Galician Pony Breed History and Characteristics

According to “International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds” (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), there are no pure Galician ponies left in the world. The Association Pura Raza Cabalo Galego, run by the Galician government, would probably dispute this. The Galician pony of Spain is not to be confused with the similarly named Galiceno of Mexico, although it is generally thought that the Galician was one of the ancestral breeds that gave rise to the Galiceno. It is thought that Galicians were shipped over to the New World along with the Sorraia and Spanish horse breeds such as the Andalusian.

Galicians are thought to have been derived from the similarly named Garrano of Portugal. The Galicia area is more like Portugal than the rest of Spain, which. These pony-sized horses were left to run semi-wild in the mountainous Galicia are of northwest Spain. Any feral pony in the area is called a Galician, no matter how much actual Galician blood it contains. Other names for the Galician include “poni gallaga,” “jaca gallega” and “Cabalo galego.”

General Appearance

Modern Galicians come in many solid colors including black and grey, but various shades of bay predominate and are often softly dappled in the summertime. White markings are allowed, but show up mostly on the face and lower legs. They have short legs, a very round abdomen, short backs and full manes and tails. The forelock can often grow down to the muzzle. According to Oklahoma State University, older mares often grow a noticeable moustache on the upper lip, a trait in common with the Abyssinian horse of Ethiopia.

There are three variations in Galician ponies, depending on the exact region and the use of the pony. A blockier pony has been developed for the meat trade (Galician meat was prized in Paris around World War I), while a taller and slimmer pony has been developed for riding and for agricultural work. The ponies vary in height from 10 – 14 hands high. Some Galicians are noted for exceptionally smooth four-beat gaits, called pacing (but not to be confused with the pacing that harness racers use). This pace is also known as an amble. Not all Galicians can do these smooth gaits, but all are quite strong for their size. Galicians have tough hooves and often do not need to be shod.


In the past, the abundant manes, tails and forelocks were used to make brushes, but that is now only done in a small scale as synthetic fibers replaced horsehair. Galicians were an all-purpose pony, used for pulling carts and the mares were used for breeding mules. In 1917, “The International Military Digest Annual” estimated that half of the 100,000 mares were used specifically for breeding mules.

Galician ponies are used for meat, for riding, for working in harness and for pulling in tourists. Every summer a large, colourful festival called a curro is held, where the ponies are brought in from their herds, are branded, clipped and lots of money is made. Sometimes the manes and tails are clipped to make into homemade brushes in keeping with the traditional crafts of the area. Galicians are also used to give rides to tourists.

Additional References

“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. ” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.

“Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Horses and Ponies of the World.” Maurizio Bongianni. Simon & Schuster; 1988.

“The International Military Digest Annual, Volume 2.” Cornellis De Witt Wilcox. Cumulative Digest Corporation; 1918.

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