The royal horses of Charles III of Bourbon
In 1730, the ruler of the kingdom of Naples, Charles III of Bourbon, established a royal breeding stud in northern Cilento, near Salerno.
Here he established his own breed. The Reale razza of Persano horses.
Neapolitan horses from studs all over the kingdom (which stretched from Lazio down to Sicily) were crossed with four oriental stallions that were donated by the Ottoman Ambassador Husseyin Efend.
In 1829, Andalusian and Prussian Mecklenburg blood was added to the herd to increase the horse’s size and movement. In 1874, after the unification of Italy, the stud was dispersed, and the horses were auctioned off to local farmers. A century of breeding was decimated in just a few weeks.
26 years later, the Italian government attempted to make amends for this devastating mistake, and they sourced 78 surviving Persano horses and moved them to a state breeding facility where they were mixed with anglo and thoroughbred stallions for military use.
The courageous Persano horses served in both WWI and WWII and were part of the regiment that rode against the Russian army in what is considered the last successful full scale cavalry charge.
One of the most famous Persano horses internationally was Pagora, a small 14.2hh gelding that won the silver team medal in the 1956 Stockholm olympics with his rider Salvatore Oppes.
The Persano has a distinctly oriental look, long limbs and a pretty head. Good natured and tough, they are still used by the carabiniere as police and military horses.
One of the last herds of endangered Persano horses was sold to Count Alduino of Ventimiglia di Monteforte, and they are now kept at the Sito Reale of Carditello. This historic building was another of Charles III’s original horse breeding facilities.
Photographs by Cecille Zahorka at www.thepixelnomad.com