France|August 2020

The ultimate workhorse, this hardy breed is one of the oldest in France for good reason, writes Helen Parkinson
Helen Parkinson

They’re the closest thing France has to cowboys: the gardians, the trident-wielding herdsmen of the miry Rhône delta. Every day, come rain, shine or the violent Mistral wind, they tend to their livestock as their predecessors have done for centuries – with the help of a special steed.

Prehistoric ponies

The Camargue horses – technically often ponies due to their diminutive size, although stallions can be bigger – have roamed the wetlands of Bouches-du-Rhône for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Sturdy and Roman-nosed, they are one of the world’s oldest breeds, evocative of some of the primitive horses daubed on the walls of Lascaux. They are believed to be descended from the now-extinct Solutré, which lived in Burgundy around 17,000 years ago. Born with black or dark brown hair, their white coat arrives during their fourth or fifth year.


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August 2020