A living legend of
the American Southwest
In the late 1600s Jesuit missionary and explorer Father Eusebio Kino
established a herd of Spanish horses along with cattle and other livestock
at Mission Dolores, Mexico, to supply the expanding settlements of the
Pimeria Alta region.
In the 1970s, according to family history, Dr. Wilbur, an early homesteader
near the town of Arivaca, Arizona, purchased a group of these mission
horses. These became the foundation stock of the Wilbur-Cruce rancher
strain of the Spanish Barb breed.
Dr. Wilbur’s granddaughter, Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce, preserved this
isolated herd through much adversity until she sold her family ranch in 1989
to The Nature Conservancy to be included in the Buenos Aires National
Fortunately the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy became involved.
Blood typing and visual inspection supported the oral history and resulted
in the rescue of the herd.
Today Eva’s “rock horse,” as she fondly called them – noting their ability
to negotiate very difficult, rocky, mountainous country with skill and ease
– are preserved in several Western states.
In 2005 the Wilbur-Cruce horses were formally accepted as the sixth
foundation strain of the Spanish Barb.
Today the Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Barbs are highly prized for their
extraordinary hardiness, sure footedness and strong bond with “their”
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