Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland and is one of the poorest. Agriculture contributes about 23.6% of the national Gross Domestic Product, mainly from crop production. Cattle are the most important livestock species and oxen originally provided most of the draught power. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, horses were traded by the Portuguese with local inhabitants for slaves and then used by the latter as cavalry in local wars. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, equines were of little importance. From the mid twentieth century, however, both horses and donkeys rapidly increased in numbers and became the main providers of animal traction for agricultural work and general transport. Trypanosomosis is the main disease but other diseases also constrain the output of equines. Management of the equine resource is poor in terms of nutrition, health and housing. Poor welfare is also a major problem but there are some attempts by a local charity to improve this through provision of basic services and training of farmers and veterinary personnel.
Key words: War horses, animal traction, donkey, horse, trypanosomosis.
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