History of the Falabella Miniature Horse Breed

Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by Allison Price

This summary is a mixture of direct excerpts from a variety of publications, letters to the Falabellas family, a French Veterinary Medicine Study, and Thesis on Falabellas. Many other articles have been published about Falabella horses. Some are true and some are not. We have tried to collect the most accurate information through veterinary medical studies and interviews with Falabella relatives, letters from Falabella members, and early owners who purchased horses directly from Julio Falabella’s farm in Argentina. These writings are all listed at the end.

What is a Falabella Miniature Horse?

FALABELLA, a unique and special horse breed, has been bred through many generations of selective breeding to maintain its height and build. It is also one of the most compact breeds of horse in existence. FALABELLA is the name of an Argentine breeder who created the breed around 1845. The breed can live up to 40-45 years. These horses have all the characteristics and attributes of their taller cousins and are bred with the same temperament.
Patrick Newtall was credited as the Falabella breed’s breeder-of-origine. He had established a herd small and perfectly built horses measuring around 102cms by 1853. Juan Falabella, his son-in law, received his herd, breeding techniques, and knowledge in 1879. The herd was passed to Emilio in 1905. In 1927, the establishment was taken over by Julio Cesar Falabella. He kept meticulous genealogical records and is one of the most famous Falabella breeders. Julio C. Falabella created the Establecimientos Falabella in 1940. This became the Asociacian des Criadores Falabella Horse Breeders Association (ACCF-Falabella Horse Breeders Society) in 1991.

Falabella horses are those that have a continuous lineage of bloodlines from animal stock originally bred for them by the Falabella family. Falabella horses do not have a bloodline that is solely from the original ESTABLICIMIENTOS FALABELLA Av. quintana 494, piso 6 A1129 BUENOS AIRE, ARGENTINA.
The Falabella has been recognized today as a Breed. It is also known as the original miniature horse.

The Falabellas miniature horse breed is unique.
FALABELLA is a horse with all the attributes and nature of its taller cousins.
Through generations of selective breeding, the Falabella genes have been fixed, allowing natural reproduction. This allows for procreating beings that are reliable in size, features, and build.

Its genetic stability has enabled it to reproduce and is why it is so well-known. A long pedigree that goes back to Falabella Ranch imports can prove an animal to be a true Falabella. If the pedigree is not available, some registries will parentage-qualify an animal via a DNA test. If the pedigree is not available, the DNA test can detect non Falabella markers. Although there are fewer pure-bred horses today, keeping DNA records can help ensure that they maintain the standards established through generations of breeding.
The Falabella horse is taller than its taller cousins. Natural reproduction is possible because of the fixed DNA genetic characteristics of Falabella. The same temperament is bred in offspring.

Falabellas cannot be ‘becomes’ a horse if it has not been pure bred. This can be done by having an official Argentinian breeding certification, FMHA registration, or DNA testing. However, Falabellas are capable of becoming other breeds like American Miniatures. Many American Miniatures can trace their ancestry back some of the early imported Falabellas.

Falabella Miniature Horse

Characteristics of FalabellaThe FALABELLAS are smaller than other horses, yet they have the ability to adapt and show docility. They are strong, comparable to larger draft or saddle horses.
Falabella miniature horses, which are not ponies but horses, are true horses. This means that even tiny examples of the breed can retain the structure and proportions a full-sized horse. There are many types of Falabellas, including miniature American quarter horses and sleek Arabian-looking stock horses.
Unique Features: The Falabella is different from other horse breeds in that it has seventeen vertebrae rather than eighteen and at least one pair of ribs less. Interesting to Note here: Veterinarians in France made this observation in 1982, and noted this difference in all horses examined, however, they only studied horses that were direct imports from Argentina.
Japanese veterinarians also examined Falabella miniaturehorses from Argentina by Japanese vets. They found that three pairs of ribs and two lumbar vertebrae may have been missing.
Veterinarians in Australia and Italy have made similar discoveries.
Senor Julio C. Falabella (1912-1980) also discovered that the hearts of his FALABELLA horses, regardless of their size, were the same as those of normal-sized horses. This was believed to be one reason FALABELLA horses live longer and remain in good health until the end. Julio Falabella was quoted as saying that “my little horses are in the prime of their lives when they’re twenty years old and they live to be 42 years old, still with all their teeth, and not looking sickly or pitiful.” The French veterinary study states that “The Falabella has an exceptionally long life span: 40-45 years.” An unusual feature of the FALABELLA is the gestation period. This can range from the standard 11 months to up to two months longer than for most horses–close to 13 months. Many of the foals are tiny — ranging in size from 16-17 inches (41-43 cm height) but they grow very quickly in their first year.
They are extremely friendly and gentle, as well as intelligent. They are great performers and can be trained to drive horses, show horses or trick horses.

