THE ANCIENT BREED
The Andalusian is one of the great, ancient breeds of horse. It originated in the Iberian Peninsula and is named for the region of Spain called Andalucia, though the breed actually was more widespread. The Andalusian horse has been documented throughout European history and was praised as the finest horse of war by the Romans and Greeks in ancient times. That horse domestication began very early in the region that is now Spain, Portugal, and southern France and is evident from ancient sources. These include cave drawings which are dated as being more than 20,000 years old and fossil skulls of horses showing the peculiar wear of the front teeth found in horses which crib (chew and grind at their enclosures) a nervous vice known only to exist in captive, confined horses.
This horse has been known by many names throughout history but has always been spoken of with respect for its uncanny agility, courage, presence, tractability and beauty.
Xenophon, considered by most as the founder of classical equitation, wrote of the Iberian horses that they had the ability to gather the hind legs under the fore, falling back on their hocks and raising the forehand, so that the belly can be seen from the front. This ability, which we now call collection, was impressive in that it allowed warhorses to be swift and agile and to stop and turn quickly in any direction. The Iberian horses and their riders undoubtedly gave Xenophon his first glimpse of classical riding. Iberian cavalry was one of the most important weapons of generals from Hannibal to Julius Caesar. The Iberian horse both shaped the way mounted warfare was conducted and was shaped by it. Its speed, agility, and courage were unequalled and lent themselves to the mastery of mounted fighting. The Romans were so impressed by the Iberian Celts that, after meeting them in battle, they adopted both their weapons and fighting style and set up remount breeding stations for their legions in Baetica (modern Andalucia) to take advantage of the fine horses to be found there. There is also mention of mares brought from the Tagus valley region (Portugal) who were described by Pliny the Elder, a Roman cavalry officer and writer, as “fine, docile and impregnated by the west wind, (which) brought forth offspring of surprising fleetness.”
The Roman cavalry used the natural agility, flexibility, collection and willingness of the Iberian horses to great advantage. The horses were presented in battle formation, tightly ranked together, in shoulder-in position with shields to the fore. This allowed the shield to protect both horse and rider, presenting little to an opposing enemy to hit while allowing the rider’s lance or javelin to be used effectively. These horses were also able to perform the spectacular movements of defence and offence we now call the “Airs Above the Ground.”
The Andalusian’s famed ability as a warhorse was to spread and grow with history. The horse became the favoured mount of most European kings and generals. By the middle ages, the Spanish horse was spread throughout Europe in the stables of every king. The most significant event in the Andalusian’s history occurred in 710-711 AD when the Moors invaded Spain as the allies of Spanish Lords who were at odds with their king. Within seven years they had taken possession of most of the Iberian Peninsula and named it Al-Andalus.
The important factor to the Andalusian breed was in the horses which the Moors brought with them. Most accounts hold that the cavalry they brought were Berbers with Barb horses and fairly limited in number. The Arab people accounted to have been brought into battle in Spain were recorded as mainly infantry. So, it was the Barb horse, not the Arabian horse, which would have influenced the Iberian horses at this time. However the question is raised did the Barb influence the Andalusian more or did the Andalusian influence the Barb more? The truth is probably that both were influenced by the other in at least a small way, however, we have the written account of Tarif Aben Taric, a Moorish chronicler of the time who recorded that the Moors found the Iberian horses to be bigger and better than their own as well as more numerous. He and other contemporary scribes (notably: Ben Adhary, Al Makkari, El Doby, El Silerense) wrote that the Moors requisitioned or captured Andalusian horses and used them in their ensuing battles converting their infantry into cavalry. This would seem to indicate that no great numbers of horses were brought from North Africa and that the Moors found the Andalusian horses to be worth possessing and may have taken them back to their homelands.
THAT THE BARB AND THE ANDALUSIAN HORSE ARE RELATED EITHER BY ANCIENT CONNECTION OR BY MIXING DURING THE OCCUPATION OF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA.
The two breeds have many characteristics in common. Both tend to have low set tails and rounded croups with short to medium length backs. Both have well crested, medium length necks. The head of the Barb does show some oriental influence but is not dished like an Arabian’s head. It is not as truly subconvex as an Andalusians but tends to be somewhere in between.
It is entirely possible that the Barb horse is an ancient admixture of the Iberian horse and the Arab horse as it is geographically found between the cradles of origin of these two breeds. In pre-historic times, the land bridge between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa would have allowed the mixing of these two types into the proto Barb. The modern Barb undoubtedly received further mixing with the Iberian blood during the occupation which would explain why it is so like the Andalusian horse.
In any case, there is no evidence that any significant amount of foreign blood was introduced to the Andalusian during the Moorish occupation but that what mixing occurred was with the Barb horse NOT the Arabian horse as has been so often mistakenly written. The Andalusian horse has little in common with the Arabian Horse other than the fact that both are hot blooded horses and both have contributed extensively to the development of most other modern horse breeds.
