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Paso Fino vs. Peruvian Paso

Are They the Same Breed?  Definitely Not!


     One of the most asked questions that I get, is about the difference between Paso Finos and Peruvian Pasos.  No, they are definitely not the same breed.  They are not even very closely related, even though they have common beginnings from very far back in history.  Many people assume a close relationship between the Peruvian Paso and the Paso Fino. Although the two breeds share some common ancestors in the Old World breeds that are their forebears, the horses that gave rise to each came to the New World with different groups of settlers and were generated in entirely separate environments for totally different purposes.  The Paso Fino was developed in and around the Caribbean, Central and South America, while the Peruvian horse was born entirely within the borders of the country for which it was named. 

     The Paso Fino was a blend of the Andalusian, the Barb, and the Spanish Jennet.  The Peruvian was a blend of the same three breeds with the addition of the Fresian.  From the earliest days of Columbus, these two breeds of horses were bred and used for different uses and different environments.  They are different structurally and conformationally.  Although they both have a 4 beat lateral gait, it is different in its execution.  In modern times, the only thing that the Paso Fino and the Peruvian Paso share is the name Paso.  It is not a Peruvian Paso Fino.  It is either a Paso Fino or a Peruvian Paso.  

     Look at the two pictures above.  The left is a Paso Fino and the right is a Peruvian Paso.  Both have high head carriage and front leg lift, are smooth to ride and exhibit basically a similar four-beat footfall although it is executed differently. 

     The Paso Fino is a slightly smaller, more compact horse than the Peruvian.  The leg movement is essentially up and down as opposed to an extended movement.  The Paso Fino's stride is shorter and more collected than the Peruvian's.  I have heard people call a Paso Fino a "sewing machine" horse because of the very rapid up and down movement of the Paso's legs.  The Paso Fino gait comes naturally and can be executed going both uphill and downhill.  The Paso is extremely sure footed as the stride is shorter and placement is more controlled.  The Paso Fino movement is unique in the horse world.  It is this tight, short step that gives the Paso Fino the incredibly smooth ride in the saddle.  Since a Paso Fino is not extending so far underneath itself, it doesn't have to drop the hip to reach forward.  Since the hip does not drop, the rider has no side to side movement in the saddle with each step.  The Paso is prized for its quiet croup and marginal movement in the hips.  

     The Peruvian has a much more extended movement in its rear end, similar in some ways to the Tennessee Walker, the Rocky Mountain Horse, the Icelandic, and the Missouri Foxtrotter.  All of these horses extend and reach with their back legs, causing a different degree of dropping of the hip.  The more extension in the rear, the more movement of the hips, the more lateral movement to the rider.  The Peruvian has a very distinct and unique gait with his front legs called "termino."  It is similar to a swimmer bringing up his arm when stroking.  This is natural and desirable in the Peruvian Paso breed.

Peruvian Paso

Termino in the front legs.  This is the normal and desirable gait for the Peruvian in the front.

Paso Fino

Straight tracking front to back is very desirable in the Paso Fino breed.

     Lovers of each breed will extol the virtues of their own breed over any other breed of horse.  We each have our favorites, and have made our choices based on our own particular needs and wants.  So whichever breed you may choose, you will develop a loyalty to that breed and to your own particular style of horse.  It is either a Paso Fino or it is a Peruvian Paso, and never the twain shall meet.  Shows are different, tack is different, conformation is different, and movement is different.  They are just two totally different breeds of horse.  And don't ask me which I prefer.... it's pretty obvious judging by the site you are on...  :o).