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Horse Breeds
First Posted July 9, 2009
Sep 17, 2010

Cape Horse - A Gaited Breed


Country of Origin: South Africa - Very rare
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Cape Horse/Find a Pet Online

Though extremely popular through the Boer Wars, very little is known about the status of the Cape Horse breed today. Originating in South Africa, the Cape Horse, though larger, greatly resembles its Basuto Horse cousin.

The head is large and the neck slender. The hindquarters are muscular and the legs are strong. The horse is both fast and powerful. The bloodline has clearly been injected with Thoroughbred blood.

Horses first arrived on South African soil when they were imported by the Dutch East India Trading Company in 1653. The first breeds were believed to be Barb and Arabian descendants shipped from the Island of Java, and they were the forefathers of both the Cape Horse and the Basuto.

Gradually, the Cape Horse was refined by introducing Thoroughbred and Arabian blood. Through these crosses, the breed became larger and sportier than its Basuto brethren. Despite its huge popularity as a battle horse, the breed declined rapidly after the Boer Wars. The breed was also decimated by the introduction of low-quality Thoroughbred and crossbreed horses into the bloodline. Today, there is a movement to revive the Cape Horse as a regimented breed.

For More Information on the Cape Horse:

The Cape Horse-Comprehensive Article
Cape Horse Society
Cape Show Horse Society

Basuto Pony

Countries of Origin: South Africa and Lesotho

Batsu Pony

Distinguishing features: Pony derived from horses imported by Dutch settlers in 17th century; improved with Persian and Arabian horse blood Country of Origin: Lesotho, South Africa

The Basuto is a pony breed from Lesotho and South Africa.


The Basuto is considered a small horse, since it possesses horse-like characteristics, such as an exceptionally long stride. Basutos have a rather heavy head, a long neck and long, straight back, a straight shoulder, and a muscular, sloping croup. They have very tough legs and sound, very hard hooves. They can be up to 14.2 hands high (56.8 inches or 142cm), but rarely taller. Basutos can be chestnut, brown, bay,gray or black, and have white markings. They are usually surefooted, fast, and fearless.


The first horses arrived in South Africa in 1653, when four horses were introduced to the Cape area by the Dutch East India Trading Company. The exact breed of these horses is unknown, but they may have been Arabian, Persian or similar to the Java Pony. They were upgraded later with Arabian and Persian blood.

These original imported horses became the founders of the Cape Horse, which became extremely popular and especially gained an admirable reputation during the Boer Wars. The Cape Horse and the Basuto probably were originally the same horse, and then with continual Thoroughbred and Arabian blood, the Cape Horse became a larger, more quality animal, with the Basuto remaining smaller and stockier.

Lesotho, formerly known as Basutoland, acquired Cape Horses as spoils of war between the Zulus and the settlers. As a result of harsh conditions and interbreeding with local ponies, the Cape Horse lost much of its height and nobility, and the Basuto pony largely took its place.

Due to the rocky and hilly terrain that the Basuto ponies were continually ridden over, often at great speeds, they developed into tough, surefooted animals with incredible stamina and bravery. These excellent qualities were very nearly the undoing of the breed. The Basuto became so popular that thousands were exported, and then many of the best horses were killed in action during the Boer War at the end of the 19th century. There is now a concerted effort to re-establish the commendable Basuto breed.


Basutos are often used for racing, hacking, trekking or polo.

Horse Breeds