The Origin of the SA Boerperd

Author: Chris Nel Date Published: 25 August 2015

The SA Boerperd is a true South African breed, with a long and illustrious history intimately interwoven with that of civilization in South Africa. Its lineage can be traced back to shortly after the landing of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay in 1652, and the establishment of a halfway post to serve ships of the Dutch East Indian Company. The first phase of its history covers the period from van Riebeeck to the Great Trek northwards into the interior of the subcontinent in 1836. The first horses imported into the fledgling Cape colony were cross Berber-Arabian ponies imported from Java. Although breeding was initially slow, by 1665 sufficient numbers were available to sell to the free burghers. Inbreeding was countered by the fortuitous stranding of a ship en route from Java to Persia, even before the castle had been completed. This ship carried 14 Arabian horses, among the best in Shah of Persia’s stud. These horses swam ashore and were caught by Van Riebeeck’s men.Augmented by the infusion of a number of Andalusian and Isabella horses en route to South America, more than a century later, these Persian Arabs, and the original horses from Java, formed the basis of what eventually developed into a recognized breed, known at the time as the Cape Horse. It was to become well-known for its sound temperament, bravery, intelligence, endurance, extreme sure-footedness and hardiness.In the 150 years between Simon van der Stel and Lord Charles Somerset, limited new genes entered the gene pool. However, Somerset did stimulate horse breeding by importing 40 thoroughbred stallions. Their influence could not have been great, as the horse population in the Cape was around 225 000 at the time, but could have had an effect on size and posture. Horsebreeding had developed into a thriving industry, even leading to the exporting of war horses especially to the English army in India around 1769.Nature also played a crucial role in shaping the breed. In 1719, and again in 1763, many thousands of horses died from the dreaded African Horse Sickness. On the positive side, it can be seen as a process that removed animals susceptible to this disease from the population and prevented their genes from being propagated – a natural selection process for an adapted type of horse.

The next phase covered the period 1836 to 1899, from the Great trek to the start of the second Anglo-Boer War. The phenotype and genotype were fixed during this period as other breeds, such as the Flemish Stallions from the Netherlands, as well as Hackeys, Norfolk Trotters and Cleveland Bays, were imported and bred into what eventually become known as the Boerperd.

The third phase covers the period after the Second Anglo Boer War. The stamina, hardiness and mobility of the Boerperd had been tested and refined during the war years. The Boers were skilled riders, and it was, to a large extent, these tough, agile horses that allowed them to prevail against the overwhelming might of the British army for as long as they did. However, the breed paid a high price for its role in the war, as thousands of horses were lost due to the harsh conditions to which they were subjected. Many not killed in battle were subsequently shot by the British on the farms in an attempt to deny the Boers their advantage. By the end of the conflict, only the hardiest and those deliberately hidden away by their owners in remote areas beyond the reach of the British, remained. After the war, a formal movement to conserve the Boerperd started. An Auxiliary Register was included in the Stud Book Register of the breeders Association of Transvaal in 1905. Unfortunately this register was poorly supported and eventually became redundant between 1918 and 1921.A National Riding Horse Breeders Association was established and in 1957 this was changed to the Boerperd Breeders Association of SA. This step, however, also led to the simultaneous formation of the Eggo Boerperd Breeders Association. In 1973 the Boerperd Society of SA was established in the town of Memel in the Orange Free State. A constitution was written, and a breed standard was compiled. Horses genotypically and phenotypically suitable for breeding were identified, and a very strict selection policy was adopted. In 1977 the name was changed to the Historic Boerperd Breeders Society and in 1980 the breed was officially recognised by the Department of Agriculture, and subsequently affiliated to the South African Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association. In 1996 the Historic Boerperd was accorded the status of a fully recognised and indigenous breed by the Registrar of Livestock Improvement. In 1998 the name was changed to SA Boerperd, and it is today one of the truly South African horse breeds.

Characteristics of the SA Boerperd

The SA Boerperd is a comfortable riding horse, mostly being capable of five gaits (walk, trot, canter,short-gait and rack), without any interference. The breed standards stipulate that it must be suitable for all riders, with sufficient stamina to complete a full day’s work without tiring the rider. It is a tough competitor: it’s staying power and constitution enables it to perform well in the show arena, on the sports field, in show jumping, in eventing, in harness and in endurance riding.

With its affectionate and trustworthy nature and stable temperament, it is an excellent horse, even for children. As a utility horse on the farm, it has the working power and stamina for demanding tasks such as herding and driving livestock across the most rugged terrain, and under extreme weather conditions.

Abbreviated breed standard

Type: Symmetrical conformation, balanced, alert and aristocratic with a fiery and proud appearance. Slightly curled mane and tail.
Quality: Good skin and hair quality.
Temperament: Calm, ambitious, trustworthy and alert. Willing to serve its master.
Movement: Moderately high, long gait that covers ground.
Head: The anterior appearance is a flat, broad forehead between prominent eyes. The ears are of medium length, sharp-pointed and reasonably close together. The profile must be straight or slightly concave with a deep jaw which is well defined. Cheeks must be well-muscled but not fleshy.
Neck: A well-formed neck of average length.
Shoulder: A good slanting shoulder with prominent withers.
Belly and flanks: Broad and well-muscled, strong with well-developed loin. Well-developed rib cage with capacity.
Legs: Strong, dry and well-muscled legs with hard hooves.
Hind quarter: Well-muscled, long and strong down to the thigh. Must appear broad and rounded from the back.

Universal and Traditional movement

The SA Boerperd is required to have medium-high to medium-low knee action, long strides with cadence that covers ground. The hind legs must move well underneath the body and take the weight of the forequarters. Horses must track which means that they must move straight forward if looking from the front or behind.

The only difference between the universal and traditional horse is that the universal horse will have a lower knee action as suppose to the traditional horse with a typical higher knee action.

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