History of the Andalusian Horse
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse, Spanish/Portuguese Horse or PRE (Pura Raza Española), is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years.
As long as it can be proven that the horse’s bloodlines can be traced in an unbroken line back to Spain or Portugal, they are eligible for any of the available “Andalusian” registries, depending on their bloodlines. See our ‘Organizations’ page for more information on the registry options.
The Andalusian has been recognized as an individual breed since the 15th century, and its conformation has changed very little over the centuries. Throughout its history, it has been known for its prowess as a warhorse, and prized by nobility. The breed was used as a tool of diplomacy by the Spanish government, and kings across Europe rode and owned Spanish horses.
In the 1400’s, a decree was issued by the Spanish military authority, directing the Spanish Breeders to blend their pure Andalusian mares with Neapolitan drafts in response to the weight of armor carried into battle. A small group of family breeders refused, selecting their best horses and hiding them away on monastery lands in Cartujana. The Carthusian monks were said to have managed a breeding program based on these horses for almost 400 years after this.
Around 1835 the government dissolved the church’s ownership of the lands and the horses were passed on to a small handful of families who preserved the original lines for years to come. These horses heavily influenced the breed and although rare, can still be found today, referred to as “Bocado” (Cartujano).
Exports of Andalusians from Spain were restricted until the 1960s, but the breed has since spread throughout the world, despite still-low population numbers due to the cross – breeding in the 14 – 1500’s.
In 2010, there were more than 185,000 registered Andalusians worldwide.
Strongly built, and compact yet elegant, Andalusians have long, thick manes and tails. Their most common coat color is gray, although they can be found in many other colors, including buckskin, chestnut and palomino. They are known for their intelligence, sensitivity, docility and versatility.
The Andalusian is closely related to the Lusitano of Portugal, and has been used to develop many other breeds, especially in Europe and the Americas. Breeds with Andalusian ancestry include many of the warmbloods in Europe as well as western hemisphere breeds such as the Azteca.
Over its centuries of development, the Andalusian breed has been selected for athleticism and stamina. The horses were originally used for classical dressage, driving, bullfighting, and as stock horses. Modern Andalusians are used for and excel in many different disciplines, including open dressage, driving, pleasure and breed shows. They are very versatile and you will often see them shown in many different disciplines at the same show.
The breed is also used extensively in movies, especially historical pictures and fantasy epics.
The Lusitano (or PSL) from Portugal is historically the same breed as the Andalusian (or Pure Spanish Horse/PRE) with whom he shares his historical breed standard, and 50% of its genetic make-up.
Portuguese breeders traditionally developed the Lusitano as the ultimate bull fighting horse. Here are a few of the well-recognized bloodlines that produce Lusitanos for various purposes today. The Viega Line (MV) is world famous for their bullfighting ability, the Alter Real line (AR) has been successfully producing mounts for the high school exercises performed by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art and the Andrade line (AD) is known for their excellent dressage gaits.
The Lusitano is a very ancient breed considered a hot-blooded, purebred horse. His prehistoric ancestor is probably the “Sorraia”, a rare, smaller horse, characterized by a dun/mouse colored coat with primitive markings. Both the Sorraia and the modern Lusitano are characterized by the same “Sub-convex” form of their frontal-nasal profile (head), round forms (of neck, croup, etc.), excellent gaits (which are straight, forward moving, loose and elevated) and their ability to work with wild (fighting) cattle. This horse is the Portuguese descendant of the historical “Iberian Genet” and, was also called the Spanish Horse by osmosis when Spain and Portugal were briefly merged in a single political entity.
The Lusitano’s special qualities are: a generous temperament, a human-oriented disposition & a flexible body designed for collection, expression AND extension. The Lusitano must possess an uphill balance to facilitate the constant transitions of dressage or in the bullfight, be resistant enough to cover long distances at speed and work with a high degree of energy for a long time, as in a three-day event. He must be very brave, so as not to mind when he occasionally gets hurt by a bull or an obstacle or gets threatened by another horse/rider combination, like in Polo, Horse Ball, etc. He needs to be patient in order to tolerate incessant demands from the rider during the bullfight without becoming irritated, fearful or sullen. He must be extremely careful not to touch the poles of the show-jumps and to stay away from the bull's horns, yet bold enough to jump willingly and to approach the bull with a daring courage. The Lusitano's mind is, in some ways, similar to the one of a Border collie: always eager to work, anxious to learn and quick to remember the exercises learned even years earlier, seemingly without much prompting. Their degree of intelligence, developed by a long selection, is very high because it is combined with the goodwill to work.