The Castillonais or Cheval Ariègeois de Castillon , also formerly called Cheval du Biros or Saint-Gironnais, is an ancient breed of small rustic saddle-horse from the Ariège département of south-western France. It may be dark bay or seal brown. It stands 135–155 centimetres at the withers, with an average height of about 145 cm. It is used principally for trekking and for driving. The Castillonnais probably descends from the horses that inspired the Magdalenian-era paintings found, for example, at the Cave of Niaux, with Oriental and Iberian blood added later. Originally bred as a multi-purpose breed used for cavalry, agriculture and driving, the breed declined in population during the 20th century, and almost became extinct. In 1980, a group of supporters began to work to save the breed, and a breed association, now called the Association Nationale du Cheval Castillonnais d'Ariège Pyrénées, was formed in 1992. The breed was officially recognised by the French Ministry of Agriculture in 1996. The French government, breed association and a regional conservation group all now share an interest in the preservation of the breed. Population numbers are still quite low, and inbreeding is a concern.
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Also known as
This breed is also called Castillonais, Castillonnais, Cheval Ariègeois de Castillon, Cheval Du Biros, Cheval de Castillon as well as Saint-Gironnais.
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