14 African Horse Breeds From The Cradle Of Civilization

We’ve talked about Japanese or Indian breeds, so why not to go to Africa? Africa is a truly enormous continent, and as such you would imagine that it has a lot of native horse breeds. Well, you’d be right! There are fourteen African horse breeds in total, and each is very different.


The Barb, or Berber horse
Source: Wikimedia.org

The Barb, or Berber, is from Northern Africa. There is some disagreement about whether the Barb is descended from the Arabian, or whether the two breeds share a common ancestor – either way, they have notable similarities.

Barbs generally stand between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, and are predominantly gray, though black, bay, chestnut and brown horses are also found. These horses are used as light riding horses, and have been a great influence on other breeds over the centuries. They are known for their stamina, speed and fiery temperaments.

Basuto Pony

Although it has pony stature, this breed is considered a small horse as it has many horse characteristics, such as a very long stride. The Basuto Pony replaced the Cape Horse, because it was much more suited to the rocky, harsh terrain over which they were ridden, and they became so popular that vast numbers were exported, leading to many of the best being killed in action in the Boer Wars.

Efforts are now being made to re-establish the breed, which can stand up to 14.2 hands and are chestnut, brown, bay, gray or black, some with white markings.


This modern breed is a recreation of the now-extinct Cape Horse, which was descended from horses imported to Southern Africa in 1653. Most of these old-type Boer horses were lost during the Boer War; some died in the fighting while many others were shot on Boer farms by the British.

Conservation efforts began in the 20th century, and while they are still rare they are surviving. The Boerperd stands between 14 and 16 hands and comes in black, chestnut, gray, bay, dun, palomino and pinto colors. They are used for agriculture and endurance riding.

Dongola Horse

Also known as the Dongolawi, this horse is native to Sudan, Eritrea and Cameroon. It is linked to the Barb and the Arabian, and is thought to be descended from the Iberian horses during the 13th century. Standing around 15.2 hands, they have a deep, reddish bay coat, though chestnut or black with white markings also appear. They are excellent riding horses, and have been used to create lighter versions of Hunter type horses.

Ethiopian Horse

Ethiopian Horse
Source: Wikimedia.org

Ethiopia contains over half the total of all horses found on the African continent. They used to be all lumped in together, but in 2012 they were categorised into eight distinct breeds or types.

These are: the Abysinnian, a poorly conformed horse used in agriculture; the Bale, another horse with poor conformation that is found in highland areas; the Borana, a bay horse of good conformation used for draft purposes by pastoral people of Southern Ethiopia; the Horro, an agricultural horse with bad conformation from West Ethiopia; the Kafa, a well-conformed robust horse from the rainforests of Sheka and Keffa zones; the Kundudo, an endangered breed of wild horses from the Kundudo plateau; the Ogaden, an elegant breed from the Somali Region of Ethiopia, and the Selale or Oromo, a good riding horse from the Shewa area of central Ethiopia. Most Ethiopian horses are used for farm or transport work, though some are kept for riding.


The Fleuve, from Senegal in West Africa, has been described as a “degenerate Barb”. It stands over 14 hands, and is a well-made, slender horse. They are nearly always gray, and were once considered the horses of chieftains. Nowadays they are used as saddle horses and for racing, and for cross breeding.


The Foutanke or Fouta came about from a cross between a Fleuve stallion with an M’Bayar mare, and it closely resembles the Fleuve – although it has a greater range of coat colors. This horse is highly valued for racing.


The most numerous of the four Senegalese breeds, the M’Bayar is thought to be either descended from Barb horses or be native to the region with ancient origins. The M’Bayar stand up to 14 hands, and are stocky horses which can suffer conformational defects. They are generally bay, but can be gray, roan or chestnut. They are used for farm work, racing and, very occasionally, for meat.


This horse is the smallest of the Senegalese breeds, and it is at risk of extinction as it is gradually being assimilated into the M’Bayar population. The M’Par stands around 13.2 hands, and is generally of poor conformation – despite this it is a very sturdy horse with great endurance. It is used as a light draft horse, for pulling small carts.


This breed came about in the 1950s, and started as an attempt to save the Basuto-type ponies. The Nooitgedachter stands anywhere between 13.2 and 16 hands, an they are most commonly bay, brown or chestnut roan. Because of the size variation, this horse is suitable for children or adults, and is used for gymkhanas, polo, endurance riding and general hacking.

Poney du Logone

Also known as the Poney Mousseye, because of its association with the Mousseye people in West Central Africa, this little pony’s breeding has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. It is a small, sturdy pony, reaching about 12.2 hands, and it is principally bay, with bay roan, chestnut and chestnut roan also existing in the breed. It is one of only two breeds which are resistant to the “sleeping sickness” carried by tsetse flies.


The Tawleed was developed in Khartoum, in Sudan, by breeding native horses with another, more exotic one. They are used as riding horses and they are well suited to their habitat as they are resistant to heat and drought.


This very rare horse was developed in the Western Cape region of South Africa, by crossing small Cape horses with the Friesian, Thoroughbred, Hackney and assorted heavy warmbloods. The Vlaamperd stands between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, and is always black (though mares are permitted to be dark brown). They are used as carriage horses and also for dressage, due to their fine conformation, high motion and good temperament.

Western Sudan Pony

Not much is known about this little pony, except that it is found in Southern Darfur and Southwestern Kordofan in Sudan, and is usually bay, chestnut or gray with white markings.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Horses & Foals

6022 S Drexel Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Amazon Disclaimer

Horses & Foals is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


Horses & Foals do not intend to provide veterinary advice. We try to help users better understand their horses; however, the content on this blog is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. For more information, please read our PRIVACY POLICY.