Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Brazilian Horses

A Mangalarga Marchador

Horses have played a huge part in Brazilian history, and every one was descended from an imported horse, there being no natural equines in South America. Over time, many local breeds have developed, often based on Portuguese types such as the Lusitano and Alter Real imported with Portuguese colonisers. The Lusitano was specifically bred for the bull fighting ring, and they tend to be intelligent and highly manoeuvrable, whilst the Alter Real were originally high grade carriage horses.

Incidentally, horses are traditionally measured to their shoulders, not the top of their heads, and they are measured in "hands", one hand being 4 inches.

Baixadeiro  - an old breed developed in the marshlands, they are tough, with hard wearing feet able to withstand long immersion in water. Perhaps surprisingly for such an environment they are small, with short legs, and only abut 14 hands high.

Brazilian pony - bred for use with children using bloodlines including Scottish ponies and the Argentine Falabella, they are of course small (8.3 to 9.8 hands), but docile and popular.

Brasileiro de Hipismo (Brazilian Sport Horse) - a fairly recent and very successful breed developed in the 70s for competition and they have already competed at the Olympics. They are tall (over 16 hands) and lively, but not temperamental.

Campeiro - basically "field horse" the origins of this breed go right back to the horses brought with the Portuguese to southern Brazil in the 1540s. Over the years the breed has been improved with Thoroughbred and Arabian bloodlines and they now make good riding and ranch horses.

 A Campolina

Campolina - developed in the 1860s and 70s in Minas Gerais from a mixture of many bloodlines including Andalusian and Clydesdale (!), it is one of the larger breeds at 15-16.2 hands and used for riding and driving

Corajosa - "courageous", this pony is not only hardy, but also apparently gentle and kind. They were bred not for children, but for riding and draft work in areas with little grassland.

Crioulo - a cross of African and European breeds they are found in the south, where they make good ranch horses for the cowboys and gauchos.13-15 hands high.

 A Crioulo and Gaucho rider

Mangalarga Marchador (see photo at start of the blog) - originally developed in the 1700s and one of the most popular breeds in Brazil today. They are comfortable and easy to ride, with lots of stamina, and so make good trekking or ranch horses. The breed includes bloodlines from various Spanish lines, and they may be the closest living connection to the medieval Spanish Jennet. 

Mangalarga Paulista - basically an attempt to upgrade the Mangalarga Marchador by crossing with English Thoroughbreds or Anglo-Arabians, the Mangalarga Paulistas  are attractive, but apparently not so comfortable to ride over long distances.

Nordestino - a fairly small (13 hands), but extremely rugged and sturdy horse, probably derived from North African breeds, the Nordestino was developed in the harsh and hot north east of Brazil. They were popular in the military as being easy to train and with great endurance, but they are less common these days.

Pampa - apparently derived from feral horse populations that were caught and trained by various indigenous tribes in Brazil. They are well adapted to local conditions and characteristically have hard, tough, hooves as they would not have been shod. They also generally have "pinto" markings, which means large white splodges somewhere on their body

Pantaneiro - a breed from the Pantanal, a huge marshy area in the state of Mato Grosso. As they were not developed as such, with the deliberate introduction of blood lines, but were rather just bred from those horses that survived the harsh terrain, they are extremely hardy, with excellent disease resistance. They are mostly used as ranch horses.

Piquira - a fairly recent development for children, mostly derived from crossing Crioulos with, bizarrely, Shetland ponies. They aren´t tiny, but are on the small side (12-13 hands) and apparently docile and calm

Many of the breeds above are now quite rare, as either their original function no longer exists, or they´ve been replaced by imported breeds. This applies especially to the Baixadeiro, the Campeiro and the Pantaneiro. Because of this the Brazilian Agricultural Research Assocation (Embrapa) encourages breeding programs, as well as storing seman and DNA samples, and even frozen embryoes, so the breeds are not lost.

More details on these breeds, and many others, can be found at the Equinest web site at

Friday, 2 November 2012

Very small red dots

Panonychus ulmi (Dept Agriculture UK)

This is the European red spider mite (Panonychus ulmi), ("ácaro vermelho europeu"), but it has emigrated. It is now found all over the world, where it is something of a nuisance. It feeds on plants, and unlike many invertebrates, it`s not fussy. Add a very high reproductive rate and you have a pest.

In Brazil it is mainly found in the south, where like many European migrants it finds the climate more congenial.  There it is a major pest of apples, pears, peaches and vines, overwintering as eggs on the tree trunks.  In the spring the eggs hatch and nymphs  start crawling over the plant. Now, these mites are very very small, about 0.7 mm, so you wouldn´t think it would matter much, but there are a LOT of mites. Each female only lives about 2-3 weeks, but can lay up to 50 eggs. Gradually the leaves become spotted, then bronzed and they fall off. Infested flowers often produce no fruit.

Incidentally, mites are NOT insects, they´ve got eight legs and they are distantly related to spiders. Including the ability to spin webs.
 Neoseiulus californicus

The main predators of mites are other mites, predatory mites.  Since 1992 hundreds of thousands of Neoseiulus californicus have been reared in huge plastic greenhouses in Brazil and released into orchards. They don´t eat all the mites, which is a good thing as then they themselves would starve. They just kill enough to leave the tress healthy. With luck you get a balance.