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A medieval jennet.

A Jennet or Spanish Jennet was a small Spanish horse.[1] It was noted for a smooth naturally ambling gait, compact and well-muscled build, and a good disposition. The jennet was an ideal light riding horse, and as such spread across Europe and provided some of the foundation bloodstock for several horse breeds in the Americas.


Spanish origin of the term

According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Jennet referred to a small Spanish horse. The 2000 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary also defines jennet, with the alternative spelling genet, as a small Spanish saddle horse. The Jennet described a type, rather than a breed of horse, and thus is not used today; the term was in regular use during the Middle Ages to refer to a specific type of horse, usually one of Iberian or Barb extraction, often gaited.

In the etymology provided by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, jennet is derived from the French genet, from Spanish jinete, a light horseman who rides à la jineta, explained as "with his legs tucked up." The term is taken to be a corruption of the Arabic Zenata, a Berber tribe famed for its cavalry. English and French transferred the word from the rider to the horse, a meaning which the word has only acquired in Spain in modern times. The American Heritage Dictionary's etymology is similar, citing the Middle English genet, from Old French, from the Catalan ginet, of Arabic or Berber origin.[1]

Jennet is also an old-English girl's name, derived originally from John. Jennet Device was the name of the younger daughter of Elizabeth Device, one of the Pendle witches.

Modern descendants and recreated breeds

The modern Spanish Jennet Horse, Paso Fino and Peruvian Paso breeds probably most closely resemble the original jennet.

See also


  1. Bennett, Deb. "The Spanish Mustang: The Origin and Relationships of the Mustang, Barb, and Arabian Horse"

External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


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