California Horses

Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Horse


Fewer than 200 of these horses exist in the world today. They are the direct descendants of the horses brought to the New World from Spain by Padre Kino in 1681. Circumstances kept a small herd isolated in Mexico for centuries. In 1885 an American named Ruben Wilbur bought 25 of these horses to use on his ranch in Arizona. Once again they were isolated as a breeding herd for another century.

When the ranch was sold in 1990, seventy-seven of these horses were donated to the now Livestock Conservancy. The conservancy placed the horses with volunteer ranchers who are committed to maintaining the breed.

Some forty Cruce horses were relocated to Rancho del Sueño where I was fortunate to photograph them. These horses are a true living historic treasure. DNA studies have verified their ancient history. Although there are a few wild herds derived from the original Spanish horse, the Wilber-Cruce strain of the Spanish Barb is the only non-feral strain untouched by interbreeding in existence today.

The Solids

Sturdy, hardy and intelligent, the Spanish Barb is a smallish horse. Affectionate and quick to learn, these horses are highly praised as working ranch horses.

The bay stallion in the next images was having fun showing off.

(Click on an image to enlarge)

The golden bay has an almost metallic sheen to his coat.

After being carefully groomed for his photo shoot, this fellow just had to take a dust bath after his first round. Even with a little dust he is a beautiful horse.

The Overo

The word overo refers to a color pattern. With an overo horse the color is solid across the back with white coming from underneath making for a very eye-catching combination. The Spanish Barb also has other paint color patterns, but all of the stallions that I photographed were overos.

The horse in this case actually has three colors, a rather unusual combination.

The overo pattern comes in many colors.

Back in my collage days I fell in love with and bought my first overo paint horse. Her coat looked very much like this stallion.

Until this trip to California I was unaware of the existence of the Wilbur-Cruce strain of the Spanish Barb horse. I found the horse and its history very interesting as I hope you have. If you are interested in learning more about this unique horse or if you would like to donate to the non-profit to maintain the continued existence of the breed just click on this link:

Thanks for joining me on my photographic adventures. More from California to come. If you haven’t already, please sign up to be notified of my next post.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you. My website is in the process of being updated so you will see a change in format shortly. Hopefully, I will be able to respond to you directly at that time. Cheryl

PS There may be some glitches that appear while the process of updating is going on. Please bare with me. They will be corrected asap. Thanks!

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