Falabella breed information
Falabella horse general information
COLORBay (or a variant of bay, called "brown") and black are the most common colors, but there are also pintos, palominos and other spotting patterns found. Black or red leopard-spotted Falabellas (resembling, but not the same as the Appaloosa horse breed) also exist, but are not common.
SIZEThe Falabella is the smallest horse in the world, standing up to 7 hands high.
WEIGHTThe Falabella is not only the smallest horse in the world but also the lightest. It weighs as little as 40lbs (18kg) up to 100 lbs (45 kg).
LIFE EXPECTANCYLife span of this miniature horse does not exceed 30 years, but average is a little lower.
ORIGINMany historic facts and fables have been told of the famous Falabella in books, magazines and equine articles. It was said that the original Argentine little horses were decendants of Andalusian and Spanish Barb horses brought to Argentina by the Spaniards when they first arrived in the 15th century with the intent to conquer Argentina. They were defeated and the horses were left to roam free. Over several more centuries the harsh environment and inbreeding caused a reduction in size and produced naturally small horses. This is just a guess.
The more likely story is that the Falabella was developed by the family of the same name on their Recreo de Roca Ranch near Buenos Aires, Argentina. The horse-like appearance of the breed stems from breeding the smallest Shetland ponies with a very small Thoroughbred the family owned. Since then, the breed has been deliberately crossed with the smallest animals and inbred in an attempt to create a near-perfect horse-type in miniature. One of the smallest Falabella's on record was the mare Sugar Dumpling, weighing only 30 lb. and standing only 20 inches high.
USESMost Falabellas are considered intelligent, easily trainable. Due to their size, Falabella horses can only be ridden by very small children, and thus are generally shown in-hand at horse shows. They can be taught to drive, and cart driving is a favorite pastime of Falabella owners. They also are able to jump obstacles up to three feet, though only in-hand, without a rider.
As they are a show and companion breed, their "useful" lifespan is not limited. While young horses may fetch steep prices and are even sold as a long-term investment, old horses are more readily available. The breed is reputed to stay fertile until an advanced age.
INFLUENCEShetland ponies, very small English Thoroughbred
The Falabella is the smallest horse in the world, standing up to 7 hh. The Falabella is known as a horse-type rather than a pony-type because of its proportions and character. Although downsizing has caused a few weaknesses in the physical characteristics of the horse, namely the tendency for the hocks to be slightly crooked and the lack of well-formed leg bone, the horse is quite attractive. With a thick and luxuriant tail and mane, the Falabella shows its relation to the Shetland. The head is heavy and large compared with the body. Any color is acceptable in the breed, but there has been a concentration of Appaloosa markings in recent breeding.
The origin of the Falabella horse is intimately linked to the origins of the horse in Latin America. The Andalusian horses that the Spaniards brought with them to accomplish the enormous task of the conquest, chosen for their rusticity and resistance, were later left to survive on their own due to unsuccessful attempts to conquer the area's human inhabitants. Wandering without destination over the vast plains ("pampas"), the surviving horses underwent by necessity a series of biological processes and structural changes in order to adapt to the new conditions, so different from those of their native land. All these factors, along with continuous inbreeding and isolation, surely caused genetic mutations in successive generations. This resulted in the kind of horse breed that the ancestors of the Falabella family are said to have seen for the first time before the mid-nineteenth century in the herds of Mapuche Indians of southern Buenos Aires province in Argentina.
After many years of crossing and selection, the Falabella family achieved a herd of harmonious and well-structured horses less than 40 inches in height, maintaining the same proportions in their features as those of the horses Falabella had first acquired. The Falabella family sought to improve the breed and refine the shape of the horse. To attain these goals, Falabella introduced specimens of European horse breeds, small Thoroughbreds, Welsh ponies, Shetlands, small horses from Eastern Europe, Criollos and their siblings. Successive generations of the Falabella family raised very small horses significantly more harmonious in form than their predecessors and reduced the height to the present standard of less than 30 inches.
After 1940, Julio C. Falabella started a registry of birth and genealogical details for some of his horses. Due to his remarkable memory and some older data available to him, he was able to attain, by inference, genealogies up to approximately twenty years back. This primary Registry, not always methodical, was systematized in the mid-sixties, using classic genealogical techniques. In 1980, while honoring the work done by J.C. Falabella for the development of the breed, Establecimientos Falabella decided to redesign the Registry. Incorporating new tools, like the computer, the chronological numerical order was changed, and ascending numbers from 1980 forward were assigned to the registration of each horse. Descending numbers, preceded by the "A" acronym were assigned to the horses born before 1980. Similarly, old annotations were researched and techniques were improved, giving the Registry the form it has at the present time. Since the beginning of the 1950's, when the breed began to spread internationally, to the present time, sovereigns, international personalities and horse breeders have shown a great interest in the Falabella. It can be said, without hesitation, that there is no place in the word where a Falabella has not trodden. From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost tip in the world), from the torrid regions of the Arabic peninsula to the cold fjords of Norway, or from florid Japan to arid Atacama, the Falabella has been fed, or has procreated or has developed in astonishing form.
Falabella health and genetic issues
Their natural rusticity and capacity to adapt to their environment allow Falabellas to survive in severe weather conditions, sometimes far better than their taller relatives, without any special care that may be required for another type of horse.
It has a dominant dwarfism gene, meaning that even when mixed with larger breeds the offspring is likely to be very small. The Falabella also has seventeen vertebrae, rather than the usual eighteen, and is missing one pair of ribs.
Falabella fun facts
At one point the Falabella family was said to have a herd of four hundred perfect specimens. But with high prices for such an exotic pet, the Falabella is not widely found throughout the world. The horse is said to be highly intelligent and loves performing. It is said that in just a few hours, an owner can teach the horse to shake hands, bow, or do other tricks.
Falabella horses are very rare.
Information for Falabella contributed by
We would like to thank Susan Eckholdt for these wonderful pictures of Falabella.