The Antediluvian Andalusian An Ancient And Aspiring Horse


By Crystal A. Eikanger

The Andalusian horse is one of the oldest pure horse breeds in the world. It has been highly regarded since the Middle Ages and reigned for several centuries as the embodiment of perfection, but Spanish horses have always been esteemed for their quality and appearance since Roman times.

The Andalusian has officially been known as the Purebred Spanish Horse, and has been represented by Iberian Saddle Horse, Iberian War Horse, Jennet, Ginete, Lusitano, Alter Real, Carthusian, Spanish Horse, Portuguese, Peninsular, Castilian, Extremeno, Villanos, Zapata, and Zamaranos. It is also known as the Lusitano Horse, which is the modern breed of Andalusian in Portugal. And since black is a rare color in the Andalusian breed, there is also a black Spanish Andalusian or Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horse of Spain.

The Andalusian Horse originated in the province of Andalusia on the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain, where 2500 year old cave paintings portray the breed. Its ancestors are the Iberian horses of Spain and Portugal, which in turn were influenced by Celtic, Carthaginian, Germanic, and Roman horses; and the Barb horse which was brought to Spain by the invading Moors in the Seventh Century. These oriental horses were crossed with quality native Spanish stock, and the result was the Andalusian.

The Andalusian has been a major part of the development of many other horse breeds, including being the foundation breed for the Lipizzaner horses used in Vienna’s Spanish Riding School in the 1500’s. The breed has also been part of the development of the Irish Connemara, most German warmblood breeds, the Cleveland Bay of England, and the Peruvian Paso of the new world. The Azteca is an Andalusian/Quarter Horse cross while the Iberian Warmblood is an Andalusian/Thoroughbred cross. The Spanish Norman is an Andalusian/Percheron cross and the Hispano Arab is an Andalusian/Arab cross.

The Andalusian is mentioned in various historical texts dating as far back as Homer’s Iliad, written in 1100 BC. Xenophon, a Greek cavalry officer who lived in or near 450 BC, also praised the “gifted Iberian horses” for their role in the Spartan’s defeat of Athens. In the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), the Romans were defeated by the Iberian cavalry, and more than 1,200 years later William the Conqueror rode an Iberian horse into the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortes, brought Andalusians to America for his conquests.

As the middle ages progressed, heavier breeds of horses that were capable of carrying fully armored knights began to gain favor over the Adalusian as war mounts. When firearms were invented, a more agile horse became desirable, and the Andalusion was again back in favor. This new type of warfare ushered in a new era for the breed, when it became known as the “royal horse of Europe.” During this period, Andalusian horses were present at nearly every European court as the favored mount for the nobles and played an integral role in the new riding academies that were forming throughout Europe, where the art of dressage. The Andalusian is still used in bull fighting in Southern Spain.

Andalusian horses owe a great deal to the Carthusian Monks who bred them, beginning in the late Middle Ages. In the late 1400’s, studs and bloodlines were founded at monasteries in Terez, Seville, and Cazallo. The monks were excellent breeders and trainers, and kept their horses pure. However, that purity was threatened in the 1800’s when Napoleon invaded Spain and his army stole many horses. This caused the Andalusian breed to decline in numbers and it came close to extinction. Fortunately, one herd of Andalusians was hidden and was used to renew the breed. In 1832, an epidemic devastated Spain’s horse population and only a small herd of Andalusians at the Monastery of Cartuja survived. In order to re-establish their breeding programs, exportation of an Andalusian became illegal without Royal consent and the penalty for exporting this treasured horse was death. No Andalusians were exported until 1962.

However, now the Andalusian’s numbers are growing around the world. In 2005 there were approximately 400 Andalusians registered in Canada. In the United States, it is still a unique breed, but the population has risen to around 5400 horses. The total number of Andalusian (Lusitano) horses registered with IALHA in 2008 is approximately. 11,000.

In physical appearance, the Andalusian is a compact horse with a distinguished appearance and excellent proportions which balance well with their graceful, yet substantial bodies. The Andalusian has a natural balance, collection, impulsion, and agility. They are between 15.1 to 16.1 hands high with the average being 15.2 hands.

The Andalusian is known for its abundantly thick mane that flows from a long, elegant, well-arched but substantial neck, with stallions having more of a crest than mares. The classic profile is a long head with broad forehead, small ears, large eyes, and a flat or slightly convex nose. The shoulders are well-sloped and the withers are well defined. The massive chest and powerful hindquarters are lean and the long, thick, flowing tail should be low set. The breed has strong, medium legs with very energetic high knee action and short striding.

Approximately 80% of the Andalusians are Gray, (Torca, Ruca), 15% Bay (Castana, Castanha), and 5% black. The following colors are also acceptable but rarely seen: Black Bay, Brown, Chestnut, Buckskin, Dun, Palomino, Cremello (Isabella), Perlino, Roan. Other colors are rare or believed to be non-existent in the purebred Andalusian but may be accepted with proper documentation including parentage verification and photos. All dark spots within white markings or on pink skin must be recorded on the registration application for and the color of all hooves must be noted especially if they are striped.

Andalusian Horses possess a proud but docile, calm temperament. The breed is renowned for its ability to learn quickly and easily when treated with respect. They are sensitive, intelligent, and particularly responsive and cooperative with a very willing nature.

The International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association is the association that maintains a registry for Purebred Andalusians and Half-Andalusians and is also the official representative of the Lusitano Horse (the modern breed of Andalusian in Portugal) in the USA and Canada.

As for genetic anomalies, veterinarians do not yet know if Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD) has its roots in genetics, overuse of affected limbs, hormone fluctuations (previously-sound broodmares may develop symptoms of DSLD around foaling time), or if it is some combination of these factors. Although the condition is probably best known in gaited breeds (American Saddlebreds, Peruvian Pasos, Peruvian crosses, Standardbreds, and National Show Horses), it has also been diagnosed in Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and Andalusians.

But all that aside, this versatile breed can be found competing in dressage, driving, jumping, cutting and cattle work. It is ridden under both English and Western saddle. Their stunning presence and charisma makes them an asset to any show ring, exhibition or parade. With its love of people, the Andalusian is an ideal family horse.

About the Author: Crystal writes for, classifieds of Andalusian Horses for sale and other horse breeds, organic farms, trailers for sale and horse tack.


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