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Horses in South African History and Culture
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Horses in South African History and Culture

The history of the horse in South Africa dates back 1653, to the time of the first Dutch settlers and the Dutch East India Company. Some old breeds such as the Kaapse Boerperd and South African Boerperd still remain and are the only truly international recognizable horse breeds in South Africa. Later new bloodlines were added, giving rise to present day horses. The old bloodlines are still highly prized and are a source of prestige.

The horse has been known in Africa since the time of the pharaohs, but not in South Africa. The origin of the horse starts with the founding of Dutch settlements in the Cape, at the tip of South Africa and not from Europe as might be expected. The first horses were Arabians and Barbs crossbreeds brought in from Indonesia. The Cape Horse, or Kaapse Perd, was a beautiful horse with endurance and character. During British rule, horses were seen as a status symbol, and the purer the bloodline the better. Horse racing was fashionable. As the Dutch settlers were forced to move inland, the Cape Horse increasingly took on greater frontier roles, and by the time of the Anglo Boer War started, the horse became known as the Boerperd.

Apart from work and status animals, horses were used in battle, first in the many frontier wars between Europeans and black tribes, and then in wars between the British and the Boer Republics. During the two http://www.angloboerwar.com/boer-war horse">Anglo Boer Wars, horse populations suffered a decline and had to be restocked with Hackneys and Clydesdales thoroughbreds. The South African Boerperd has remained untouched and retains the genetic characteristics of the earlier breeds. The Kaapse Perd still retains much of the characteristics of the old breeds but is a mix of different breeds.

The Basuto Pony is another indigenous southern African horse from the Sotho kingdom of Lesotho. These small in stature horses are derived from the Cape Horse.

Afrikaner history is full of praise for the horse, especially its role during the Great Trek. The story of Wolraad Woltemade is well known by children of Afrikaner background. He saved the lives of 14 sailors by telling them to hold the tail of his horse Fleur, when the ship De Jonge Thomas ran aground in Cape Town, on 1 June 1773.

Today, the horse is held in high esteem especially by the Afrikaner farming community. In the past, before the 1994 elections, the horse was a seen as a symbol of Afrikaner power, prestige and nationalism. The horse now has a new place in a post-apartheid South Africa. Owning horses is no longer reserved for a particular class but is now available as a sport and leisure animal for all South Africans, with a thriving horse racing industry and horse breeding sector. Events such as the Durban July and J&B Met draw massive crowds from both local and overseas punters.

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