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Andalusian horse

Andalusian horse
Distinguishing features: Strongly built, compact, elegant, thick mane and tail
Alternative names: Spanish Horse, Pura Raza Española
Country of origin: Spain, Iberian Peninsula
Common nicknames: Horse of Kings
Breed standards
IALHA: Breed standards
Australasia Andalusian Association: Breed standards
ANCCE: Breed standards
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (Pura Raza Española), is a horse breed developed in the Iberian Peninsula. The ancestors of the Andalusian have been present on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. They became recognized as an individual breed beginning in the 15th century, although their conformation has changed very little over the centuries. Throughout its history, the Andalusian has been known for its prowess as a war horse and was prized by the nobility. The breed was used as a tool of diplomacy by the Spanish government, and kings across Europe rode and owned Spanish horses. During the 1800s, warfare, disease and crossbreeding reduced herd numbers dramatically, and despite some recovery in the late 19th century, this trend continued into the early 1900s. Andalusians were restricted from exportation from Spain until the 1960s, but they have since spread throughout the world, despite still-low population numbers. There are still fewer than 20,000 Andalusians worldwide, including around 4,500 in the United States.

Andalusians are strongly built, compact yet elegant, with long, thick manes and tails. Their most common coat color is gray, although they can be found in many other colors. They are known for their intelligence, sensitivity and docility. The Andalusian includes a sub-strain called the Carthusian, considered by breeders to be the purest strain of the breed, though there is no genetic evidence for this claim. The strain is still considered separate from the main breed however, and is preferred by breeders, with buyers paying more for horses of Carthusian bloodlines. There are several competing registries that keep records horses designated as Andalusian or PRE. These registries differ on their definition of the Andalusian and PRE, the purity of various strains of the breed, and the legalities of stud book ownership. At least one lawsuit is in progress as of 2010 to determine the ownership of the Spanish PRE studbook.

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. These include many warmblood breeds from Europe, and American 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 many equestrian activities, including dressage, show jumping and driving. The breed is also used extensively in movies, especially historical pictures and fantasy epics.


Breed characteristics

File:Cobra de juments.jpg
A "cobra" of Andalusians, that is, a group of mares shown by a single handler

Andalusian horses generally stand between 15.2 and 16.2 hands (62 to 66 inches, 157 to 168 cm) high. They are elegant but also strongly built. Members of the breed have heads of medium length, with a straight or slightly convex profile.[1] Ultra convex and concave profiles are discouraged in the breed, and are penalized in breed shows.[2] Necks are long and broad, running to well-defined withers; massive chests; short backs; broad, strong hindquarters and well-rounded croups. The breed tends to have clean legs and energetic gaits. The mane and tail are thick and long, though the legs do not have excess feathering. Andalusians tend to be docile, but also intelligent and sensitive. When treated with respect, they are quick to learn, responsive and cooperative.[1][3] The movement of Andalusian horses is extended, elevated, cadenced and harmonious, with a balance of roundness and forward movement. Poor elevation, irregular tempo, and excessive winging (sideways movement of the legs from the knee down) are discouraged. Andalusians are known for their agility and their ability to learn difficult moves quickly, such as advanced collection and turns on the haunches.[2]

There are two additional, unique characteristics found in the Carthusian strain, believed to trace to the foundation stallion Esclavo. The first is warts under the tail, a trait which Esclavo passed to his offspring, and a trait which some breeders felt was necessary to prove that a horse was a member of the Esclavo bloodline. The second characteristic is the occasional presence of "horns", which are actually frontal bosses, possibly inherited from Asian ancestors. The physical description of the bosses vary, ranging from calcium-like deposits at the temple to small horn-like protrubences near or behind the ear. However, these "horns" are not considered proof of Esclavo descent, unlike the tail warts.[4]

