Uruguay: the country with a horse on its coat of arms

Equines arrived in Uruguay at the same time as its world famous cattle and are part of its oldest traditions, its culture and its landscape.

Equines, introduced in South America more than 500 years ago, are part of Uruguay’s tradition, culture and history, along with the renowned cattle. Although many do not know it, they are recognized at the highest level worldwide. The horse is so deeply rooted in Uruguay’s identity that it is part of its national coat of arms.

Currently, Uruguay stands out for its equestrian sports activities. The traditional raid, enduro, jumping, polo or turf, are activities that are part of the sporting and cultural heritage, and that involve trainers, riders, veterinarians and breeders.

Over the last century, Uruguayan breeders have created a hardy, elegant and fast breed of horse that today amazes the whole world. Proof of this can be seen in the United Arab Emirates, where Uruguayan horses are considered among the best in the world.

“In Uruguay we have ample pastures, water and an ideal climate for breeding, which favors the activity, generating lower costs and making it more accessible than in other parts of the world,” says the president of the Arabian Horse Breeders Society of Uruguay, Olivia Strauch, an expert in breeding and preparation for exhibitions.

Regarding equestrian disciplines in Uruguay, Strauch considers Uruguay’s competitive advantages to be respect and significant government support. “The historical and cultural value of the horse is recognized, animal health is strictly managed and the export and import processes are simple,” she added.

In addition to tradition, work and innovation are now being added, especially for highly competitive sports disciplines. The national equestrian activity amounts to approximately U$S 66 million annually according to 2019 data. Together with breeding and reproduction, it generates more than 5,500 direct jobs and 4,500 indirect jobs.

Uruguay ranks eighth in the world in the ranking of countries with Thoroughbred Racehorses (SPC) stock and its three main breeds in the genealogical records of the Rural Association of Uruguay are the Criollo, Arabian and Quarter Horse.

Uruguayan exports of breeding stock are mainly destined for the region. Outside the country, one of the most important buyers is the United Arab Emirates, which recently acquired specimens for US$ 21,000 at an average price of US$ 3,000 per head.

“Uruguay is ideal for horse breeding, not only because the animals are raised in freedom with the best climate and pastures, but also because of the excellent business environment and the economic freedom for those who settle in the country to develop the activity,” says Strauch.

According to the president of the Sociedad de Criadores de Caballos Árabes del Uruguay, the country is one of the favorite places for buyers of Arabian horses, especially for enduro, endurance racing, in which Uruguayan horses stand out in third place in the world ranking.

Technical expertise, climate and soil qualities, as well as political, economic and social stability, make Uruguay a very attractive scenario for entrepreneurs in the sector.

Ph. Fernando Carballo

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