The Maremmano breed of horse, sometimes known as the Razza Maremmana, is an Italian breed from the Maremma area of Tuscany and northern Lazio. These powerful, agile horses have traditionally been used for cattle herding, although today many people buy a Maremmano as a general-purpose riding horse. They have qualities of great strength and endurance thanks to their survival skills developed in the marshy areas of the Maremma. The breed is a true horse-lover’s horse, bred for performance and hardiness. Breeding takes place largely in small regional stud farms from which breeders sell a Maremmano mainly to the local cattle herders, known as the Butteri.
Use and characteristics of the Maremmano
Maremmano horses stand between 15 hands (60 inches/152 cm) and 15.3 hands (63 inches/160 cm) high. When vendors sell a Maremmano, it is usually classified as a heavy riding horse or light draught horse. Through both nature and nurture, the Maremmano has developed into a muscular and compact animal with strong legs and feet and a distinctive ram-shaped head. Coats are mostly solid colours such as black, dark chestnut, bay and brown, with some roans and greys. They are an excellent choice as riding horses with the stamina for demanding terrain, which is the main reason most equestrians buy a Maremmano.
Origin and history of breeding Maremmano horses
Like many other European breeds, some of the ancestors of the Maremmano horses may have been indigenous pony-sized equines that lived in the marshy areas of the Maremma. Some theories suggest that their other ancestors were north African Barbs, or possibly even Numidian horses that arrived with Hannibal’s cavalry. Further influences from Neapolitan, Arabian and Spanish horses probably came in early modern times. The Maremmano type was certainly established by the early nineteenth century, and from this time on the horses were bred with Norfolk Roadsters, Thoroughbreds and other breeds to create a taller and faster horse. It’s thought that the addition of further Thoroughbred blood to produce the Maremmano migliorato, or "Improved Maremmano" may have resulted in a reduction in the original hardiness and stamina of the breed. The Catria Horse of Pesaro is an offshoot of the Maremmano, the result of crossbreeding with the Swiss Freiberger horse. As with Camargue horses in the Rhône area of France, the Maremmano horses were used by the local Maremma cowboys, known as the Butteri, for herding cows. They were also excellent cavalry horses and served the Italian army on the eastern front in WWII. Maremmano horses are still used by the Italian Mounted Police today. Despite the input of Thoroughbred and other breeds, the Maremmano retains its reputation for hardiness and ability to work in demanding environments, and particularly to withstand bad weather. In general, they are strong, healthy and long-lived. The studbook was established in 1980.
Maremmano horses in equestrianism
These tough horses have been bred to excel at cattle herding and this gives them the potential to excel in equestrian sports that require hardiness, agility and focus. An outcross of Maremmo with Throughbred, Arabian or Anglo-Arab produces a very good sports horse. The Maremmano has also achieved success in mainstream equestrian sports, most notably the show jumper Ursus del Lasco in the 1970s. They are also good harness horses. The natural good health and toughness of the Maremmano make it a good choice for breeding on a small scale since it thrives on limited grazing and tough terrain.