Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Merens – Black Prince of the Ariege.

The Merens or Merenguais is a small, black horse, originally found in the Ariège valley, in the Eastern Pyrenees. It is the Ariege village of Merens-les-Vals, that gives the horse its name. It is an ancient breed, and closely resembles the horses painted on the walls of the Niaux cave, near Tarascon-sur-Ariège,13 000 years ago.

Given the mountainous terrain of its native land, it is no surprise that the Merens is surefooted and hardy with good endurance and agility. The Merens horse has long been a companion to the "Montagnol" (mountain farmer), the horse being comfortable working on steep slopes. It was also used in mining, forestry and the army. In the Middle Ages, the famous Count of Foix, Gaston Phoebus, had Merens horses in his army, and later Napoleon made use of them during the Russian campaign.

Originally the Merens would have spent all year in the mountains. Now, in June, the herds move up from the lower valleys to spend 5 months in the high summer pastures, roaming in a semi-wild state.

While Merens horses are increasingly bred in other regions of France and even other countries, an authentic Merens is one who has run free in the high Pyrenees like his ancestors thousands of years ago.

Each 3rd week in August at Bouan in the Ariege, there is the National Merens Day with over 200 Merens horses on show.

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