Peruvian Paso horses, also called Peruvian Horses, are an exciting breed whose unique features, gaits, and history make them a fascinating subject for any horse lover. First introduced into the United States in the 1970s, Peruvian Pasos are now a very appreciated and popular breed across North America.
Peruvian Pasos have much to be celebrated as a breed. They have a natural gait, gentle yet energetic temperament, and a luxurious mane and tail.
Known for being one of the smoothest rides of any breed in the world, Peruvian Pasos are a wonderful choice for riders of all experience levels in addition to being a good option for riders suffering from back pain or injuries.
What Is a Peruvian Paso?
Originating from the Andalusian, Barb, and Jennet horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th Century, Peruvian Pasos are one of the purest horse breeds in the world today.
Carefully bred in isolation over 400 years in Peru, Peruvian Pasos are increasingly popular horses in North America.
Peruvian Pasos are naturally gaited, meaning they have a natural, genetically inherited gait that is not artificially induced through training. It is this gait that makes them one of the smoothest rides in the world.
Peruvian Pasos are of medium size, usually standing between 14-15 hands in height and weighing between 900 and 1,100 pounds. They have abundant, magnificent manes and generous, low-set tails.
Peruvian Paso History
Due to their history and the way they have been bred for the last 400 years, Peruvian Pasos represent a direct link to horses of the past.
In Europe, naturally gaited horses were the norm for centuries as most traveling had to be done on horseback.
The arrival of horse-drawn vehicles after the 17th century led to an increase in the breeding of trotting horses, which were more suitable for pulling carriages and other wheeled vehicles.
By the end of the 1600s, most horses were trotting horses.
However, when the Spanish arrived in Peru in the mid-1500s, they brought with them horses that blended several breeds, including the Barb, Jennet, and Andalusian horses.
The need for a horse that could comfortably ride for long hours while also covering vast distances, including difficult mountain terrain, led breeders to carefully select the horses that had a natural gait.
As the changes in breeding preferences changed around the world,
Peruvian breeders protected their naturally-gaited horses, avoiding the introduction of any other blood into their breed for hundreds of years. This resulted in the uniquely gaited, purebred Peruvian Paso we know today.
Peruvian Paso Registries
In North America, there are three main registries for the Peruvian Paso:
- North American Peruvian Horse Association (NAPHA)
- United States Peruvian Horse Association (USPHA)
- Peruvian Horse Association of Canada (PHAC)
The main international registry is located in Peru: The National Association of Breeders and Owners of Peruvian Paso Horses (Asociación Nacional de Criadores y Propietarios de Caballos Peruanos de Paso).
Peruvian Paso Gaits
Peruvian Pasos have an ambling lateral four-beat gait which, combined with their large, ground-covering stride, makes them a uniquely smooth ride (source).
In addition to their two gaits, the “paso llano” and the “sobreandando,” Peruvian Pasos also developed “termino,” a swinging, outward movement of the front legs.
The paso llano is the Peruvian Paso’s natural, lateral four-beat gait. As described by the Peruvian Horse Association of Canada, it is a “permanent, harmonic, and rhythmic tapping in which the animal makes a gentle and pleasant alternating movement.”
This gait allows the center of gravity of the horse to remain stable, resulting in the breed’s world-renown smooth ride.
The sobreandando is the faster version of the paso llano.
Peruvian Paso Colors
Peruvian Pasos’ coats can be in many colors including chestnut, bay, dun, black, brown, grey, roan, and even palomino. White markings on their face and legs are accepted by the registries and in competition.
Peruvian Paso Temperament
Peruvian Pasos have one of the best temperaments of any breed. They are gentle, friendly, and responsive; this makes them a great choice of horse for children or riders of any age.
Another unique characteristic of the breed is “brio,” a Spanish word meaning spirit, energy, and exuberance.
The unique combination of their spirit and intelligence with their trainability and willingness to please is what makes the Peruvian Paso such an admirable breed.
