The origins of the Murgese are rooted in the medieval era of the 16th and 17th centuries at a time when the Destrier was the best known war horse of the era. The Destrier was a type of horse which embodied the finest and strongest war horse attributes, able to carry knights in armour into battles, tournaments and jousts.

The Murge plateau of Puglia bred the finest Destriers for a good reason. Only the toughest horses adapted to the barren rocky terrain survived and went on to make the most formidable mounts in battle.  Known as The Great Horse they were very well trained, extremely maneuverable and strong enough to carry an armoured knight long distances without metal shoes. They were highly sought after and prized by knights and men at arms.

Throughout the 16th,17th and 18th centuries the studs in Puglia were part of Naples. Horses from these studs were called Neapolitan. In literary essays of the time, they refer to the Neapolitan horse as the most favoured breed for their strength, courage and gentle disposition.

When the studs of the kingdom were dispersed the Murgese went through a dark period and fell out of fashion. For many years they were bred mainly for consumption and farm work. They became a heavy, ungainly horse and the breed became close to extinction.

However, in 1926, forward thinking Italian breeders set about re-establishing the breed by a process of selective breeding. The original horses chosen to revitalize the Murgese were a group of 46 mares and 9 stallions.

As the breeding program proceeded, three stallions were proven to produce offspring that demonstrated the best physical and mental characteristics oof the breed.  These 3 stallions eventually formed the foundation bloodlines of the modern Murgese breed of today.

Granduca da Martina (1919 – 1944)

Nerone (1924 -1946)

 Araldo delle Murge (1928 – 1949)

Today many admirers of this Baroque horse maintain that the purebred Murgese is the closest descendant of the now extinct Neapolitan horse which was one of the most elegant and prestigious classical riding horses of its time in the world.

The Duke of Newcastle in 1667 wrote of the Baroque Horse:

β€œIt is the noblest horse in the world,  the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile; hath the proudest trot and the best action in this trot, the loftiest gallop and is the lovingest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph.”

Protection of the breed

In 1946  ANAMF the (Association of Breeders of the Murge Horse and the Donkey of Martina Franca) was established to protect the breed.

The donkeys of Martina Franca

Every year in December breeders have the opportunity to present their stallions and mares for grading to ensure the qualities and attributes of the Murgese continue to meet the required high standard. Horses are graded A, B or C according to a strict set of breed criteria and represent the best of the best.