FROM WAR TO DRESSAGE
With the Andalusian horse so universally admired as a warhorse, it was inevitable that other peoples would try to breed their own versions using Spanish horses as the foundation. This gave rise to such breeds as the Neapolitan, the Friesian, the Kladruber, the Fredricksborg, and many more. All of these horses, however, had been created by crossing with the Northern Horse (from the Forest Horse which gave rise to draft horses and some pony breeds,) a heavy horse possessing course, shaggy legs with short cannons, broad hooves, a longer, flatter back and short, heavy neck. The Northern Horse was a powerful animal but not swift and unsuited to the flexibility and collection demanded by the type of manoeuvres required by mounted warfare. The Iberian horse had clean legs with longer cannons and upright compact hooves, a short to medium length back, round croup with low set tail and an upright, flexible, medium length neck. These attributes made it ideal for its purpose and none of the newer breeds could successfully compete with it.
It was only when the invention of firearms necessitated the adoption of heavy armour for mounted warriors that these heavier horses became more popular and the European Great Horse was born. These horses were used to carry the heavy armour of both man and horse into a more stylized version of the art of mounted warfare. No longer was the warhorse required to be nimble and quick like the Andalusian. Now it was a slow, plodding mount capable of little more than a lumbering trot or canter. However, the uncanny qualities of the Andalusian horse had already found a new niche.
Throughout Europe the nobility had invented a new pastime, dressage. This was the natural development of the manoeuvres of war into a more peaceful art form. Training of horse and rider for the classical and beautiful movements became an end in itself. Training fine horses to dance became the art and pastime of royalty and the Andalusian was the unmatched master of this new art. Born naturally round and collected, the Andalusian also possessed presence and style that were fit for royal use.
The Andalusian was lavishly praised by the new Masters Of Horse who arose to train the horses of kings in the new art of dressage. Most proclaimed the Andalusian as the “fittingest of all.” Schools of Equitation sprang up to teach this new art. The most famous of these still in existence is the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, named for the Spanish horses and the style of riding developed around them which were used to found the school. The Lippizaner horse was born from Spanish stock (though eventually mixed with other blood.)
THE GREAT PROGENITOR AND THE MODERN ANDALUSIAN
In England, another use for horses sprang up shortly after the “invention” of dressage - horse racing. The nobles discovered that not only was the Andalusian very agile, it was very fast in comparison to the heavier horses of Europe. The stables of fine Spanish horses that the nobles of England had collected for their warhorse and dressage ability were now used to breed horses for racing. The eventual importation of “oriental” horses and the speed of their offspring from the Spanish blood horses already in residence caused the creation of a new breed, the English Thoroughbred.
Due to the popularity of the Spanish horse crosses, the Andalusian as a pure breed began to become much more rare. The demand for Andalusian horses for the improvement of other breeds over centuries had drained the numbers of purebreds available, even in its homeland, the Iberian Peninsula. The Kings of Spain even had to issue decrees making it a crime to take purebred Spanish horses out of Spain. One ear of each purebred mare had to be cropped to make it obvious she was not to be allowed to leave the country. But even this was not enough when horses were taken by force of arms as Napoleon did.
Still more breeding stock was drained away from Spain and Portugal as those two countries established far reaching overseas holdings. They took horses into the New World and established breeding farms there. These horses were the foundation for many modern breeds worldwide. Today, most European and American breeds can trace at last part of their origin to Andalusian horses.
Over the centuries, the breed became rarer and rarer as crossbreeding, war and famine all contributed to drain the number of purebreds available for breeding in Spain and Portugal. Slowly, the rest of the world forgot about the Andalusian and it might have slipped into history if not for the deeply ingrained traditions of the horse in both Spain and Portugal. Families of dedicated horsemen and even a group of Carthusian Monks continued their quiet efforts to breed fine horses in the old ways. The stallions retained the qualities that had made them famed worldwide as warhorses by honing their abilities with cattle work and in the bullring where the skills of single mounted combat were preserved. This was especially true in Portugal where the tradition of mounted bullfighting has continued without pause from medieval times to this day.
In Spain, the bullfight changed to favour fighting on foot and, for awhile, mounted bullfighting disappeared. During this time the Spanish horses lost a bit of their natural ability in favour of becoming simply a showy riding horse, but today this has been corrected and the Spanish Horse is once again showing its amazing talents.
In more modern times, the Andalusian breed is growing in numbers and popularity one again, but it has suffered from modern ideas. With the studbook of Spain under the control of the military, the breed suffered the indignity of having Arabian and warmblood stallions deliberately introduced. Fortunately, current breeders have rejected the inclusion of these lines and carefully screen the breeding stock to remove their effects.