The Falabella is known for its silky, fine hair and soft skin. The oval-shaped hooves have a narrow shape. Some manes are straight and short, while others have a curved shape and fall on either side of the neck. The gait is very spontaneous and energetic. Black or brown are the most popular colors for horses, but they can also be pinto, bay, and chestnut. Senor Falabella is most fond of the appaloosa.

How Tall is a Falabella?An animal in controlled production at an Argentine farm will rarely be taller than eight hands (78cm/32″) at its withers. It varies between 70 cm and 80 cm for breed and nurse animals, which are certified to have reproductive capacity. All of them share the same genetic characteristics that allow them to reproduce specimens of the same type and build, even if they are smaller. JUANCITO, 168 FALABELLA stalion (67 cm high), is a son FALABELLA RONO 32 (71 cm tall) and FALABELLA MARGOT 89 (80 cm high). Evidently, the product result is affected by the reproductive capacities of the parents. Each breeding animal in the nursing group of an Argentine farm was kept under control and recorded by the farm.

Although the Falabella horse’s size can vary, the most prized are the smallest. A Falabella horse of quality is not just small in stature. It is not the combination of small stature with correct conformation that makes the breeding Falabella horse special and keeps this breed alive and healthy.

The Argentine Establishment is still working to develop genetic research that will yield smaller specimens. They have managed to produce adult specimens that are less than 50cm (20inches) tall. The breeding plan is focused on specific characteristics. Each time, they are more uniform in height, with an average height around 70 cm (27.5 inch).

How a Falabella LivesThe FALABELLA, a native of Argentina’s vast plains (“pampas”) for centuries, has lived in an unspoiled natural state. Due to strong sun, cold winds from the southwest (“El Pampero”) and fierce storms, the horses had to travel great distances to get water and pasture. They were able to resist the elements with remarkable resilience. This rustic environment sharpened their ability to sense danger and sharpened their instincts.

The Falabella Farm, Argentina, is home to horses that live in natural meadows. This allows them to be sent to different climates, and ensures their survival. The climate of Buenos Aires can be quite unpredictable. It drops to below 0°C in winter and rises to above 87°C in summer.

FALABELLA horses don’t require any extra care due to their rustic nature and ability to adapt to extreme weather conditions. They don’t require any veterinary care and their diet is simple.

Two ranches were owned by Senor Falabella in Argentina: La Francesa (12,000 acres in Azul) and Recreo de Roca (1,000 acres). Both ranches are located a short distance from Buenos Aires. Since the death of Maria Luisa De Falabella, in 2007, the Falabella horses were moved to their 8000 hectare ranch (19,768 acres) located about 1000 km north of Buenos Aires. The horses are also taken from the capital on a 45-hectare (11 acres) area, which is open to visitors.

Historical Dates of the Falabella BreedIn 1845, Patrick Newtall was on the Argentine meadowlands — to the south of Buenos Aires — when he noticed that some of the Pampas Indian tribes had unusually small horses. He managed to get a few specimens from them.

After many years of experimentation and selections, 1853 saw the creation of a herd perfectly built horses. They are less than one meter tall.

His son-in law, Mr. Juan Falabella joins the family investigations. Newtall then transmits all of his findings and knowledge about his breeding to him in 1879.

Through successive crossings, Juan Falabella builds gradually the first miniature horses in 1893. They are harmonious in shape and have a height of less than 85 cms.

Juan Falabella, a 1905 breeder, transmits the raising of the new breed to his son Emilio. Emilio continues with the reproduction of the inherited horses and establishes the current build pattern through strict selection.

Senor Julio Cesar Falabella takes over the Establishments in 1927. He inherits from his ancestors not just the knowledge and skill of breeding horses but also the wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down through many generations. He is responsible for the systematization and creation of genealogical records for the breed.

NAPOLEON I was born in 1937. He is a chestnut-colored-piebald horse who would sing the Establishments the most beautiful songs. Many of his descendants are now part of the history of miniature horses that can be found all over the globe. Napoleon was a favorite of the Falabella Family. He was short and stocky and weighed in at just 27 inches. He was considered to be the world’s oldest living horse at the time of his passing.

Julio Falabella promoted his miniature horses in 1950. Many horse breeders and hobbyists are inspired to try raising them in other parts of the globe. FALABELLA horses can be found in Europe, America, and the Far East.

John B and Frank Elena owned the Regina Winery in California. In 1962, they imported 12 FALABELLA horses from Argentina. They were known as the FALABELLA Miniature Horses Lilliputian. The famous appaloosa CHIANTI was one of these horses. This majestic leopard appaloosa horse stallion was one of the most well-known appaloosa horses in the country. His name is still in many miniature horses’ pedigrees.

1968 sees the birth of JAUNCITO 168FALABELLA, a chestnut-colored horse. He was part of the breed nursery and belonged to the “sang” line, which is one the main lines in Falabella Establishments.