When the breed was first developed, most coat colors were found, including spotted patterns.[1] Today, around 80 percent of all Andalusians are gray. Of the remaining horses, approximately 15 percent are bay and 5 percent are black, dun or palomino or chestnut.[5] Other colors, such as buckskin, pearl, and cremello, are rare, but are recognized as allowed colors by the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association.[6] In the early history of the breed, certain white markings and whorls were considered to be indicators of character and good or bad luck.[7] Horses with white socks on their feet were considered to have good or bad luck, depending on the leg or legs affected. A horse with no white markings at all was considered to be ill-tempered and vice-ridden, while certain facial markings were considered representative of honesty, loyalty and endurance.[8] Similarly, hair whorls in various places were considered to show good or bad luck, with the most unlucky being in places where the horse itself could not see them – for example the temples, cheek, shoulder or heart. Two whorls near the root of the tail were considered a sign of courage and good luck.[9]


Early development

The Andalusian horse is descended from the Iberian horses of Spain and Portugal, and take their name from their place of origin, the Spanish region of Andalusia.[10] Horses have been shown by cave paintings to have been present on the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 20,000 to 30,000 BC. While Portuguese historian Ruy d'Andrade hypothesized that the ancient Sorraia breed was an ancestor of the Southern Iberian breeds, including the Andalusian,[11] genetic studies using mitochondrial DNA show that the Sorraia is part of a genetic cluster that is largely separated from most Iberian breeds.[12][13][14][15]

File:WELBECK Le Superbe Cheval De Spanie.jpg
A 1743 engraving of a "Spanish horse"

Throughout history, the Iberian breeds have been influenced by many different people and cultures who occupied Spain, including the Celts, the Carthaginians, the Romans, various Germanic tribes and the Moors. The Iberian horse was identified as a talented war horse as early as 450 BC.[1] Mitochondrial DNA studies of the modern Andalusian horse of the Iberian peninsula and Barb horse of North Africa, present convincing evidence that both breeds crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and were used for breeding with each other, influencing one another's bloodlines.[12] Thus, the Andalusian may have been the first European "warmblood", being a mixture of heavy European and lighter Oriental horses.[16] Some of the earliest written pedigrees in recorded European history were kept by Carthusian monks,[17] beginning in the 13th century. Because they could read and write, and were thus able to maintain careful records, monastics were given the responsibility for horse breeding by certain members of the nobility, particularly in Spain.[18] Andalusian stud farms for breeding were formed in the late 1400s in Carthusian monasteries in Jerez, Seville and Cazalla.[3]

The Carthusians bred powerful, weight-bearing horses in Andalusia for the Crown of Castile, using the finest Spanish Jennets as foundation bloodstock.[19] These horses were a blend of Jennet and warmblood breeding, taller and more powerfully built than the original Jennet.[20] By the 15th century, the Andalusian had become a distinct breed, and was being used to influence the development of other breeds. They were also noted for their use as cavalry horses.[1] Though even in the 16th and 17th centuries Spanish horses had not yet reached the final form of the modern Andalusian,[20] by 1667 William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, called the Spanish horse of Andalusia:

"...the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile; hath the proudest trot and the best action in his trot, the loftiest gallop, and is the lovingest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph."[1]

Also in 1667, in his work New Method and Extraordinary Invention of Dressing Horses, Cavendish called Spanish horses the "princes" of the horse world, and reported that they were "unnervingly intelligent".[21] The Iberian horse became known as the "royal horse of Europe" and was seen at many royal courts and riding academies, including those in Austria, Italy, France and Germany.[1] By the 16th century, during the reigns of Charles V (1500–1558) and Phillip II (1556–1581), Spanish horses were considered the finest in the world.[22] Even in Spain, quality horses were owned mainly by the wealthy.[23] During the 1500s, inflation and an increased demand for harness and cavalry horses drove the price of horses extremely high. The always expensive Andalusian became even more so, and it often was impossible to find a member of the breed to purchase at any price.[24]

