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Famed breed of Spanish horses may be destined for butcher's block

Laura Leon / AP

A mare, a ''Pura Raza Espanola," or Pure Spanish Breed, runs next to the stable at "La Yeguada de Cuatro Vientos" ranch in Almonte, in southern Spain's Andalusia region on April 8. Barring an unlikely reprieve, the purebreds at this ranch will be turned into horse meat for export in the coming months.

Laura Leon / AP

A Pure Spanish Breed horse rears up inside a stable at La Yeguada de la Nobleza ranch in Almonte, Andalusia, Spain.

By Alan Clendenning, The Associated Press

The southern Spanish region of Andalusia, famed for flamenco and Moorish castles, is also home to a legendary breed of horses that carried conquistadors into battle in the Americas, featured in Hollywood epics and more recently became trophy acquisitions for Spaniards during a giddy economic boom.

On his grassy ranch in the territory's heartland, 73-year-old Francisco Mesa breeds these ''Pura Raza Espanola" - Pure Spanish Breed - horses with a passion that comes from years of pampering the elegant beasts known for their intelligence and affection for humans. He enters a muddy pen and is immediately surrounded by mares and foals who nuzzle him with tenderness, oblivious of their almost certain fate: the slaughterhouse. 

Barring an unlikely reprieve, Mesa' purebreds will be turned into horse meat for export come July. They are victims of a wrenching economic downturn that has wiped out fortunes, turned housing developments into ghost towns and left more than a quarter of the population out of work. Read more here 

Laura Leon / AP

Butcher Manuel Delgado prepares a piece of a ''Pura Raza Espanola,'' Pure Spanish Breed horse meat, at a horse meat butcher in Camas, Spain.

Laura Leon / AP

Breeder Francisco Mesa places his hand on the back of one of his Pure Spanish Breed horses at "La Yeguada de la Nobleza" ranch on April 8.

Laura Leon / AP

Sculptures of horse heads decorate the main entrance of "La Yeguada de Cuatro Vientos" ranch, belonging to breeder Francisco Jose Rodriguez, in Almonte, Andalusia, Spain, on April 8.

Laura Leon / AP

Pure Spanish Breed mares, belonging to breeder Francisco Jose Rodriguez, walk in a field at "La Yeguada de Cuatro Vientos" ranch in Almonte, Andalusia, Spain, on April 2.

Laura Leon / AP

A Pure Spanish Breed horse belonging to breeder Francisco Mesa at "La Yeguada de la Nobleza" in Almonte, Andalusia, Spain, on April 8.

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