bibliography. Would you say to her, therefore, "you only include commentary that would support what you are saying and completely ignoring facts that do not and experts that do not"? There is nothing inappropriate about the way I present my information or the way Bennett presents hers, unless one thumps her chest proclaiming "THIS IS THE ULTIMATE TRUTH!"

In her book, BONES/Discovering the First Americans, Elaine Dewar provides us a context within which we should constantly gauge our inquiries and research. Writes, Dewar:
"Science is supposed to be about evidence; it is organized observation of the world. A construct or theory or narrative is built up from the public labors of those who've gone before and made records of their findings. Their work, once successfully tested, is believed--until it's overturned. Science is a competition to be the first to get it right, but the interpretation of evidence keeps shifting. Evidence accumulates, and the new ideas it spawns leads scientists to look down new pathways. Eventually someone comes along who puts the new evidence together with the old in a clever way, and the framework is recrafted again. The resulting construct is not the Truth: it's just the best one can do with what one has. Science is therefore both conservative and radical. The ideology implicit in science is that there is virtue in open and free inquiry."--Elaine Dewar

The scenario is not black and white, nor true and false, nor cut and dry, Kimberlee. Try to keep an open mind and take some pleasure in exploring the unknown--every day is filled with new possibilities!

Spanish Sulphurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spanish Sulphurs said...

Yes, I do happen to be absolutely horrible at explaining myself with the written word. My sister tells me that I talk "backwards". In other words, I start with the end of the story and work my way back. Which makes it difficult to understand where I am coming from and sometimes what in the blazes I am talking about! Oddly enough, if it is on a subject that I am not passionate about, I make perfect sense! lol

You quoted: "Their work, once successfully tested, is believed--until it's overturned."

Which I feel the evidence against the Sorraia is actually overwhelming. Not only their differing of type (as inbreeding progresses revealing their true genetics), but also on the likely hood of the Sorraia being able to be a subspecies or ancient ancestor in the environment that they have been in. I think that something like that would be more believeable in a country that is vast with many remote areas, but not in a country that is incredibly small and has been breeding and importing horses for centuries if not millennia. It just does not seem logical to me. Nor have I read anything on the Sorraia that does not inevitably goes back to information that is not based in objective (or factual) information, but subjective (not factual, but one's opinion) information.

So, I am not understanding for the life of me as to how you came to your conclusions. It seems to me that the logical conclusion is that it is not plausible nor possible for the Sorraia to be what you are hoping it is.

I am all about keeping an open mind and understanding new things. I was able to put the pieces together and form a logical conclusion about the Sulphurs and that they are in fact descended from the famous Spanish horses of the California vaquero. Thus, making them California's own Spanish horse breed despite the herd actually being found in the remote Needles Mountain Range in south west Utah. We can trace their history straight back to Colonial Spain. Amazing!

What I am desiring is to have the same information for the Sorraia. Be able to have history. To say that Dr. d' Andrade had observed them near the Sor and Raia rivers and this is how they came to be there and this is how they came to be in the hands of ranchers and how he purchased them (or some question if it even was the horses that he viewed in the "wild" that he had purchased??). Were all the horses the same grulla and dun color or were those just the colors he chose (thus making the Sorraia as we know it today man made)? We know that Sorraias can come with white markings and also come in the black and bay colors. So, they are not homozygous for the dun factor. Why? The Przewalski horse looks conformationally like a true wild horse in my opinion. The Sorraia on the other hand does not. The Przewalski looks hardy, never bred by man. What you would expect a real wild horse to look like. The Sorraia certainly has features that are not useful for riding, but you can see horses that do not have useful conformation for riding from horses that are totally domesticated with centuries worth of domestication if not more.

