The Peruvian Paso (or Peruvian Horse) is a naturally-gaited horse that provides an unparalleled ride of smoothness and harmony. They are descended from the Palfrey and Jennet Spanish horses of the Middle Ages, which were valued for their smooth four-beat ambling gaits, and later infused with Andalusian blood which contributed beauty and presence.
Around 1542, Spanish arriving in South America created the Viceroyalty of New Castilla in Lima, Peru, which became an important New World colony in the 18th century. Horses were used mainly to travel around the vast sugar and cotton plantations spanning mountainous regions and deserts, requiring tough yet comfortable mounts with exceptional endurance. This became the aim of breeders in Peru over the next 400 years, who developed the modern Peruvian Paso.
Like many breeds, the arrival of motor transportation and highways put their future in peril. Government interference in the 1960s saw much of the good breeding stock decimated or exported. Luckily, interest in the breed was flourishing in North and Central America and it has also regained strength in the past few decades in Peru, where the National Show in Lima is an important Peruvian cultural event. Since 1992, the Peruvian breed has been protected by the government, making it illegal to export national champion horses, and it has also been declared a national Cultural Heritage.
Despite their similar names, the fact they share some Old World ancestors and arrived in the Americas via the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, the Peruvian Paso is not to be confused with the Paso Fino. The latter was developed from horses in northern Latin America and the Caribbean for different purposes, specifically a comfortable way to tour the colonies. The Peruvian Paso, on the other hand, had to travel long distances over rocky terrain west of the Andes at a faster ground-covering gait. The breed is commonly referred to in North America as the Peruvian Horse to further differentiate the breed from the Paso Fino.
Peruvian Horses average between 14-15 hands in height, with a deep chest, heavy neck with a lustrous mane, solid body, and a low-set, abundant tail. Common coat colours include chestnut, black, bay, brown, buckskin, palomino, gray, roan and dun, with white markings acceptable only on the face and legs.
A noteworthy characteristic of the breed is “brio” which in general means “willing energy” ‒ positive energy that makes the horse intelligent, eager and responsive, but never hot or high-strung. The Peruvian gaits are also unique: instead of trotting, they perform an ambling lateral four-beat gait that is somewhere between the walk and canter. Variations of this step include the ‘paso llano’ (four equal 1-2-3-4 beats), and the ‘sobreandando’, a faster version of this gait. The Peruvian also displays ‘termino’, an outward swinging motion of the front legs.
The Peruvian horse is a comfortable riding horse that makes a steady pleasure or trail partner, or a lively parade or high-performance show animal in breed and open gaited horse shows. They also excel in long distance competitive trail riding. Because of their smooth gaits, where there are always two and sometimes three feet on the ground at any moment, they are popular with riders with back problems.
For more information, visit:
North American Peruvian Horse Association