The asturcón. Horse of Asturias

The Asturcón is one of the horses referred to in classic texts, with its first known mention in the Retorica ad herenium (80 B.C.). Accordingto some interpretations of the name, "Asturcón" could derive from the pre-Roman term "con", meaning crag or rock, thus implying "Asturian mountain horse".
 
Asturcón

The Asturcón lives in freedom during the whole of the year. It makes do with forage which other breeds wouldn't eat, and is able to survive in times of shortage. It tolerates unstable climates well and its physical resistance allows it to live on rough terrain. Once tamed, they demonstrate an excellent temperament, making them an ideal pony for children. Moreover, their movement is gentle, simple and comfortable, to which can be added their surety of step and natural disposition to jump. They demonstrate great ability when harnessed.

 
General view of a horse Asturcón

It is a small horse, never measuring more than 121 cm. to its hindquarters, with a rough, not very elegant appearance. It has a short, squarish head, powerful neck, large snout, short back and robust chest. It has lively, large, dark eyes; small, mobile ears,wide, dilated nostrils, a long, thick mane, a rather sinewy, medium-length neck which tends to be a little curved in adult stallions, and strong, fibrous limbs.The new-born foal is covered in a soft, grey down. The mares have canines in their lower jaw, proof of the slow evolution of the race, and a gestation period of eleven months. As with all ponies, their longevity is superior to that of horses.   

Roman texts refer to the Asturcones as war-horses that served throughout the empire. The Asturcón was also a key element in the economic activity of the country during its medieval and modern history. They were exported to Ireland, where they were highly valued, in the 15th Century, and later to Paris, where they were used to pull small carriages. While animal traction lasted, groups of Asturcones were sold annually in different regions of Spain for use in farming tasks.

 
Sierra del Sueve, Piloña, Asturias

The Sueve Association for the Conservation of the Asturcón (ACAS), with its headquarters in Borines, was founded by a score of farmers at the end of the 1970s with the aim of conserving the breed. The Asturian Association of Friends of Nature (ANA) rescued Asturcones so that they could reproduce, and the Ministry of Agriculture supported the efforts being made to conserve the purity of the breed with an order (19th March 1980) that declared the Asturcón "an autochthonous breed of Asturias, of special promotion and protection". The Association of Asturcón Pony Breeders (ACPRA) was created in 1981 in order to breed thoroughbred Asturcones. In fact the history of Asturias is inconceivable without thec ontribution of this animal, fitting naturally into the craggy, irregular Cantabrian geography and relative of other Celtic ponies inhabiting other European coastal lands, from Iceland and the Shetland Isles to Portugal.

(Some of the information included above is taken from the book "Asturcón" -Principality of Asturias 2003, Ediprodar- and in particular from the prologue written by Mario Bango, who has kindly given permission to reproduce it.)

 

 

 

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