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The Maremma is a native horse breed found in an Italian region in the south of the Toscana, claimed to be the only true Italian horse breed.
A large part of the Maremmaare of Italy is marsh, or swamp, and the semi-wild maremma cattle are well adapted. With their whitish, solid color and long horns they look somewhat like Hungarian steppe cattle.
The riders working the cattle are called butteri, and the Maremma horse they are riding is also called Maremma. We find here some similarities with the Iberian cowboys the Spanish vaqueros, and Portuguese vaqueiros and campinos and with the French Camargue horses and riders. These are the last remnants of European cowboys, their traditions almost lost, but some idealists still cling to them; with their special type of equipment, and their regions special breeds of cattle.
A certain Iberian influence can be seen in many Maremma horses, although today an obvious Thoroughbred influence can also be observed. This is a very old breed, which has its roots in indigenous stock, but was obviously exposed to a certain amount of outside blood. Today we do not know what the original Maremma actually looked like.
The breeding takes place mostly in semi-wild herds, in rough country, so that there is still a survival-of-the-fittest effect responsible for the vigor and toughness the Maremma horse has always been known for. With the close ties Italy has had to Iberia, which, after all, led to the foundation of breeds there like the Napolitano and the Lipizzan, both built on Iberian blood, it stands to reason that the Maremma’s were at one time considerably influenced by Iberian horses. Today, they look rather like a somewhat coarse but not heavy warmblood, or a Thoroughbred cross
The Maremma’s head used to be of convex profile, and often still is. The neck is slender and set fairly upright, the withers are prominent. This horse is rather long-legged, lean-muscled, and has short pasterns. The color is black or brown/bay, with none or sparse white markings. Although the Maremma shows a lot of blood, it still does not show a lot of refinement. Especially the head does not have the charm found in, for instance, the pure Iberian.
The Maremma’s reputation was built on his toughness and endurance. He also shows considerable talent for jumping. In 1977, Graziano Mancinelli won the Italian jumping championship on a Maremma named Ursus del Lasco. The cross between Thoroughbreds and Maremmans is still practiced to produce jumpers.
A studbook was founded in 1980 for the Maremma horse, the Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Cavallo di Razza Maremmana, and since 1993, stallions are inspected and must pass a performance test. Since 1996 even the mares are being inspected. These measures have already resulted in an upgrading of the breed, and beside the traditional herd work in the fields, the Maremma now finds many uses in sport and recreational riding.