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Horse Breeds
First Posted July 14, 2009
Dec 16, 2014

Spanish Jennet Horse - A Gaited Breed

Spanish Jennet Horse

The original Spanish Jennet was a type of horse more than a distinct breed, and became extinct. The Spanish Jennet is a new breed of gaited horse with a spotted coat. For historical Spanish horse, the Jennet is referenced. For modern descendants of the original Spanish horses imported to the Americas, the Colonial Spanish Horse is referenced.

Spanish Jennet Mare, Atigrado pattern

United States

Distinguishing Features:

Paso Gaited Horse of Pinto or Appaloosa Pattern, 14hh - 15.2hh, Energetic, but docile temperament

Breed Standards

The Spanish Jennet Horse is a new breed registry dedicated to an attempt to recreate a colored variety of gaited horse that resembles the historical Jennet or "Spanish Jennet." The Jennet was a smooth-gaited type of horse popular in the Middle Ages, known for their presence, style and smooth ride. It was often ridden by European nobility. Some early Jennets sported pinto or leopard patterns.


The original Spanish Jennet was a type of horse more than a distinct breed, and became extinct.

Most of the Medieval horses bred during the 1500's in Spain and elsewhere were not "breeds" in the modern sense of the word. The Jennet from Spain became more uniform in type due to a single geographical region producing them as well as generations of selective breeding during the Middle Ages to produce a smooth riding horse that was suitable for the riding style á la jineta. It would never have occurred to a Spaniard of the sixteenth century to distinguish "breeds" on the basis of registration papers as we do today. In that time in history the breeders and fanciers of these particular horses would have called the horse by the names of the regions or family that bred them. For Example, Guzmán, Asturcón.

Historical references include a painting by The 18th C. English painter John Wooton, which depicts a leopard pattern Spanish Jennet.

As assorted Iberian horses came to the Americas and the Spaniards of the New World preserved the riding style as well as the horses that suited this style, the horses became known simply as the "Spanish Jennet." Today, some of the descendants of those early Spanish Jennets are known as Paso Finos and Peruvian Pasos. This is the horse that is mentioned by name as the ancestor of the Paso Fino and Peruvian Paso Horse (The Spanish Jennet gave its even temperament and smooth ambling gait) breeds as well as many other modern gaited breeds. The Spanish Mustang is another probable descendant.

The Paso Fino and Peruvian Paso have predominantly bred away from coat colors that include spotting patterns. The notable exception being the pinto Paso Fino. However, historians agree that the early Colonial Spanish era horses did come in more exotic patterns. " We will never know just exactly what horses were brought to the New World, but early records are of a wide variety of colors and markings. Some of the color names used to describe Cortez's horses are almost assuredly describing spotted horses as well as routine white marks. This is evidence that white marks and at least some body spotting patterns appear early in the Colonial Spanish era. These patterns, and white marks in general, therefore strike me as very consistent with an Iberian origin." (Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD)

The Spanish Jennet Horse is a new breed of Jennet type is being created through the efforts of the Spanish Jennet Horse Society. The Registry requires that horse for the Pintado division be of full Paso Fino heritage and the Atigrado division must be at least of 50% Paso blood.

Outcrosses are allowed in the first generation to obtain the LP for the Registered Atigrado Spanish Jennet and must result in a minimum of 50% purebred Paso Fino or Peruvian Paso horse. Only one outcross is allowed (to obtain Lp or Appaloosa pattern). All 50% crosses will provide video proof of gait before registration of their offspring.


The Spanish Jennet Horse is a well-proportioned animal of moderate height and build. Extremes in muscling or bone are considered faults. The optimum appearance is that of refinement with a deep chest, well sprung ribs and a strong, medium length back with broad, well muscled loins.


The Paso gait of the Spanish Jennet Horse (like that of all Paso horses) is completely natural and frequently exhibited at birth. Gait may be refined through training, but no artificial training equipment or special shoeing is used.

It is a four-beat, lateral gait with each foot contacting the ground independently in a regular sequence at precise intervals creating a rapid, unbroken rhythm. The musical cadence produces the sound: taca-taca-taca-taca. Executed perfectly, the continuous rhythm is even in both cadence and impact. Footfall is in the same sequence as a natural equine walk: left rear, left fore, right rear, right fore. Propulsion is from the hindquarters and the horse's movement is absorbed in its back and loins, resulting in unequaled smoothness and comfort for the rider.

The Paso gait is performed at three forward speeds and with varying degrees of collection:

The Corto or Llano is a relaxed, ground covering gait which is ideal for pleasure, and trail riding. About the speed of a jog trot, rack or running walk. Most SJ horses prefer this gait to the walk.

The Largo is the speed form of the gait, with speeds equivalent to that of a canter or in some cases a gallop. Flat walk or Collected walk like all equines.

In all speeds of the gait, the rider should appear virtually motionless in the saddle, and there should be no perceptible up and down motion of the horse's croup. The Spanish Jennet can also perform the canter and gallop.

Color and Patterns

The breed comes in every equine coat color within the horse world, except gray. Gray horses are excluded from registration to eliminate the loss of pattern through the graying process.

There are two divisions of color patterns, the Pintado, a pinto pattern that occurs in Tobiano, Overo, and Sabino, and the Atigrado, a leopard pattern similar to that of the Appaloosa, that displays characteristics of the "Lp" gene including coat pattern, mottled skin, white sclera, and striped hooves. The pinto and leopard (Appaloosa) patterning of the Spanish Jennet Horse is a result of a variety of genetic processes that may result in heterozygous, homozygous or no pattern inheritance. Therefore, there are patterned and solid-colored progeny in both the Pintado and Atigrado portions of the registry.

The Atigrado come in the coat patterns of:

  • Blanket
  • Blanket With Spots
  • LP Roan or Varnish roan
  • Roan Blanket With Spots


The Spanish Jennet Horse is a naturally agile and athletic horse, capable of many disciplines. They have a natural cow sense, inherited from the use of the ancestors of the breed on cattle haciendas and ranches for many decades.

The natural tendency for the horse to lighten the forehand and engage the hindquarters makes it ideal for versatility and cow penning. The smooth gait makes the Spanish Jennet Horse a great choice for trail riding and endurance riding competitions, as well as many other disciplines.

For More Information:

Academic Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - The Spanish Jennet
Spanish Jennet in Art
Spanish Jennet Horse Society
Spanish Mustang, Colonial Spanish Horse or Sorraia Type - Many Are Gaited

Horse Breeds