The Spanish type is well defined and the inclusion of foreign blood was minor enough to be removed effectively. Though not as well documented, foreign blood was also probably introduced by the Portuguese military and breeders with their own ideas for the breed but they have also instituted inspection programs to remove any foreign blood characteristics.
In the last few decades the two countries which are the cradle of the Andalusian horse have chosen to separate their stock into two breeds. Though their foundations are completely linked, the Andalusians of Spain are now registered as Pura Raza Espanola (Pure Breed Spanish) and those of Portugal are now known as Lusitanos. There are now two breeds where once there was one.
The following books were used to compile most of the information you have just read. We highly recommend the following books to learn more about the Andalusian:
The Royal Horse Of Europe by Lady Sylvia Loch
This Is The Spanish Horse by Juan Llamas
A Short History Of The Spanish Horse And Of The Iberian Gineta Horsemanship For Which This Horse Is Adapted by Fernando D'Andrade
Lusitano Horse, Son Of The Wind by Arsenio Raposo Cordeiro
HISTORY IN NORTH AMERICA
This excerpt is taken from the first stud book ever published in the US by the American Andalusian Horse Association (today known as the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association):
The return of the Andalusian to the Americas began with a magazine article. The article "The Andalusian" was written by Neil Dougall for the all breed issue of Western Horseman magazine, October 1963. Among the many thousands of readers of the magazine was Glenn O. Smith then personal director at the Veteran's Administration Hospital at Fort Bayard, New Mexico. Neil Dougall's article on the Andalusian horses for Western Horseman was also his "love at first sight" introduction to the breed. Dougall, a foreign correspondent for Australian publications and based in Madrid, became interested in the Andalusian through attending bullfights and visiting breeders. His impression was so strong that he became involved in exporting the Spanish horse back to the Americas.
Smith immediately sought Dougall's address in Spain from the magazine and set up an immediate correspondence with the writer of the article. Smith knew something about horses and he immediately appreciated the desirability of the Andalusian as a horse and as a breed. He would not stop until he had brought the Spanish horse back to America.
Dougall selected an appropriate pair of Andalusians including a stallion and a mare from the herd of the Marquis de Parades for Smith and put them aboard a Lykes Brothers Ship Lines freighter in the fall of 1964. The horses were supposed to have been shipped from Sevila (Seville) but, because of dry conditions and low water levels in the rivers, the horses were put aboard at Cadiz. Needless to say, Smith and Dougall had to do a lot of groundwork with respective government agencies to clear the way for importation of a Spanish horse into the United States. In the middle of October, Smith drove to the port of Houston, Texas, to pick up his horses and, October 19, 1964, the mare Rebuscada set her hooves on American soil, the first since the time of the Conquistadors. The other horse, a stallion, was affected by colic and did not survive the crossing of the Atlantic. Rebuscada was the first of an increasing number of her kind who would re-populate the Americas. Another breeder Chandler Cowles of Tallahassee, Florida, in separate negotiations, bought two Spanish horses from a Spanish horse owner who had moved to Venezuela. These horses were later registered with Smith when Smith established the new world registry for the Andalusian and Lusitano horse. This was the beginning of the first new world stud farm of the Andalusian horse established in Arenas Valley, just east of the old west mining town of Silver City, New Mexico.
Shortly after the first horse was brought to the United States, Smith formed, with Dougall, the American Andalusian Association and Neil Dougall was made president. Dougall had already had the foresight in 1963 to purchase a full set of stud books from the Spanish government. These records, maintained by the Spanish army would be the basis for an official registry in the western hemisphere. The American Andalusian Corporation was established (today known as the International Andalusian & Lusitano Association) in New Mexico as a corporation on April 30, 1966, and later was known to the public as the first group whose purpose it was to protect and advance the Andalusian breed in the Americas.
American horse fanciers showed immediate interest in the breed and the deluge of mail to the Association caught AAA president Neil Dougall unaware. While the association found means to answer the many letters, the public's interest in the Andalusian continued to increase. Everyone who owns or breeds Andalusian or Lusitano horses expects and gets his share of "horse fan mail."
Once Smith had installed his mare Rebuscada in her new quarters in Arenas Valley, he began to work with Dougall to bring more horses into the country. In May, 1966, Smith boarded a TWA jet in New York to fly to Madrid where he met Dougall, together they arranged the final details in the purchase of Pisador (which means Prancer) , one of Spain's best pure Andalusian stallions. Along with him, Smith purchased two excellent brood mares, Cubanita and Lisonja II. The mares had come from the ranch of Don Fernando de la Camora of Seville. The stallion, Pisador, had come from the stud farm of Marquis de Salvateria who carried the Spanish pedigree grading of outstanding, a classic Andalusian.