Peruvian Paso Health
The Peruvian Paso breed presents no particular health concerns. However, like many other breeds, they may develop Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD) as they age.
This disease affects the connective tissue of the horse’s lower limbs and manifests in pain, heat, and swelling of the area.
This disease was first diagnosed on Peruvian Pasos, which is why it is closely related to the breed, though it does not mean Peruvian Pasos are particularly prone to it.
As with any other breed, proper care and feeding, as well as regular equine veterinarian checkups will ensure your Peruvian Paso remains in top health.
Common Disciplines for Peruvian Pasos
Peruvian Pasos are used in many disciplines. They are great, steady horses both for pleasure and trail riding.
They are also popular show horses, where they stand out thanks to their elegant gait and beautiful brio; that proud temperament that gives them that special flair in competition. Peruvian Pasos are also excellent long-distance trail horses.
Difference between Peruvian Pasos and Paso Finos
Due to their names, history, and natural gait, Peruvian Pasos and Paso Finos are often confused. However, each of these breeds has unique characteristics that make them easy to distinguish.
They have the same origin. Paso Finos and Peruvian Pasos both stem from the breeds brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors: Andalusians, Barbs, and the Jennet (now extinct).
These horses were bred for stamina and their smooth gait – one of the most important qualities for all-day, comfortable riding.
Throughout their evolution, both breeds also kept their smooth gait. Finally, some of the confusion in North America comes from their names, both containing the word “paso” (step) in Spanish.
Although both breeds originated from horses brought to South and Central America from Spain, their history differs due to geography, use, and preference.
In the case of the Peruvian Paso: these horses were taken from Peru, a country located between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and were kept in isolation from other breeds for over 400 years.
On the other hand, the horses that were taken north to Colombia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, were crossed with other horses at different points, resulting in the breed we know today as the Paso Fino.
As they developed, both breeds maintained the smooth, four-beat gait of the Spanish Conquistadors’ horses but evolved to express it differently.
While Peruvian Pasos have two gaits, Paso Finos have four: the fino fino, the paso fino, the paso corto, and the paso largo.
The main difference between the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino expression of the four-beat gait is the stride.
Used to cover long distances between farms and haciendas, Peruvian Pasos were bred to have a large, more ground-covering stride.
In contrast, Paso Finos still display a very quick-moving stride. Also, Paso Finos do not share the “termino” trait, thus this movement remains very distinctive of the Peruvian Paso.
Another important difference between the breeds is while Peruvian Pasos’ conformation is consistent within the breed and the geographical location it was developed, the Paso Fino shows more variety in conformation within the breed.
This is the result of the development of the breed across different regions of Central and South America.
|Feature||Peruvian Paso||Paso Fino|
|Origins||Barb, Andalusian, and Jennet horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish||Barb, Andalusian, and Jennet horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish|
|Breeding||Bred in isolation for centuries exclusively in Peru (No other blood introduced into the breed)||Crossed with other breeds as the original horses were brought to other South and Central American countries across the Caribbean|
|Gait||Lateral, four-beat gait||Lateral, four-beat gait|
|Gait expression||Two gaits: the paso llano and the sobreandando||Four gaits: the fino fino, paso fino, paso corto, and paso largo|
|Stride||Large ground-covering stride||Short, quick stride|
|Conformation||Consistent, medium-size conformation within the breed||Size and conformation vary within the breed depending on the geographical region of the horse|
Though still considered a somewhat newcomer breed in North America, Peruvian Pasos are becoming more popular in the United States. Horse lovers looking to buy or adopt a Peruvian Paso will have no difficulty finding one.
In terms of price, Peruvian Pasos are a relatively affordable horse: they can often be found within the $2000 to $10,000 price range.
If this price range is still too high, you could reach out to a local or national horse rescue organization, they may have some Peruvian Pasos available for adoption.
When looking to buy or adopt a horse that will meet all your riding needs, it is important to consult a variety of sources. These are the sources we used to create this breed’s profile.