What to Know About the Peruvian Paso Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 20, 2023
5 min read

The Peruvian Paso, also called the Peruvian Horse, is a horse breed native to Peru. These horses are known for their easy-going temperament and refined manner of walking. 

  • Although the breed was developed in Peru, Peruvian Pasos were bred from horses that were brought to South America from Spain.
  • As a gaited horse, Peruvian Pasos naturally perform specific patterns of foot movement when saddled. 
  • Peruvian Pasos have even and easygoing temperaments due to longstanding breeding practices in Peru that exclude uncooperative horses.
  • The Asociación Nacional de Criadores y Propietarios de Caballos Peruanos de Paso is a national Peruvian Paso horse association based in Peru. The association has organized contests for Peruvian Pasos and their riders since the 1940s.

Although named for and bred in Peru, the Peruvian Paso breed was the result of Spanish colonization. Conquistadors in the 1500s brought horses from Spain to use for transportation and to help manage the large ranches that they built around South and Central America.

Peru has a varied landscape, with areas of the country covered by deserts, mountains, and rainforests. The Spanish began breeding their horses based on certain traits that would help them navigate these different landscapes.

Spanish colonizers bred the Peruvian Paso from three horse breeds that had desirable traits:

  • African Barb horses were chosen for their strength and high energy.
  • The Spanish Jennet breed provided an easygoing nature and smooth walking pattern.
  • Andalusian horses contributed their strong body structure and beautiful appearance.

Through selective breeding of these horses, the Peruvian Paso was born. Peruvian Pasos are maintained in Peru as a closed group, meaning that they aren’t bred with other types of horses.

Peruvian Pasos have many unique characteristics that distinguish them from other horse breeds.

Peruvian Paso appearance. Peruvian Pasos are medium horses, typically measuring between 14 and 15 hands tall. These horses usually have small muzzles and fine-tipped ears.

Peruvian Pasos come in many colors, most commonly chestnut and bay. Black, palomino, buckskin, gray, and roan may also be seen, and some horses have white markings on their faces and legs.

Peruvian Paso temperament. Peruvian Pasos are known for their easy-going nature. In Peru, horses with combative or skittish natures are intentionally not chosen for breeding, which has helped maintain the breed’s overall temperament.

Peruvian Pasos are often described as having brio. Brio roughly means “willing energy,” a trait that comes naturally to these horses. Peruvian Paso horses tend to be smart and eager to please and typically aren’t hotheaded or skittish, making them great horses for both novice and experienced riders.

Horse gaits. Horses move at different speeds depending on what the situation or their rider requires. Changing speed also requires a change in how and when their hooves hit the ground. These speeds and movement patterns together form the gait of the horse.

A hoof or combination of hooves hitting the ground at the same time is referred to as a beat. For example, each hoof hitting the ground individually forms four beats. Gaits are often described in terms of how many beats they have.

Most horses have four gaits that change depending on their speed:

  • A walk, which typically has four beats
  • A trot, which usually has two beats (one front and one back hoof hit the ground at the same time)
  • A canter, which typically has three beats (one back hoof hits the ground, then a front and hind hoof, and finally the remaining front hoof)
  • A gallop, which, like a walk, has four beats

Peruvian Paso gaits. Peruvian Pasos are a type of gaited horse. Gaited horses are distinguished from other breeds by their distinct movement patterns, which form naturally and don’t have to be trained. 

Unlike other horse breeds, Peruvian Pasos typically follow one of three gaits:

  • A walk
  • A paso llano, which is a four-beat gait that is faster than a walk. 
  • A sobreandando, which is a faster gait where the left hooves hit the ground at the same time, followed by the right hooves hitting the ground at the same time.

In addition to their distinct gaits, Peruvian Pasos also have a unique way of moving their front legs. Instead of moving their legs straight in front of them, Peruvian Pasos roll their front legs out away from the body before their hooves hit the ground. This movement, called termino, is only seen in the Peruvian Paso breed.

Unlike other gaited horses, purebred Peruvian Pasos always inherit these gait patterns from their parents.

Peruvian Pasos are often confused for the similarly named Paso Finos, but the two breeds have distinct differences. 

Like Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos were bred from Spanish horses. Unlike the Peruvian Paso, the Paso Fino breed was developed in the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. 

Paso Finos are generally smaller and narrower than Peruvian Pasos. The two breeds have similar gait patterns, although there are some differences. Unlike the Peruvian Paso, Paso Finos do not necessarily inherit their gait from their parents, even if they’re purebred.

Peruvian Paso horses require similar care to other horse breeds. Horses need a lot of food, typically up to 20 pounds per day. Horses are not built to eat large meals, so food should be given in small quantities and spaced out throughout the day. Additionally, make sure your horse has access to plenty of fresh water — horses will drink at least 8 gallons per day. 

Your Peruvian Paso should have access to a warm and secure shelter that offers protection from the elements. These horses should be exercised every day. Horses should receive regular care from a veterinarian, who can check for signs of illness or parasites and administer vaccines and dental care when needed.

Peruvian Pasos have been bred in Peru since their introduction in the 1500s. Centuries of selective breeding produced an easygoing breed whose unique gait and eager personality make these horses a great choice for novice and experienced riders alike.