An Andalusian performing dressage at the 2007 World Cup Finals


Spanish horses also were spread widely as a tool of diplomacy by the government of Spain, which granted both horses and export rights to favored citizens and to other royalty.[25] As early as the 15th century, the Spanish horse was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean, and was known in northern European countries, despite being less common and more expensive there.[26] As time went on, kings from across Europe, including every French monarch from Francis I to Louis XVI, had equestrian portraits created showing themselves riding Spanish-type horses.[27] The kings of France, including Louis XIII and Louis XIV, especially preferred the Spanish horse, and the head groom to Henri IV, Salomon de la Broue, said in 1600, "Comparing the best horses, I give the Spanish horse first place for its perfection, because it is the most beautiful, noble, graceful and courageous".[28] War horses from Spain and Portugal began to be introduced to England in the 12th century, and importation continued through the 15th century. In the 16th century, Henry VIII received gifts of Spanish horses from Charles V, Ferdinand II of Aragon and the Duke of Savoy and more upon his wedding to Katherine of Aragon, as well as purchasing additional war and riding horses through agents in Spain.[29] By 1576, Spanish horses made up one third of British royal studs at Malmesbury and Tutbury.[30] The Spanish horse was at its peak in Great Britain during the 17th century, when horses were freely imported from Spain and also gifted between royal families. With the introduction of the Thoroughbred, this popularity faded after the mid-18th century, although the Spanish horse remained popular through the early 19th century.[31] The Conquistadors of the 16th century rode Spanish horses, particularly animals that came from Andalusia, and the modern Andalusian descended from similar bloodstock.[10] By 1500, Spanish horses were established in studs on Santo Domingo, and Spanish horses made their way into the ancestry of many breeds founded in North and South America. Many Spanish explorers from the 16th century on carried Spanish horses for both war and breeding with them in their exploration and conquests.[32] By 1642, the Spanish horse had spread to Moldovia, where they resided in the stables of Transylvanian prince George Rakoczi.[33]

19th century to present

During the 1800s, the Andalusian breed was threatened because many horses were stolen or requisitioned in wartime, including the War of the Oranges, the Peninsular War and the three Carlist Wars. Napoleon’s invading army also stole many horses; however, one herd of Andalusians was hidden from the invaders and subsequently used to renew the breed.[3][34] In 1822, breeders began to add Norman blood into Spanish bloodlines, as well as further infusions of Arabian blood. This was partially due to increasing mechanization and changing needs within the military that called for horses with more speed in cavalry charges as well as horses with more bulk for pulling gun carriages.[34] In 1832, an epidemic of disease seriously affected Spain’s horse population, from which only one small herd survived at a stud at the monastery in Cartuja.[3] During the 19th and early 20th centuries, European breeders, especially the Germans, changed from an emphasis on Andalusian and Neapolitan horses (an emphasis that had been in place since the decline of chivalry), to an emphasis on the breeding of Thoroughbreds and warmbloods, further depleting the stock of Andalusians.[35] Despite this change in focus, Andalusian breeding slowly recovered, and in 1869, the Seville Horse Fair (originally begun by the Romans), played host to between ten and twelve thousand Spanish horses.[36] In the early 20th century, Spanish horse breeding began to focus on other breeds, with strong focus on draft breeds, Arabians, Thoroughbreds and crosses between these breeds, as well as crosses between these breeds and the Andalusian. The purebred Andalusian was not seen favorably by breeders or the military, and their numbers decreased significantly.[34]

Andalusians only began to be exported from Spain in 1962,[3] and there are fewer than 20,000 Andalusians present in the world today.[37] The first Andalusians were imported to Australia in 1971, and in 1973 the Andalusian Horse Association of Australasia was formed for the registration of these Andalusians and their pure- and part-bred offspring. Strict quarantine guidelines prohibited the importation of new Andalusian blood to Australia for many years, but since 1999, regulations have been relaxed and over half a dozen new horses have been imported.[38] Bloodines in the United States also rely on imported stock, and today, all American Andalusians can be traced directly to the stud books in Portugal and Spain. There are around 4,500 animals in the United States, where the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA) registers around 400 new foals every year. These numbers indicate that the Andalusian is a relatively rare breed in the United States.[37]