Now, I went to a man's place by the name of Neil Brislawn last year. He had a VERY interesting photo of one of Dr. d' Andrades' original Sorraias. He looked more like a Sorraia Mustang than anything. I was shocked to be honest. The Sorraia today (due to inbreeding) has turned up genetics that were in the Sorraia and making them appear much different than what they use to look like (in my own opinion from viewing this old photo). He actually owns a book that is in Portuguese about the Sorraia that Dr. d' Andrade had sent him. Which is where the photo came from.

Many questions with many unanswered!

Lynne Gerard said...

Spanish Sulphurs (Kimberlee Jones) wrote:
"So, I am not understanding for the life of me as to how you came to your conclusions."

Kim, while it would have been pleasing to have your careful consideration of the pieces of the puzzle I laid out in my January journal entry provide you with enough evidence to at the very least suggest a possible validity for the perception many hold regarding the origins of the Sorraia, your ability to appreciate this perception is not essential to ongoing preservation efforts.

Because you cannot understand the context within which Dr. Ruy d'Andrade gathered remaining specimens of an indigenous wild horse for preservation does not detract from the genetic heritage of these horses one bit.

Kim wrote: "Now, I went to a man's place by the name of Neil Brislawn last year. He had a VERY interesting photo of one of Dr. d' Andrades' original Sorraias. He looked more like a Sorraia Mustang than anything. I was shocked to be honest."

You should have been excited! This should have prompted you to rethink your opinion of the work Hardy Oelke has undertaken. I am well aware of the early photos taken of the Sorraias--the photos as well as d'Andrade's, Shaefer's and present day studies have all been reproduced in the 2004 issue of the Portugese studbook (which Jose Luis d'Andrade kindly gave to Hardy Oelke to give to me.) The variation of form which some present day Sorraias display is not so much due to inbreeding as to the selections made by present day breeders and the heightened degree of domestic living these horses have been exposed to. It was of essential importance to the preservation vision Ruy d'Andrade had to allow the Sorraias to live as undisturbed in their natural habitat as possible, something which few of the breeders these days uphold. This is why the project at the Vale de Zebro is so exciting and so important, and also why the preservation efforts here at Ravenseyrie also play a vital role.

Kim wrote: "The Przewalski horse looks conformationally like a true wild horse in my opinion. The Sorraia on the other hand does not. The Przewalski looks hardy, never bred by man. What you would expect a real wild horse to look like."

The Przewalski horse that we all see is only possible because it HAS been bred by man, and there are countless papers discussing which manipulative selections to make to try to "fix" the characteristics of those wild Mongolian horses documented by early explorers and those that were captured just prior to the horses becoming extinct in the wild. Ruy d'Andrade's preservation efforts of the wild zebro followed a very similar path and has been successful overall in assuring that the primeval genetics were not lost by isolating them to prevent possible dilution from crossings to domestic horses or from those who might be determined to select against primitive characteristics in an attempt to eradicate the ancestral form and colour altogether.

That in your opinion the Sorraia does not look like a wild horse is precisely just "your opinion" and seems to be based on a comparison to the Przewalski horse. My earlier journal entry ought to have dispelled the idea that the only wild horse type revealed in Paleolithic cave art belonged to the Przewalski...there were other wild forms, one of which resembles the Sorraia. As things unfold, I think you will come to see that the Sorraia represents a repository of primitive genetics constituting a variant of the Tarpan, and (as I see for myself every day here at Ravenseyrie) these horses definitely present us with a morphology, colour and behavior that is distinctly different than that of domestic horses. Put a grulla Sorraia next to a grulla Quarter Horse, and you'll see what I has the overall essence of prehistory exuding from it, and the other has the stamp of man's manipulation holding together an adulterated form.

Spanish Sulphurs said...

