Samolaco Horses
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About Samolaco HorsesAbout Samolaco Horses

Samolaco are a rare breed of horse originating from Valchiavennarnand Valtellina, in Lombardy, northern Italy. They get their name from the townrnof Samolaco, near Chiavenna in the province of Sondrio. They are gravelyrnendangered; however, they are not among the fifteen indigenous horsern"breeds of limited distribution" recognised by the AIA, the Italianrnbreeders' association. The population is listed in DAD-IS as over 12 in 1994,rnand under 100 in 1998; one further example of the breed may have beenrnidentified during a television broadcast.rnrn 

rnrnSamolaco horses are thought to originate from crossingrnbetween indigenous horses and Spanish horses abandoned in about the 17thrncentury by the garrisons of Spanish fortifications in the areas known as Triviorndi Fuentes and Pian di Spagna, which were surrendered to Prince Eugene of Savoyrnin 1706. The FAO describes the breed as a composite of Andalusian and localrnpopulations. They were usually stabled during the winter and transhumed tornhigher alpine pasture in summer. Powerful Bruna Alpina oxen were preferred forrnagricultural and forestry work in the area, and the Samolaco horse was neverrnwidely distributed. Production of horsemeat was not economically attractive,rnand raising of the breed was largely abandoned. The few horses seen in thern1980s were gravely degenerated, with poorly conformed legs and heavy heads;rntheir pale chestnut colouring may be attributed to the systematic introductionrnof Avelignese blood, which was at first a programme of improvement butrneffectively became one of outright substitution. The Samolaco is discussed inrndetail by Fogliata (1910).rnrn 

rnrnClivio writes: "In the province of Sondrio may be foundrnthe so-called Chiavennese breed of horse; the horses are sober, rustic, highlyrnresistant to fatigue, hunger and bad weather. They are descended from horsesrnabandoned by invading armies, probably the Spaniards, and are of Asiatic type.rnThey are of medium height and size, with a rounded croup, a broad chest, a goodrnneck and a light head. They are excellent light draught and trotting horses,rnand are also used for farm work. The most suitable stallion for the mares ofrnthis region is the Oriental, as the mares originally descend from this breed.rnThe foals generally leave much to be desired, remaining small and thin-bodiedrnbecause of insufficient food and being put to work early. From 1850, under thernAustrian government, a number of stallions stood in the city of Sondrio, andrnlater some were sent by the Italian government also; from all of these, butrnespecially from the former, good horses were obtained, which were admired forrntheir beauty and for their resistance. Before 1887 there were some private studs;rnin that year the state breeding stations were established, and the private onesrndisappeared. Not many years ago the Valtellina was an active exporter ofrnhorses, but this gradually reduced, and is now exceeded by [imports]".rnFrom this report we may understand that there is in the Valtellina a breed ofrnoriental type, with production centred on Chiavenna, which was prosperous whenrnit was left to itself, so that it was an important export; and that after thernestablishment of the state stud organisation, the situation was reversed. Inrnfact, while director Clivio suggests that the stallion that should be sent tornthat station is an Oriental, the stallion that was sent there was an EnglishrnHackney. So that, assuming that that small Chiavennese breed really had notablernmerits, especially their outstanding suitability for hill work, they wanted torndestroy those qualities with an unsuitable cross, for the Hackney is not, andrncan never be, a suitable sire for the horses needed on hills and on mountains.rnSo, in contrast to the Hungarian government, which created the Fogaras breed atrn700 metres above sea level in order have stallions suitable to cover the maresrnof the mountains, we send to the Alpine slopes the same stallion that we use inrnthe low lush meadows of the plains of Lombardy! But perhaps more attentionrnshould be paid to what was said by Prof. Lemoigne in the conferences he held inrnthe Valtellina, which is that this province is not, and cannot be, horserncountry. If this is true, however, one wonders for what purpose a governmentrnhorse breeding station was established there.

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