Strains and sub-types

File:Passage animated.gif
An Andalusian performing the passage

The Carthusian Andalusian or Cartujano is generally considered the purest Andalusian strain and has one of the oldest recorded pedigree lines in the world.[4] The sub-type is rare, as only around 12 percent of the Andalusian horses registered between the founding of the studbook in the 19th century and 1998 were considered Carthusians. They made up only 3.6 percent of the overall breeding stock, but 14.2 percent of the stallions used for breeding. In the past, Carthusians have been given preference in breeding, leading to a large proportion of the population claiming ancestry from a small number of horses and possibly limiting the Andalusian's genetic variability. A 2005 study found that the supposed difference between Carthusian and non-Carthusian horses is not supported by genetic evidence.[39]

This line was created in the early 18th century when two Spanish brothers, Andrés and Diego Zamora, purchased a stallion named El Soldado and bred him to two mares.[4] The mares were descended from mares purchased by the Spanish king and placed at Aranjuez, one of the oldest horse breeding farms in Spain.[40] One of the offspring of El Soldado, a dark gray colt named Esclavo, became the foundation sire of the Carthusian line. One group of mares sired by Esclavo around 1736 were given to a group of Carthusian monks to settle a debt. While other animals of these bloodlines were absorbed into the main Andalusian breed, the stock given to the monks was bred into a special line, known as Zamoranos. Throughout the following centuries, the Zamoranos bloodlines were guarded by the Carthusian monks, to the point of defying royal orders to introduce outside blood from the Neapolitan horse and central European breeds.[4] They did, however, introduce Arabian and Barb blood to improve the strain.[41] The original stock of Carthusians was greatly depleted during the Peninsular Wars, and the strain would have been made extinct if not for the efforts of the Zapata family.[42] Today, the Carthusian strain is raised in state-owned studs around Jerez de la Frontera, Badajoz and Cordoba,[4][40] and also by several private families. Carthusian horses continue to be in demand in Spain, and buyers pay high prices for members of the strain.[42]

Influence on other breeds

Spain's worldwide military activities from the 14th through 17th centuries called for large numbers of horses – more than could be supplied by native Spanish mares. Spanish custom also called for mounted troops to ride stallions, never mares or geldings. Due to these factors, Spanish stallions were crossed with local mares in many countries, adding Spanish bloodlines wherever they went, especially to other European breeds.[43]

Due to the influence of the later Habsburg families, who ruled in both Spain and other nations of Europe, the Andalusian was crossbred with horses of Central Europe and the Low Countries and thus was closely related to many breeds that developed, including the Neapolitan horse, Groningen, Lipizzaner and Kladruber.[44] Spanish horses were used extensively in classical dressage in Germany from the 16th century on. From this use, they influenced many German breeds, including the Hanoverian, Holstein, East Friesian and Oldenburg.[45] Dutch breeds such as the Friesian and Gelderland also contain significant Spanish blood, as do Danish breeds such as the Fredericksborg and Knabstrup.[31]

They were a significant influence in the creation of the Alter Real, a strain of the Lusitano,[46] and the Azteca, a Mexican breed created by crossing the Andalusian with American Quarter Horse and Criollo bloodlines.[47] The Spanish jennet ancestors of the Andalusian also developed the Colonial Spanish Horse in America which became the foundation bloodstock for many North and South American breeds.[10]

Naming and registration

Prior to modern times, horse breeds throughout Europe were known primarily by the name of the region where they were bred.[48] Thus the original term "Andalusian" simply described the horses of distinct quality that came from Andalusia in Spain.[10] Similarly, the Lusitano, a Portuguese horse very similar to the Andalusian, takes its name from Lusitania,[48] an ancient Roman name for Portugal.

