A big herd of white Camargue horses galloping towards me through salty waters of the calm delta is a magical scene and as a photographer, I find this mesmerizing every single time. If you add a sunset to this scene, it becomes mind-blowingly beautiful. As a fine art horse photographer, I find the horses of Camargue extremely photogenic not because they are pure white and good-natured but also their habitat with acres of green landscape and massive wetlands make the choreography perfect. My love for this breed, made me search their background.
Camargue horses are indigenous to the Camargue area located in the southern part of France. Camargue is a wetland area found at the mouth of the River Rhone. The area’s borders on the West are Montpellier, and Tarascon on the North and Fos on the East.
This is a prehistoric breed. While its origin is a mystery, some believe it descended from Solutre horse (an extinct breed of horse whose bones were found in the southeastern part of France). However, the existence of the horse in the south-western part of France was supported by the horse images found in Paleolithic cave paintings found at Lascaux. It is also believed that the horses brought by Greeks, Romans, Franks, Moors, Celts, Phoenicians and Visigoths may have influenced the Camargue breed. The breed is highly protected today to prevent extinction.
They are a distinct breed of horses and just like the Camargue bulls; they live in semi-liberty. When we consider the top 10 breeds of horses, we will come across them. They have dark brown or black color at birth. However, the color turns white around the fourth year. An adult Camargue horse stands between 13 to 14 hands.
These are the characteristics of Camargue horses:
- They have a large head with a straight (or slightly convex) profile.
- Their ears are broad short and have a broad base.
- They have a short and muscular neck. The neck is deep at the base.
- They have huge and expressive eyes.
- They possess very hard legs with clean joints. They also have long forearm and short hooves.
- They have straight and short shoulder and back.
- Their chest is broad and profound.
- They possess pronounced withers.
Camargue horses are usually rugged in nature. They breed true to type. They are lively horses with good nature and are suited for riding. Despite the fact that they are relatively on the small size, they are known for their agility. They can survive the burning summer heat, the harsh winter winds, not to mention the ferocious mosquitos, which thrive on the wetlands. They are capable of traveling long distances easily. They can also go without food for an extended period. They have broad hooves that enable them to adapt to their wet environment.
Camargue horses are useful in managing bull herds. Visitors can also explore the Camargue on the back of the horses. They thrive in seawater. This is why they are called “the horse of the sea.” Riders of Camargues are known as Gardians (French cowboys). Gardians have their own festivals each year where they show their horseback riding skills, and this is something to be seen.
Camargue horses do mate in the late spring. The females reach sexual maturity when they are 18 months old while the males are matured sexually when they are 1 or 2 years old. Their gestation period is between 11 to 13 months. They can live up to about 20 to 25 years.