|Alternative names:||Asturian Pony|
|Country of origin:||Spain, Asturias|
|Horse (Equus ferus caballus)|
The Asturcon, also known as the Asturian Pony, is an ancient breed of small horse local to Asturias, Spain.
The ancient breed's ancestry is not known, although it is thought to have been from crosses between the Sorraia, Garrano, and the ancient Celtic pony. The breed has historically faced near extinction, but recently activist groups have been formed to protect the pony. Also known as the Asturcon, this breed originated in Northern Spain. It is used for riding and packing and stands 11.2 to 12.2 hands high. Centuries ago the existence of a small horse breed originating in the northwest of Spain was recorded. The Romans referred to these horses as Asturcons and thought well of them - and they were popular with the French during the Middle Ages. Pliny (23-79 A.D.) described them as a small breed that did not trot, but moved in an easy lateral ambling gait by alternately moving both legs on one side.
The ambling gait was natural for this small horse, and done in such a way that it gave a comfortable ride. As a result, they become popular as ladies' mounts. One of the breeds known generally as palfreys in England, they were called haubini in France, a word that later became hobbye and eventually hobby horse. Much of this blood was taken to Ireland, where the "Irish Hobby" was greatly admired.
It is thought by some that the Asturian developed as a cross between the Garrano pony of northern Portugal and Spain - a direct descendant of the Celtic pony - and the Sorraia, the original saddle horse of Iberia, which gave the breed its calm temperament. Some other blood must have been present in the Asturian's lineage, however, because the ambling gait is not present in either the Sorraia or Garrano. Suspected by the author is a strong and more direct link to the ancient Celtic pony, of which some strains at least must have been amblers. There is a narrow but clear trail of ambling horses to be found in Turkey, China, Mongolia, and Siberia, tracing the route of the prehistoric horse to the now submerged land-bridge at the Bering Straits.
Living in a feral state for the most part, under difficult conditions, the breed was facing extinction. The predominant colors for the Asturian are black or bay with no white markings.
The Asturian has a small although sometimes rather heavy head, with a straight profile, small ears, and large eyes; the neck is long and quite thin with a flowing mane; the withers are moderately high; the back straight and strong; the croup is sloping with a low tail-set; the shoulder is well sloped. The feet of this pony are well shaped and very tough.