The Andalusian horse has been known through history as the Iberian Saddle Horse, Iberian War Horse, Spanish Horse, Portuguese, Peninsular, Extremeno, Villanos, Zapata and Zamaranos.[3] The Portuguese name refers to what is now the Lusitano, while the Peninsular, Iberian Saddle Horse and Iberian War Horse names refer to horses from the Iberian Peninsula as a whole. The Extremeno name refers to Spanish horses from the Extremadura province of Spain and the Zapata or Zapatero name to horses that come from the Zapata family stud. The Villano name has occasionally been applied to modern Andalusians, but originally referred to heavy, crossbred horses from the mountains north of Jaen.[49] The Carthusian horse, also known as the Carthusian-Andalusian and the Cartujano, is a sub-type of the Andalusian, rather than a distinct breed in itself.[4] A common nickname for the Andalusian is the "Horse of Kings".[50] Some sources state that the Andalusian and the Lusitano are genetically the same, and the only difference is the country in which individual horses are born.[51]

A Pure Spanish Horse

Today, in many areas, breeding, showing and registration of the Andalusian and Lusitano are controlled by the same registries. One example of this is the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA)—currently the largest Andalusian registering organization in the world.[1] Other organizations, as noted below, such as The Association of Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders of Spain (Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Caballo de Pura Raza Española or ANCCE), use the term "Pura Raza Española" or PRE to describe the true Spanish horse, and claim sole authority to officially register and issue documentation for PRE Horses, both in Spain and anywhere else in the world. While in most of the world, the terms "Andalusian" and "PRE" are considered one and the same breed,[1] the ANCCE takes the position that terms such as "Andalusian" and "Lusitano" refer only to crossbreds, claimed by ANCCE to lack quality and purity, and most of all, without official documentation or registration from official Spanish Stud Book.[52]

In Australasia, the Australasia Andalusian Association registers Andalusians (which the registry considers an interchangeable term for PRE), Australian Andalusians, and partbred Andalusians. They share responsibility for the Purebred Iberian Horse (an Andalusian/Lusitano cross) with the Lusitano Association of Australasia.[53] In the Australian registry, there are various levels of crossbred horses. A first cross Andalusian is a crossbreed that is 50 percent Andalusian, while a second cross Andalusian is the result of crossing a purebred Andalusian with a first cross – resulting in a horse of 75 percent Andalusian blood. A third cross, also known by the registry as an Australian Andalusian, is when a second cross individual is mated with a foundation Andalusian mare. This sequence is known as a "breeding up" program by the registry.[54]

Pure Spanish Horse

The name Pura Raza Española (PRE), translated as "Pure Spanish Horse," is the term used by the ANCCE, a private organization, and the Ministry of Agriculture of Spain. The ANCCE uses neither the term "Andalusian" or "Lusitano" and only registers horses that have certain recognized bloodlines. In addition, all breeding stock must undergo an evaluation process. The ANCCE was founded in 1972. Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture recognizes the ANCCE as the representing entity for PRE breeders and owners across the globe, as well as the administrator of the breed studbook.[52] ANCCE functions as the international parent association for all breeders worldwide who record their horses as PRE. For example, the United States PRE registry is affiliated with ANCCE, follows ANCCE rules, and is wholly separate from the IALHA.[55]

However, a second group, the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE Mundial, has begun a second PRE registry in Spain that is an alternative to the ANCCE. This new registry claims that all of their registered horses trace back to the original stud book that originally was maintained by the Cria Caballar, which was a branch of the Spanish Ministry of Defense for 100 years. Thus, the PRE Mundial registry asserts that their registry is the most authentic, purest PRE registry functioning today.[56]

