Friday, June 6, 2008

"J" if for Jennet

The Jennet was a Spanish horse from the Middle Ages. More a type or style of horse than a breed, the jennet was known for its even temperament, moderate build and flamboyant coloring. The jennet had a smooth, ambling gait and was considered an ideal riding horse. During the Middle Ages they were extremely popular and the jennet quickly spread across Europe. The nobility in particular, prized the horse's varied coat color and the more exotic the patterning, the more valuable the horse.

Spanish explorers brought the jennet with them as they conquered new territories. Christopher Columbus chose 25 of the horses to accompany him on his second trip to the New World. Cortez is said to have brought horses "with a wide variety of colors and markings," when he moved to conquer the Aztec empire. The jennet's natural athleticism and good temperament would make them an ideal mount.

The jennet no longer exists as it did in the Middle Ages. As stated, the jennet was not truly a breed of horse. However, this style of horse—athletic, smooth-gaited, and multi-hued—is considered the foundation bloodstock for a number of American horse breeds, including the mustang. A group called the Spanish Jennet Horse Society has dedicated themselves to "re-creating the rare and exclusive horses that courageously glided through the reclamation of Spain and the discovery and exploration of the New World." I certainly hope they will be able to recover this lost treasure from our past.

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