HORSES OF THE WORLD
North Africa - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
Photo supplied by Horse Directory Australia ©
Barb Horses originated on the coastal areas of North Africa in Algeria,
Morocco and Tunisia, formerly known as Barbary Coast which gave the breed its name. There
are no documents showing any of the Barb's early breeding. One theory suggests that the
Barb Horse is related to the Akhal-Teke the horse of the Turkmen.
In the 8th century Islam spread to many parts of Europe with the Muslim army introducing
Barb Horses to many areas. Consequently the Barb became one of the most influential horses
in the development of most equine breeds. In Spain it played an important role in the
development of the Andalusian which in turn influenced many other breeds. At the end of
the 14th century one of the most famous Barb Horses Roan Barbary belonged to the English
King Richard II. King Henry III imported Barb Horses into England in the 16th century and
during the 17th century the breed had a significant influence in the development of the
Thoroughbred. The Barb's influence can also still be seen in the American Mustang and the
In modern times the most well known Barb Horses were ridden by the Spahis who originally
came from Turkey and were assigned into the regiments of the Tunisian and Algerian cavalry
when the French occupied Tunis and Algiers.
Despite its enormous influence on most horse breeds the Barb is much less known than the
Arabian, probably because it lacks the appearance and refinement of the Arabian but it
shows the same great qualities.
Head: narrow head, convex profile
Shoulders: flat; well defined withers
Body: short, strong body; sloping hindquarters
Legs: strong, slender limbs
Feet: narrow, hard
Tail: low set
Color: predominantly grey, bay, brown and black
Height: 14.2 to 15.2hh
Qualities: great stamina, endurance, sure footed, very fast
over short distances, able to thrive on meagre rations
Barb Horses are popular in North African festivals recalling the military
past of those countries.