|Alternative names||Cavallo del Sarcidano, Cavallo Sarcidanese|
|Country of origin||Italy, native to Sardinia|
|Associzione Italiana Allevatori||Breed standards|
|Equus ferus caballus|
The Sarcidano Horse (Italian: Cavallo del Sarcidano) is a rare breed of semi-feral horse originating from the Altopiano del Sarcidano ("plateau of Sarcidano") in the comune of Laconi in the Oristano province of Sardinia, Italy. It is one of the fifteen indigenous horse "breeds of limited distribution" recognised by the AIA, the Italian breeders' association. Although it should never exceed 148 cm (14.2 hands) at the withers, it is officially termed a cavallo or horse, and not a pony.
According to the breed standard, a Sarcidano Horse may be black, bay, or grey; other coat colours are excluded from registration. The height range for males is 125–145 cm (12.1–14.1 hands), the girth 140–160 cm (55–63 in) and the cannon circumference 14–17 cm (5.5–6.7 in); for females the height measures 115–135 cm (11.1–13.1 hands), the girth 120–150 cm (47–59 in) and the cannon 13–16 cm (5.1–6.3 in). Horses over 148 cm (14.2 hands) at 30 months may not be registered.
The head is rather heavy and roughly set on, the profile straight, the ears mobile and the eyes and nostrils large. The neck is muscular, the mane thick. The shoulder is fairly straight, the withers high and the croup short but muscular. The legs are short, strong and reasonably well conformed, the joints are broad, the hooves are strong but tend to be cylindrical. The action is lively and sure-footed.
The Sarcidano Horse has a lively and responsive nature, and adapts well to equestrian uses; it is frugal and resistant.
Supernumerary premolars are frequently present on both sides of the upper jaw.
The Sarcidano horse appears to have ancient Spanish ancestry in common with the Andalusian horse. Studies by Valiati (1997) and by Bell (1999) of transferrins are reported to confirm common ancestry with the Iberian horse of 25000 years ago. A 1996 study of protease inhibitor polymorphism concludes that "a genetic correlation could be present between Sarcidano Horses and ancient Spanish horses as reported by historical documents about horse breeding in Sardinia". The "constant" presence of the seventh molar in the upper jaw is cited as evidence of ancient origin by Baccino, who notes that this characteristic is shared by only a few ancient breeds such as the Exmoor Pony and the Caspian horse; Baccino also notes the presence in the Sarcidano horse of an allele otherwise seen only in Przewalski's Horse.
In 1999 a group of 15 Sarcidano horses was acquired by the comune of Laconi from a private owner; this herd lives in the state-owned forest of Funtanamela, on the Sarcidano plateau, and in 2006 numbered approximately 100 horses. A second herd, privately owned, also lives in the same area, while a third group is held by the Istituto di Incremento Ippico della Sardegna (Sardinian horse-breeding institution) of Ozieri, at Foresta Burgos in central northern Sardinia. In 2007, the total Sarcidano horse population was approximately 190, of which 78 were mares.
The Sarcidano horse was recognised as a breed by Ministerial Decree No. 24347, dated 5 November 2003; the breed register was established in 2005, and is held by the Associazione Provinciale Allevatori (regional breeders' association) of Nuoro.
- "Il Registro Anagrafico delle razze Equine ed Asinine a limitata diffusione" (in Italian). Associazione Italiana Allevatori. n.d. Retrieved Apr 2011. "Anagraphic register of the horse and donkey breeds of limited distribution"
- "Cavallo del Sarcidano: standard di razza" (in Italian). Associazione Italiana Allevatori. n.d. Retrieved Apr 2011. "Sarcidano horse: breed standard"
- "Il cavallo del Sarcidano: una razza da preservare" (in Italian). Ente Foreste della Sardegna. Retrieved April 2011. "The Sarcidano horse: a breed to be preserved"
- Cristoforo, C; P. Valiati, M. Cancedda and P.P. Rodriguez Gallardo (December 1996). "Analysis of protease inhibitor (Pi) polymorphism in a local Sardinian Horse population". Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Animal Genetics: Animal Genetics 27 (Supplement s2): 39. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2052.1996.tb01585.x.
- Baccino, Marco (2006). "Studio morfo-funzionale dello zoccolo equino: lo zoccolo del cavallo selvatico come modello per il cavallo domestico" (in Italian). Doctoral thesis, University of Parma, Faculty of Veterinary Science. Retrieved April 2011. "Morphological and functional study of the equine hoof: the hoof of the feral horse as a model for the domestic horse"
- Fadda, Pierpaolo (13 December 2001). "Computer, lettori e microchip tutelano i cavalli del Sarcidano". L'Unione Sarda (in Italian). Retrieved April 2011. "Computers, readers and microchips protect the horses of the Sarcidano"
- "Cavallo del Sarcidano" (in Italian). Retrieved April 2011. "The Sarcidano horse"
- "Allegato 8: Schede descrittive delle razze locali minacciate di abbandono". Programma di sviluppo regionale 2007–2013: Rge. (CE N. 1698/2005) (in Italian). Regione Autonoma della Sardegna. Retrieved April 2011. "Annex 8: Descriptions of the local breeds threatened by abandonment"