Subject:      Re: Indian horses
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/09/23
Message-ID:   <607ea6$nvb$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,rec.equestrian,soc.history,alt.native


In this post I will try to reply to some recent questions and
criticisms re: what I said about the Indian ponies. Contrary to
some critics, the problem of the derivation of the Indian pony
seems far from settled to me. Here is again a quote I already
gave from THE INDIAN AND THE HORSE, 1955, by Frank Gilbert Roe,
University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

     There is one problem that may never be solved. It would be
     of immense interest and value, both to the historical
     student and to the zoologist more purely, to learn what
     agglomeration of European, Asiatic, or Hispano-American
     breeds combined to produce the wild or "Indian" pony of the
     North American continent, with its hang-dog appearance so
     little suggestive of its almost inexhaustible stamina, and
     its inescapable "pinto" coloration. (p. 135)

So this seems pretty clear to me.

The next question, What kind of a horse exactly was (and still
is, as this horse is still around) an Indian pony? Was it really
different from the typical Spanish horse of early colonial times
as we know them? The answer, again, seems pretty clear. It was
very different. Colour (pinto, or piebald) was one big
difference. Another was the size, it was smaller. But also the
typical large head, the "hang-dog appearance" as mentioned by Roe

For those who want to know how the Indian pony really looked
like, please take a look at the photos and drawings supplied by
Roe in his book. How can anyone deny that these horses look very
different from the typical Spanish horse? Beats me...

This type of a pony seems to have clear links, and to be closely
related, to "the ancient type" of the Old World horse, and not to
the highly bred and very special horses favoured by the Spanish.

Roe quoted (and, again, I already gave this quote previously)
from a noted authority on American horse, Francis D. Haines (THE

     Haines has very skilfully summarized a mass of evidence
     tending to support his conclusions that the ancestors of the
     Appaloosa reach back in a very similar (and readily
     identifiable) form and colouring to a great antiquity across
     an enormous Eurasiatic territory, stretching from far
     eastern China to the Adriatic. (p. 153)

This conclusion by Haines is extremely important. Haines clearly thinks
that the Indian pony derived from the Asian (or old Eurasian) horse

And here's another quote I gave previously:

     There is also a small and very ancient breed which was
     indigenous to Europe in prehistoric times, the Polish
     "Konink". This creature ... certainly presents a very
     striking resemblance to the Indian pony in its
     disproportionately large, hang-dog head...(p. 139)

This is the evidence that I have readily on hand. Sure it can be
contradicted, but why would anyone want to contradict it? These
are very clear photos of the traditional Indian pony indeed...

So what kinds of horses were favoured by the Spanish? Here's a
new quote from Roe:

     The pinto does not appear to have been any favourite with
     the Spaniards; and their contempt -- unlike many Spanish
     prejudices -- was evidently shared by the Portuguese.
     Cunninghame Graham cites a native (i.e. Portuguese) proverb
     of the district of O Sertao, in the Brazilian states of
     Hahia, Ceara, and Piauhy, which breeds a distinctive horse
     of its own. This is to the effect that a piebald or pinto
     (pedrez) "was made by God to carry packs." Both nations may
     very probably have taken over their dislike from the Arabs,
     together with the Arab horses. For the Arabs had disliked
     them, possibly for centuries; for which reason, most
     probably -- among such careful breeders -- a spotted Arabian
     horse is very rare. (p. 144)

Also this,

     ... [Cunninghame Graham] states that creams or piebalds are
     not true descendants of the Hispano-Arabian imports of the
     Conquistadores (p. 144, n. 26)

[As a side-note, the prejudice against pintos was also shared
among white Americans in the Old West. As Roe writes,

     Dobie says: "Range men in America ... have never had much
     use for paint horses"; and he quotes Wyatt Earp, a well-
     known plainsman, to this effect: "I have never known a paint
     horse that knew anything himself." (p. 170, citing Dobie,
     ed., MUSTANGS AND COW HORSES, 247)]

Roe describes the typical Spanish horses of the early colonial
times as

     ... the semi-Arab "breed of Cordoba", of which the
     "Andalusian horse" would seem to have been a purely local
     division, not otherwise divergent. (p. 143)

Here's more, from Roe, on the very pronounced difference between
the North and the South American horses in later times.

     Pintos were rare in Uruguay, almost unknown in Argentina...
     (p. 144, n. 26, quoting Denhardt, HORSE OF THE AMERICAS,
     164, 171)

On the other hand,

     In the Northern Plains area the Indian pony is almost
     typically a pinto. (p. 144)

This difference should be very indicative that the problem of the
pinto coloration of the Indian pony is certainly not so easy to
understand. Why would there be such a huge difference? Isn't it
pretty clear that the Spanish horses that originally went out
from the earliest Caribbean islands Spanish ranches to the
American mainland, both to the South, and to the North America,
should have been exactly the same?

Yes, some people remarked that the Spanish also had some pinto
horses in Spain very early on. But why did these pintos never get
to the S. America, but somehow ended up in N. America? This is
the question. It is very clear to me that horses from some other
sources contributed to make the Indian pony the way it became. So
far I have not seen any other such sources mentioned by our

In any case, I don't wish to embark on some kind of a lonely
crusade against many critics here. I think I presented adequate
evidence that some serious problem areas in this history of the
horse in America exist. Some people wish to deny this? You're
welcome to deny it...

Clearly, I'm calling for a reevaluation of some "received truths,
held by many" in this area, and this sort of a reevaluation will
not be pleasing to a large number of people. It would not be at
all surprising that many people, both experts and amateurs, will
be defending their long established preconceptions in this area.
I'm not providing many answers in this research so far. All I do
is ask some questions that seem relevant to me.

Best wishes to all,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [22]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

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