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Neapolitan horse

17th century engraving depicting a grey Neapolitan horse

Between the 15th to 18th centuries, Naples and the surrounding regions were known for their high-quality Neapolitan horses. The best horses were bred by nobles for transportation and cavalry. At the beginning of this time period, the horses were likely small, coarse and heavy, suitable for carrying heavily-armored warriors. However, as elsewhere, the use of firearms brought on the desire for a more attractive, agile horse. This was achieved through selective breeding, but also through the use of horses from the Near and Middle East. The horses from these arid lands were, if not properly Arabian themselves, at least in type would have been very like Arabians, Barbs, and Akhal-Tekes.

Neapolitan breeders, it seems, regularly exchanged stock with those in Andalusia, which would have encouraged the Barb influence. As a result, the Neapolitan horse fit the Baroque horse mold. The head was straight to convex in structure, but dry-featured. The body was deep and broad but short-backed, with wide round hindquarters and a crested, powerful neck set on high.

Neapolitan horses are often mentioned in the history of European horse breeds. Modern horses most similar to the ancient Neapolitan are the Lipizzaner and Kladruber.

Timeline 1508 - Ferdinand of Spain joins the League of Cambrai, which returns Apulia to Spain, along with southern Italy, the port of Brindisi, and Sardinia, where he founds an Andalusian stud at Abbasanta. Several other Andalusian studs follow. Italian horses receive a heavy dose of Spanish blood. The Neaplitan stud was founded on only the best Spanish horses.

1567 - Phillip II of Spain decides to breed the perfect Spanish horse, and 1,200 mares are selected for this project. They are crossed with only the finest Neapolitans, a closely related breed that had been heavily crossed with Andalusians during the time of Ferdinand. Jerez de la Frontera is not a part of this breeding program, although later one of their best “Carthusian” stallions is actually one of Philip’s.

1572 - The first foals of Phillip II’s project—to develop the perfect Spanish horse—are born and exceed all expectations. Philip decides to save these animals for his own use and to present them as gifts to other royals. Highly colored, they are elegant, with an elevated gait, and capable of performing the difficult “Airs above the Ground.” The elevated gait came from the Neapolitans.

1624 - Classical dressage is being taught in Italy. Powerful Neapolitan stallions perform the “Airs above the Ground” between pillars.

1767 - Conversano, a black Neapolitan stallion, is foaled, later to become the second foundation sire for the Lipizzan breed.

1790 - Neapolitano, a brown stallion from the Po Region of Italy, is foaled. He is foundation sire #4 for the Lipizzan breed.

1819 - Maestoso, foundation sire # 6 of the Lipizzan breed, is foaled in Hungary and is half Spanish, half Neapolitan.

1950 - The Neapolitan becomes extinct.


http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp177_horses.html Beverley Davis, Accessed 26 February 2010


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