13 African Horse Breeds

The African continent is the home for several different horse breeds. Some have ancient bloodlines, while others are recent additions to the equine family. Here is a list of the current African horse breeds that are currently being developed today.

#1. Abyssinian

Horses that came out of Ethiopia in the past were all characterized by a single breed, referred to as the Abyssinian horse. Today there are several different regional distributions of eight distinct breeds that have come from this original breed. Found mostly in the northern parts of Ethiopia, the Semien Mountains are a common place to find the true Abyssinian. 

Other regional breeds or distinctions tend to focus on an attribute, such as riding, agricultural work, or competition. One variation, the Kundudo, is an endangered feral horse that is found near the city of Harar. 

#2. Barb

The Barb is a breed that is known for its stamina and overall hardiness. These horses have a temperament that can only be described as “fiery,” despite it being a light riding horse. It gallops like a sprinting horse, which has caused it to be infused into today’s racing breeds, like the Thoroughbred.

The history of the breed is believed to date back to around the year 900, when the region saw high levels of conflict. The Modern Barb is broken into specific varieties depending on its genetics, as many were bred with Asian horses to create specific attributes and traits. Most Barbs today are found in Morrocco.

#3. Basotho Pony

Standing at 14.2 hands or below in most instances, this African breed is derived from horses that were brought to Lesotho and South African from Dutch settlers in the 1800s. Over time, the breed was improved with Arabian and Persian genetics. What is unique about this particular breed isn’t its small size, but their extremely hard hooves and tough, sound legs.

These horses have a strong stamina, but are also known for being extremely fast due to their long strides. They are also fearless and sure-footed, making them an asset for multiple needs.

#4. Boerperd

This horse breed is a recreation of the extinct Boer horse and is linked to the Cape Horse. During the Boer Wars from 1880-1902, most of the Boer horses were killed either in battle or on their farms to prevent them from being used as war horses. Conservation efforts began in 1905 to save the breed. It wouldn’t be until 1996 when the Boerperd would be officially recognized by the Department of Agriculture in South Africa.

Numerous modern breeds have been influenced by the new-type Boerperd, including the Australian Waler and the Basuto Pony. 

#5. Dongola

This horse breed is heavily featured in the northern part of the African continent, with particular emphasis in Chad, Mali, Sudan, and Eritrea. It is a riding horse that bears a strong resemblance to the Arabian breed and may have its lineage foundation in the Iberian horses of the 13th century.

Dongola horses are colored much like Paint horses in the United States. Featuring a convex profile, most of the horses in this breed have a bay or reddish coating, sometimes black or chestnut, and then white markings that create a spotted look. Since the 18th century, they have been used as coach horses in addition to riding.

They have also been exported to Ireland and Germany to improve local breeds there. 

#6. Fouta

This light horse breed coming out of West Africa is the direct combination of a Fleuve stallion and a M’bayar mare. It’s also one of the most popular of the African horse breeds today, with more than 400,000 horses believed to be in Senegal alone. Not much data is available regarding registration or conservation of this breed, but they are highly prized as a racing horse.

The growth of this breed since 1945 has been phenomenal. After World War II, there were an estimated 30,000 Fouta horses in the world.

#7. M’bayar

The origins of this African horse breed are not documented, but its history does seem to be centered around Senegal and its surrounding region. Some believe that the M’bayar breed is a descendant of the Barb horses from the north. It is a stocky horse that is short in the neck, but broad in the chest. It has strong legs, but conformational defects are more common in this breed than others.

Its temperament is calm and gentle. The docile nature of the horse makes it a good family horse and it is a strong and rustic worker, making it suitable for agricultural work as well. 

#8. Nooitgedachter

Located primarily in Botswana and South Africa, this riding horse originated through a combination of Arabian and Basuto pony lineage. It is considered to be an extremely rare breed as well, with only 400 purebred Nooitgedachter horses believed to exist in the world today. Part of the reason for this is due to its modern nature. The development of this breed didn’t begin until 1951.

The stamina of this horse is outstanding, while it is also intelligent and good-natured. The bone structure is solid and good joints allow it to be highly mobile. The hooves are hard enough that many in this breed do not require shoeing.

Piebald, spotted, or skewbald coats are not permitted within the breed. Due to early inbreeding that occurred, development has been difficult up until now, as a uniform breed standard has begun to evolve. 

#9. Poney du Logone

This small horse breed is particularly common in Cameroon and Chad. It is often associated with the Musey people of the region, with it being more of an informal breed from a global perspective. About 7,000 horses are believed to exist today, making it be listed as at the brink of extinction in Cameroon. For many, this horse breed is considered to be a relic of the past.

Most of the horses of this breed reside within the flood plains of the Logone River. Many different descriptions exist for the horse because of a lack of breed standard. In general terms, this breed features a bay coat, bone structures that are well-proportioned, with a profile that is slightly convex. The Poney du Logone breed is only one of two breeds that show resistance to sleeping sickness.

#10. Tawleed

Developed in the Kartoum region of Sudan, it was formed by combining exotic breeds with local horses. They are typically used as a riding horse, but not much else is really known about this African horse breed. That is because this region of Sudan is extremely inaccessible. In general terms, the breed is believed to have a strong, sturdy frame that is slightly stocky, with well-built quarters. 

#11. Vlaamperd

This horse breed originates in South Africa and is considered to be a very rare breed. Its lineage comes from a cross of several heavy warmblood breeds, including Hackneys, Friesians, and Thoroughbreds, with the Cape Harness horse. The name literally translated to Flemish horse, which is a homage to the Frisian breeding in its foundation.

What is unique about this particular breed is that the stallions are always black. Mares can be dark brown in addition to black. Horses that have lighter coats are strictly prohibited from breeding, which has led to the low numbers of Vlaamperds. They are generally used for working in harness or for riding. It stands between 14.2-15.2 hands and has a long-legged build. 

#12. West African Pony

Located primarily in Ghana, this horse breed is closely related to the new-type Boers. Sometimes used as a general term for all pony-type breeds that originate from this region of the continent, the exact heritage is not always known. Sometimes it is referred to as a “degenerate” Barb horse instead of its own breed.

They are characterized by a neck that is short and thick, while the back is quite long. It is a strong breed with a head that is heavy and large. Known for their endurance and stamina, their temperament is remarkably easy. Many adults in this breed stand under 12 hands. Despite their lack of size, they are often used for light drafting work and guides often use them for pack work.

#13. Western Sudan Pony

Sometimes referred to as the Darfur pony, this breed can be found in the southern areas of Sudan and in South Sudan. Because of the civil conflicts that have ravaged the region over the past 10+ years, the information about this particular breed is rather limited outside of Sudan and South Sudan. The horse is known to be light bay, grey, or chestnut in coat color, with white markings believed to be common.

These African horse breeds have helped to influence numerous other breeds over the years, even as they have been influenced by more traditional breeds at the same time. Many are bred to withstand the difficult desert conditions that are often found in the region. Although not much is known about some of them, this will change over time should the region be able to stabilize.