The Sorraia is a rare and beautiful horse breed that has been around for centuries.

These horses are known for their gentle nature, and unique colors.

This article will introduce you to the basics of the Sorraia horse, including their history and temperament, and you will also learn about some of the unique qualities that make these horses so special.

So if you want to learn more about this ancient breed, read on!

Sorraia Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Sorraia:

Height (size) 14.1 – 14.3 hands high
Colors Most commonly dun or grullo; primitive markings are often seen (a dorsal stripe, black tipped ears, horizontal striping on the legs and a dark muzzle). They are known for their bicolored manes and tails, with lighter hairs fringing both sides of the longer-growing black hair.
Country of Origin Portugal
Common Uses General riding, dressage

Sorraia Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Originating in the southern part of the Iberian peninsula, the Sorraia may now be found mostly in Portugal and Germany.

Even though there are several theories of the origin of the Sorraia horse, it is commonly believed that they are the last remaining population of the wild horses that used to roam southern Iberia.

It is known that the breed originated in the southern portion of the Iberian Peninsula, and art pictures from the Paleolithic period portray equines with a significant similarity to the Sorraia and comparable zebra-like stripes.

Discovery of the Breed

In spite of its ancient roots, the Sorraia remained unknown until 1920, when a Portuguese zoologist Dr. Ruy d’Andrade discovered it while hunting in the Portuguese lowlands.

D’Andrade then proceeded to capture 7 mares and 4 stallions, which he then used to establish a wild herd on his own land.

Before choosing one stallion to carry on the line, he examined the characteristics of all four stallion’s offspring.

Even though d’Andrade conserved the Sorraia horse and popularized it, his little herd sadly became highly inbred.

The unfavorable impacts that were anticipated as a result appear to have been mitigated by their semi-wild lifestyle, but their future is now in serious question since there are today just 200 Sorraias left, and they all descend from the same paternal line.

As a direct result of d’Andrade’s research with the Sorraia, it is now evident that the Sorraia had a significant ancestral role in the evolution of both the Lusitanian and the Andalusian breeds.

Genetic Studies on the Sorraia Horse

Studies are presently being carried out in order to identify the link between the Sorraia and a variety of other wild horse breeds, like the now-extinct Tarpan, but also the breeds that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Africa.

Genetic research based on mitochondrial DNA has shown that the Sorraia breed forms a distinct cluster that is genetically different from the majority of Iberian breeds.

Some evidence connects this cluster to Konik and domestic Mongolian horses.

Additionally, one maternal lineage is shared with the Lusitano.

It is interesting to note that mitochondrial DNA research demonstrated a link with the Przewalski’s Horse, since the Przewalski’s Horse has a unique haplotype (A2) not seen in domestic horses, which varies from one of the main Sorraia haplotypes by a single nucleotide (JSO41, later A7).

Comparatively, within the domestic horse population, genetic distances are as big as 11 nucleotide differences.

However, this link with the Przewalski’s Horse was disproved in another research utilizing microsatellite data. This study revealed that the genetic gap between the Prewalski’s Horse and the Sorraia was the greatest.

Such contradictory findings may be a result of a population going through a genetic bottleneck, and evidence shows that the Sorraia, like other uncommon breeds, has recently gone through a genetic bottleneck, which has led to inconsistent conclusions about where exactly this breed fits in the family tree of the domestic horse.

Therefore, the physical, physiological, and cultural aspects of the Sorraia are the focus of ongoing research in order to get a deeper understanding of the link that exists between the different Iberian horse breeds and the wild horse subspecies.

Historic Influences of the Sorraia

Sorraia has also influenced numerous breeds in the New World, where the Spanish conquistadors took them as robust and capable riding horses.

Strong Sorraia traits, such as dun or grulla coloring and primitive markings, are especially evident in different Mustang populations in the United States, but also in various Criollo breeds in Latin America.

Dr. Ruy d’Andrade named the breed ‘Sorraia’ after the Sorraia river in Portugal.

Prior to that, the breed was known as ‘zebro’ or ‘zebra’ by the locals.

The Sorraia was also known as the Marismeño during the time of Christopher Columbus (around the 15th century); however, the Sorraia and the Marismeño have since diverged into two distinct breeds, and the Marismeño breed now lives in the Doñana National Park in Spain.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



Once tamed they are gentle and have great personality

Physical Characteristics

The profile is often convex, the eyes are set high, and the ears are quite long.

The neck is slender and long, and the withers are prominent.

The chest is deep and narrow, the shoulder is long, and the back is straight.

The croup is sloped, and the legs are straight with well-defined tendons.

The hooves are hard.

The Sorraia horse is small yet resilient and well-adapted to the harsh environments in which it developed.


Most commonly dun or grullo; primitive markings are often seen (a dorsal stripe, black tipped ears, horizontal striping on the legs and a dark muzzle).

They are known for their bicolored manes and tails, with lighter hairs fringing both sides of the longer-growing black hair.

Height (size)

14.1 – 14.3 hands high







Blood Type


Common Uses

General riding, dressage


Generally healthy

Popular Traits

The way the hair grows on adult horses may give the impression like they have stars on their chests and necks.

Also, it may also appear that newborn foals have stripes because of the way their hair grows.

This characteristic is known as the ‘hair stroke’.


They thrive on very little feed and need little human intervention to remain healthy.

Country of Origin