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date: 07 October 2022

The Horse in Southern Africalocked

The Horse in Southern Africalocked

  • Richard RobertsRichard RobertsDepartment of History, Stanford University


Horses are not native to southern Africa. They were introduced there by European settlers, principally the Dutch, who brought them to their new base at Cape Town in 1653. Although keeping horses was constrained by diseases against which the animals had no immunity, notably African horse sickness, equine piroplasmosis, and trypanosomiasis, horses played a crucial role in facilitating European expansion into the southern African interior. Horses were not, however, always under European control. In several instances, Indigenous populations, often of creolized descent, used them to maintain raiding, hunting, and pastoralist lifestyles of their own. Along with the Korana in central South Africa and the Oorlam and Herero in Namibia, the best-documented of these groups were the AmaTola “Bushmen,” who operated in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of highland Lesotho in the mid-19th century. Subsequently, horses were a crucial resource to both British and Afrikaner forces during the Second South African War (1899–1902), a conflict that helped encourage a more favorable view of the animals used in warfare, and in later 20th-century counterinsurgency operations. Additionally, from the moment of their introduction to the region and continuing right through the apartheid era, horses were significant in delineating and reinforcing distinctions of class, race, and wealth via restrictions on who could ride, keep, or race them, as well as through the rearing and creation of specific breeds with specific ethnic or social associations.


  • Slavery and Slave Trade

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