Lynne, what I meant by my comments that the Sorraia looks different than what it use to look like should open up your eyes to the fact that different genetics are in the Sorraia! Viewing that old photo and viewing the Sorraia of today is just more evidence that despite what people want to believe about them, they are clearly a modern day horse with different genetic influences of different breeds. They may use to be uniform, but today they are not. Due to crossbreeding (as in any breed of horse except a true subspecies) they display a range of characteristics varying from each horse. The best Spanish appearing Sorraia in my opinion is Sovina. Other Sorraia's clearly display non Spanish characteristics. Which is in clear contrast to the very essence of a Spanish horse. So, how can you say a breed of horse (and yes they are a breed and have been proven it to be impossible for them to be a subspecies or anything close to that) was an ancestor to another Spanish breed when their traits are the opposite of what is being strived for?

When you viewed those old photos and looked at the Sorraia we have today and you can see how different they are, it should have made you realize that there are a vast array of genetics going on that is changing the Sorraia. However, despite man breeding the Przewalski horse, it has not changed due to it being a true wild horse or even maybe a subspecies. Maybe a few random white markings show up here and there, but the overall appearance of the horse is the same. This cannot be said for the Sorraia. So, in conclusion, their lack of history and the history of the countries that they were found in, as well as their changing of appearance due to differing breed influences that were uncovered from inbreeding, it must be concluded that the Sorraia is in fact a modern day Iberian horse and that to some (not to me) they may appear primitive due to bad riding conformation. This bad conformation however, cannot be said to be primitive as it can be found in any breed of horse (ie long backs, steep shoulders, ewe necks - useful for racing, not for what the Iberian horse was meant for, weak hindquarters - again not what the Iberian horse was meant for, etc.).

I would also love to see a cave painting that actually resembles the Sorraia. All of the paintings that I have seen look like a Mongolian wild horse. None appear to look like a Sorraia. Not even close. The only thing they have in common are stripes. Again with the color! Their heads are different. The paintings appear to not have a wedge shaped head, the Sorraia does have this modern head. Even the profiles are different. The Sorraia appears to have a totally convex head from poll to muzzle, the paintings appear to a more straight profile and rounded muzzle.

Again, they are paintings and not realistic ones. How subjective is that! Once again, any proof people try to dig up falls on subjective information and not fact! Where are the facts?!

The facts that I have digged up all point to the Sorraia being a modern Iberian breed. Nothing more. Any information I see on the Sorraia being ancient always falls back on subjective information. You don't have actual facts to back up what you are saying! Again, the objective information backs up that they are modern.

So again, I fail to see how you have come up with your conclusions as I am taking in the subjective information that you feel backs up your beliefs as well as the objective information that does not back up what you believe. So, for me, I will take the actual facts over ones opinion any day of the week!

Spanish Sulphurs said...

I meant that the cave paintings have appear to have a straight forehead with a more rounded muzzle.

Lynne Gerard said...

SpanishSulphurs (Kimberlee Jones) wrote:
"When you viewed those old photos and looked at the Sorraia we have today and you can see how different they are, it should have made you realize that there are a vast array of genetics going on that is changing the Sorraia. However, despite man breeding the Przewalski horse, it has not changed due to it being a true wild horse or even maybe a subspecies. Maybe a few random white markings show up here and there, but the overall appearance of the horse is the same."

Take care in extrapolating that a few examples of present day Sorraia horses that differ in one or two elements of form indicate a collapse of ancestral heritage. Curiously any discredit you feel important to lay upon the Sorraia can just as readily cast a shadow over the restoration of the Przewalski horse...

I can not imagine that any further attempts to discuss this topic will prove fruitful. Greater minds than ours have had such debates, we certainly are not going to solve the puzzle ourselves.

The energy devoted to this curiously circular "argument" is better devoted to other, more edifying pursuits.

Charles Alexander said...

Everywhere I go on the web researching the Sorraia-- here, Youtube, etc.-- I see this same tiresome person leaving sniping comments and doing her level best to discredit the Sorraia and the important work being done to conserve it. She usually goes on for pages-- clearly the work of someone with an axe to grind. Makes one wonder what is the (obviously) deeply personal agenda at work. Get a life!

Charles Alexander said...

Her most astute post here: "Yes, I do happen to be absolutely horrible at explaining myself with the written word."