Argentine Criollo

Written by:

PetMD Editorial
Published: December 01, 2009

The Argentine Criollo is a small, muscular horse breed that originated in Argentina. Known for its great stamina and capacity for hard work, the Argentine Criollo needs little care and is even resistant to some of the more common horse illnesses.


Physical Characteristics


The Criollo is one of the hardiest breeds ever known to man. Countless accounts of its tirelessness, endurance, and speed have been recorded and reached legendary status, making the Argentine Criollo one of the most trusted horses when it comes to long voyages.


Measuring about 14 hands tall (56 inches, 142 centimeters), the Argentine Criollo has a concave (sometimes straight) profile, heavily-muscled back and shoulders, and a brawny neck. Its croup is Barb-like, while its legs are striped, short, and powerful. The Argentine Criollo also has a thick mane and tail.

The preferred color of an Argentine Criollo is dun, though the breed may also be seen in a variety of other coat colors.


Personality and Temperament


Accustomed as it is to living in the wild and being highly independent, the Argentine Criollo is a bit aloof and untrusting. However, its history shows it to be adaptable. With proper handling and lots of patience, any breeder can start an Argentine herd.




The Argentine Criollo is a breed that requires the barest amount of care. In fact, it can be worked hard then left on its own to feed on whatever grass is available. It is also well-adapted to extreme temperatures. Furthermore, its years in the wild have made this horse one of the most resistant to common horse illnesses.


History and Background


The current Argentine Criollo breed can be said to be a result of tough natural selection. When the Spaniards came to South America, they brought horses with them that were a mix of Andalusian, Barb, and Arab blood. The constant conflict between the native Indians and the Spanish Conquistadors resulted in some of these horses being set free in the wild.

The horses had to learn to fend for themselves.

Through their years in the wild, the Spanish horses eventually evolved into considerably hardier animals. They had to adapt to their surroundings or they would perish in the harsh winter cold and the extremely arid summers of Argentina. Through the process of natural selection, the breed soon began to exhibit the specific set of characteristics that now distinguish the Criollo.

Due to its remarkable stamina, endurance competitions among purebred Argentine Criollo horses are regularly held by the Criollo Breeders Association. In such events, horse and rider teams have to ride long distances. The rider is not allowed to carry feed for his horse; whatever grass it can scavenge for itself along the way becomes its sole source of sustenance. The horse and rider team that finishes the series of races first wins the competition. The Argentine Criollos that perform well in these endurance competitions become prime breeding stock because of the impressive stamina and endurance they have exhibited.

The Argentine Criollo also has a modern variant -- the result of crossbreeding between the purebred Criollo and the Thoroughbred from England. The result of this particular cross is the now famous Argentine Polo Pony.


The Argentine Criollo is still being bred in Argentina today, mainly used for cattle farming. However, it is also a popular choice for rodeo competitions and pleasure riding activities.