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The Sorraia Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 18 July 2010
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The Sorraia
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A Portuguese equine patrimony.

Sorraia horses are a remnant population of an indigenous, South Iberian wild horse, which survived almost pure in the inaccessible lowlands of the River Sorraia (a tributary of the Tagus) until the early 1900s. 

Dr. Ruy d'Andrade first encountered a small herd in the 1920s, during a hunting trip in the region of Coruche on the lower Sor-Raia. At the time of d'Andrade's initial meeting with the herd, the horses were ill-regarded by local farmers who knew them as "zebro" or "zebra", due to their markings. They were considered hardy native animals that lived off of the uncultivated lands and salt marshes in the local river valleys, and for centuries the farmers of the area would occasionally capture the horses and use them for agricultural work, including threshing  grain and herding bulls.
Dr. d'Andrade became interested in them, noticing that in appearance they were remarkably similar to the prehistoric cave paintings found across the northern Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula.

A typical Sorraia stallion's convex profile  

Already a well known Lusitano breeder, and the drive behind the Alter Real lineage preservation, d'Andrade set about preserving them: he tried to purchase the herd and was not able to, but he did secure seven mares from the same area that had the same chararcteristics and formed a herd by pairing the mares with horses of the same origin and coat characteristics. D'Andrade gave the breed its name , taking as inspiration the name of the river close to where he found them and these are the founders of all the presently existing population. The descendants of these horses are still maintained by the Andrade family, who keep a small feral herd. It is interesting that the mitochondrial DNA tests have shown these horses to have a very distinct genotype from the rest of the Iberian breeds, except a portion of the Lusitanos that seem to be have a maternal link to the Sorraia. This would indicate that Andrade's choices of foundation animals were very accurate in obtaining the Sorraia genealogy which that at the time still persisted in that region of Portugal.

Last Updated ( Friday, 13 August 2010 )
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