As of 2010, there is a lawsuit in progress to determine the legal holder of the PRE studbook. The Unión de Criadores de Caballos Españoles (UCCE or Union of Spanish Horse Breeders) has brought a case to the highest European Union courts in Brussels, charging that the Ministry of Spain’s transfer of the original PRE Libro de Origen (the official stud book) from the Cria Caballar to ANCCE was illegal. In early 2009, the courts decided on behalf of UCCE, explaining that the Cria Caballar formed the Libro de Origin. Because it was formed by a government entity, it is against European Union law for the stud book to be transferred to a private entity, a law that was broken by the transfer of the book to ANCCE, which is a non-governmental organization. The court found that by giving ANCCE sole control of the stud book, Spain’s Ministry of Defense was acting in a discriminatory manner. The court held that Spain must give permission to maintain a breed stud book (called a Libro Genealógico) to any international association or Spanish national association which requests it. Based on the Brussels court decision, an application has been made by the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse to maintain the United States studbook for the PRE. As of December 2009, Spain has not yet revoked ANCCE's right to be the sole holder of the PRE studbook.[57][58]


File:PRE CSO1.jpg
An Andalusian jumping.

The Andalusian breed has over the centuries been consistently selected for athleticism. In the 17th century, referring to multi-kilometer races, Cavendish said, "They were so much faster than all other horses known at that time that none was ever seen to come close to them, even in the many remarkable races that were run."[59] In 1831, horses at five years old were expected to be able to gallop, without changing pace, four or five leagues; that is, approximately 12 to 15 miles (19 to 24 km). By 1925, the Portuguese military expected horses to "cover 40 km over uneven terrain at a minimum speed of 10 kph, and to gallop a flat course of 8 km at a mimimum speed of 800 metres per minute carrying a weight of at least 70 kg", and the Spanish military had similar standards.[59]

From the very beginning of their history, Andalusians have been used for both riding and driving. They were among some of the first horses used for classical dressage, and they are still making a mark in international competition in dressage today. At the 2002 World Equestrian Games, two Andalusians were on the bronze-medal winning Spanish dressage team, a team that then went on to take the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Historically, they were also used as stock horses, especially suited to working with Iberian bulls, known for their aggressive temperaments. They were, and still are, known for their use in mounted bull fighting.[60] Mares were traditionally used for la trilla, the Spanish process of threshing corn practiced until the 1960s. Mares, some pregnant or with foals at their side, spent full days trotting over the corn. As well as being a traditional farming practice, it also served as a test of endurance, hardiness and willingness for the maternal Andalusian lines.[61]

Today, Andalusians are used for show jumping, western pleasure and many other classes at horse shows.[1] The current Traveler, the mascot of the University of Southern California, is an Andalusian.[62][63] The dramatic appearance of the Andalusian horse, with its arched neck, muscular build and energetic gaits, has made it a popular breed to use in film, particularly in historical and fantasy epics. Andalusians have been present in films ranging from Gladiator to Interview with a Vampire, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life to Braveheart. The horses have also been seen in such fantasy epics as The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, King Arthur, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[64] In 2006, a rearing Andalusian stallion, ridden by Mexican conquistador Don Juan de Onate, was recreated as the largest bronze equine in the world. Measuring 36 feet (11 m) high, the statue currently stands in El Paso, Texas.[65]


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  • Bennett, Deb (1998). Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship (1st ed.). Solvang, CA: Amigo Publications Inc. ISBN 0-9658533-0-6. 
  • Bongianni, Maurizio (editor) (1988). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Horses and Ponies. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.. ISBN 0671660683. 
  • Hendricks, Bonnie (2007). International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806138848. 
  • Jankovich, Miklos, translated by Anthony Dent (1971). They Rode Into Europe: The Fruitful Exchange in the Arts of Horsemanship between East and West. Great Britain: George G. Harrap & Co, Ltd.. ISBN 0684133040. 
  • Llamas, Juan, translated by Jane Rabagliati (1997). This is the Spanish Horse. London: J.A. Allen. ISBN 0851316689. 
  • Loch, Sylvia (1986). The Royal Horse of Europe: The Story of the Andalusian and Lusitano. London: J. A. Allen. ISBN 0851314228. 
  • Raber, Karen (2005). "A Horse of a Different Color: Nation and Race in Early Modern Horsemanship Treatises". in Raber, Karen and Treva J. Tucker. The Culture of the Horse: Status, Discipline, and Identity in the Early Modern World. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1-40039-6621-4. 

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