Smith accompanied the three horses on the American export freighter from Spain to New York, even sleeping on the cot placed on deck near the crates containing the nucleus of the first American Andalusian stud farm. After debarkation of Hoboken, New Jersey, and a 30 day quarantine period, the horses were transported to Smith's Arenas Valley, New Mexico, horse ranch by cross country horse van, arriving on the night of July 13, 1966.
In 1967 five more Andalusians came over from Spain for delivery to other pioneer Andalusian breeders in the United States. This shipment brought Ann and Chris Woodcock and Dr. and Mrs. Albert Marsh to join Glenn Smith and Chandler Cowles as owners of Andalusian horses in the Americas.
Up until April, 1971, all Andalusian and Lusitanian horses brought into the United States were still actually registered in Spain although under the auspices of the American Andalusian Association. On that date, however, Glenn Smith bought out Neil Dougall's share of the Association stock and that the Spanish government stud books were shipped to Smith in New Mexico. This was an unprecedented occurrence on the history of the breed and it began a new era for the Andalusian horse in the Americas.
By 1978 there were still fewer than 350 registered Andalusian and Lusitano horses of pure blood in the western hemisphere - a small number compared to the number of pure blooded Arabian, Morgan and other breeds. This accounts for the desirability of the horse and the high prices for which these animals are sold.
« The head should be of “average” size, and proportionate to the body. It should be rectangular, lean, with a straight or slightly convex profile. The ears should be mobile, medium sized, well placed and parallel with a well rounded outside curve. They should not point inwards.
« The forehead should be wide, flat or slightly convex, with large, expressive triangular eyes.
« The muzzle should be soft and smooth. The upper lip should be longer than the lower lip, and divided (hare’s lip).
« The nostrils should be long, in the shape of an inverted comma or almond.
« The jaw should be neither pronounced nor very muscular and blend into the rest of the head.
« The neck should be of average length and size. It should have and slightly arched curve on top and slightly concave curve on the bottom.
« The shoulder should be long, elastic and sloping at a 45 degree angle from the
line of the ground. It should have sufficient movement to allow freedom of the
« It should be proportionate, low set and muscular.
« The body should be well proportionate and robust.
« The withers should be unobtrusively wide and obvious.
« A solid muscular back, wide, short loin, muscular and somewhat rounded and well
joined to the back and the croup.
« The back is located between the kidneys and the withers and here is where the impulsion
created by the hindquarters is transmitted to the forehand. It should be flexible,
fairly short, and sufficiently wide in proportion to the rest of the animal, and
very slightly concave.
« The loin is formed by the six lumbar vertebrae, and the muscular mass that covers
them, between the back and the croup. The lumbar region of the PRE is short, wide,
and very sensitive to the touch.
« The croup should be of average length and width, rounded, strong, and slightly
sloping. The tail set is low and placed between the buttocks
« The Andalusian usually stands between 15.0 and 16.2 hands and has great presence.
« Although early history of the breed says that all colours were found, today approximately
80% of Andalusians are grey, 15% are bay and 5% are black, dilute, or chestnut.
« The movement should be agile, high, with good extension, harmonic and rhythmic. They possess a predisposition for collection.
Mane & Tail:
« Long, thick, and abundant….a trademark of the breed.
To complement all these conformational characteristics, the most outstanding thing about the breed is its versatility. It is due to the union of mental balance, harmony, intelligence and willingness to work. The Andalusian has natural collection, impulsion, and agility which makes them the perfect all-around athlete. In the past, the Iberian horse was considered the perfect war horse and appeared throughout history in great battles accompanied by renowned historical figures such as Xenophon.
Andalusians are used in the bullring in Spain and Portugal as well as for general cattle work and pleasure riding. They have a lot of cow sense, because they have been used to work cattle in their native Spain for centuries. The ability to “turn on a dime” makes them perfect mounts for the bullring.
They excel in dressage because for their conformation and trainability. They have
been competing at the Olympic level since 1988 and placed in the top every time against
other breeds. They have also placed in international jumping competitions at the
Grand Prix level.
In Spain, even young children ride stallions, in Ferias and parades, around hundreds of other horses. This is possible because of their great obedience and fearlessness, which also makes them great trail horses. They are perfect carriage horses and have placed in international driving competitions against other breeds.
In North America, the Andalusian is ridden both English and Western and is seen competing
in dressage, driving, cutting, cattle work, and jumping. Their exceptional presence
and beauty make them an asset to any show ring, exhibition, or parade.
Because this breed has been around humans for about three thousand years, they have developed a special bond with us, can understand and can communicate with us. They can read our moods and they seek our companionship and praise and bond to “their” person.
Breeds Originating from Andalusian Crosses: