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The Sanfratellano horse it is one of the equine breeds that we find in our beautiful Italy, not so widespread throughout the territory but typical of some regions or even specific areas. In English this breed bears the funny name of San Fratello horse but this certainly does not make it interactive because it has strong roots in the Nebrodi mountains, in the municipal area of San Fratello, in Sicily. Let's get to know its origins and main characteristics, knowing that if we want to see a specimen, we must only reach them on their island.
Sanfratellano horse: origins
This type of local breeds often have a history of great harmony with the locals and it is precisely the case of this Sanfratellano, an animal linked to the people of San Fratello, a linguistic island alloglot Gallo-Italic that over the years, or rather over the centuries, has been able to develop a breed whose strength, physique, endurance and even frugality today we can admire.
Unfortunately we do not yet have a thorough knowledge of the true origins of the breed, however we can stick to the most accredited hypotheses that see the Sanfratellano horse as a descendant of the oriental horses that were imported into this territory around the 10th century by the Arabs. However, nothing leads us to totally exclude the idea that it is a horse of Nordic origins and at this point it could very well come from some horses that were brought to San Fratello around the 11th century by the knights of Adelaide del Vasto (1074–1118), daughter of Manfredi Aleramo, Marquis of Monferrato and Savona, who married the great Norman count Ruggero, thus sealing an alliance in Sicily between Aleramic and Norman.
This hypothesis leads us to learn more about the events of this Adelaide who when she married in 1089 arrived in Messina by ship, indeed, on a series of ships on which all her dowry had been loaded and also a series of her countrymen who had decided to follow it in the land of Sicily along with a series of animals, including horses. In this way it was possible to repopulate the village of San Fratello where further settlers from northern Italy arrived, including the Lombards, and other populations from southern France (in particular from Provence).
This mix has made San Fratello a village with a very particular dialect, a cross between Gallic and Italian, which tastes of Northern Italy but also has French nuances and some local, or rather Sicilian, accents. The fellow villagers of Adelaide would have brought the horses from which the our Sanfratellano and the first consistent and historically documented entry onnebroid area of "Nordic" equine subjects belonging to equine populations different from the insular ones and from those previously arrived on the island from the south and east dates back to his arrival.
This, according to many, is the beginning of history, the beginning of the race of gods Nebrodi mountains whose history is closely linked to the historical events of the territory and its people. The Sanfratellano horse modern then has elements that derive from crossings made in the following years, for example from Maremma horses, from oriental ones and also from the Hungarian Nonius.
Sanfratellano horse: habitat
Now that we know its origins, we can better locate it. This horse lives in its lands of origin and beyond, it still lives there in the wild right within a rather large wooded area of over 10 thousand hectares. Its natural habitat could only be i Nebrodi mountains which today we find in the province of Messina.
It's about a mountain range quite far from the sea and which also includes gentle hills as well as municipalities such as San Fratello, and the neighboring ones of Acquedolci, Caronia, Militello Rosmarino, Sant’Agata Militello, and Mistretta. In this narrow territory we can find counted 300 mares on a total population of about 3300 horses registered in the registry.
Characteristics of the Sanfratellano Horse: height and weight
This Sicilian horse has an athletic and rather lean physique, measure 156 to 166 centimeters in height at the withers and weighs between 450 and 500 kg. It has a rather muscular but never squat structure, it has a well-proportioned head with respect to the rest of the body, with a straight profile with short but sturdy and slightly sloping shoulders. Moving on to the back, it is rather long but also wide, mane and what are rather thick that are accompanied by a bay or black coat.
Sanfratellano horse: character
Despite living in the wild these horses have a character very docile. They are used to living and dealing with people and this makes them meek and balanced.
Sanfratellano horse: attitudes
The Sanfratellano is not yet well known outside its territory but in the countries where it has always existed it was used to pull the traditional “Sicilian carts”And in light agricultural work. Sanfratellane females were also used to give life to mules, once coupled with the Ragusano donkey, and they were excellent mules, used for decades by our Alpini. Today the Sanfratellano continues to be very useful to man and is used as saddle horse, suitable forhorse farm or crossed with the English Thoroughbred.
Sanfratellano horses: breeding in Italy
The Race is subject to "research and studies" undertaken in particular by theExperimental Zootechnical Institute for Sicily in Palermo, in collaboration with regional and national experts and institutions that try to investigate its origins, which are still uncertain. Today this horse continues to live in its original environment and is considered a subject that will never go into extinction, because it has found in those who raise it the courage to fight for its survival. It was also established the’National Association of the Sanfratellano Horse thanks to the Palermo Regional Breeders Association.
You may also be interested in our article with the complete list of all horse breeds with a card complete with information and photos dedicated to each breed.