Together with Maria L.B., he founded the breed system in 1973. Falabella is the first to systematize the breed pattern with Julio Cesar, his second wife Maria L.B.

Julio Falabella was a fan of loud-coloured horses. Many of his descendants are appaloosa or pinto. He agrees to sell Menelek, an appaloosa horse. He was sold to Lord and Lady Fisher in England in 1977. After being imported to England, he was used as the foundation to establish a Falabella bloodline. To promote the breed, Kilverstone Zoo was created. Menelek was a prolific sire of Falabella Miniature Horses throughout Europe and England. Menelek died tragically after a violent kick by an irate mare.

In 1980, Senor Julio Cesar Falabella is killed. Maria Luisa B. de Falabella, his wife, and the only true heir to him, Maria Angelica Falabella, begin the long process for settling the Falabella estate. Maria Luisa, her three sons from a previous union, and the Falabella Establishments are taken on by Maria Luisa. Argentine law favors the wife getting the most of an estate. Angelica, Julio’s child, owned a farm in Buenos Aires and was granted rights to half the original Falabella herd. She is the only true blood heir and the true owner of the unique miniature horse.

The common interests of a group of Falabella breeders pursuing similar goals led to the formation of the Falabella horse breeders association, Association of Equine Development -with honorary membership status – and the Argentine Undersecretary of Agriculture. Livestock and fishing. The Association is governed by Maria Luisa Falabella as honorary President.

Maria Angelica Falabella, a South Carolina native, arrived in the USA in the early 1990s. She founded Falabella AF Farm with Washington Sea. Horses bought from Angelica Falabella were often “hard-shipped”, into American registries AMHA and AMHR. All imported horses from Angelica’s Argentina ranch Rancho Falabella Caballos Minatura carried the Falabella name and the AF. Angelica moved to the USA in the 1990’s and her horses switched to the AF prefix. The FMHA (Falabella Miniature Horse Association–Registry for Falabella Horses) began using Angelica’s rightful Falabella name in registering her horses in 2001. Angelica is the owner of the “FALABELLA AAF” horses. The Falabella prefix horses come from Rancho Falabella Caballos Miniatura in Argentina.

Training and Showing the Falabella Today

These tiny horses are docile and friendly, but also very spirited. They respond well to training, which is incredibly fast and efficient. They are considered above-average in intelligence. Children can ride them up to 8 years old and they can be driven in small carts. Senior Falabella had 20-30 horses at Recreo deRoca ranch. Their behavior inside and outside the house was impeccable, and they were respectful and willing to obey. Horses that have been trained can perform all gaits and jump three feet or higher. It is clear that FALABELLA can be trained to do feats comparable to those of larger liberty horses or horses of larger breeds.

Import – Falabella Menelek Jumping – Photo Archive
To claim credit for this photo, please contact us if you were the one who took it.Falabellas can be exotic pets and are not readily available in all countries. Falabellas can be quick-witted horses and are well known for their ability to perform. According to some reports, an owner can teach his horse how to shake hands and do other tricks in a matter of hours.
This summary was compiled by Diane Wolcott and is a combination of excerpts from a variety of publications, including the following:

“Minihorses Falabella”, Establecimientos Falabella ACCF brochure
*The Falabella Miniature Horse, taken from a Falabella Informational Sheet and presented in a Veterinary Doctoral Thesis, by Pascal Hardy, National Veterinary School Alford, France 1982
* The Falabella breed, as presented by ACCF at 1993 Winter Sale of imported Falabellas in Argentina
* About Falabellas by Angelica Falabella in coordination with Sandy Hawkins
Maria de Falabella created the Falabella Horse Breeders’ Association.
* Horse World has Its Compacts. Interview with Julio Falabella by the Associated Press, Recreo De Roca (Argentina), 1966.
* Newsweek Magazine, October 15, 1962
* US News and World Report December 31, 1962
* Life Magazine, January 4, 1963
* Life Magazine Spanish Edition, February 4, 1963.
* “CHIANTI”, The Living Legend by Major & Mrs. H.D. Blasingame, Shadow Oaks Ranch, California.
* Miniature Horses by R.L. Blakely, National Geographic March 1985
* The Falabella Original, Lynn Goldman ACCF, US/Canada 1992
* Beauties Bred In Miniature, a Julio Falabella interview, printed in 1978 as a story.
* The Little Horses by Shirley Marler from the UK Falabella Archives
* Article by Shirley Marler in the Bedfordshire Times, April 27, 1973 about her first import horses from Argentina, Julio Falabella.
* Argentine Falabella Minature Horse — The Limited Collection Sale — Held in Renton (Washington), October 8-9th, 1988
* A letter from the Greenwoods Stud in the Netherlands after purchasing the Falabella Collection, Lord and Lady Fisher’s Heritage Falabellas. Written by Paul Smulders December 18, 1991.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!