The Iberian Breed
What is an Iberian Horse?
For the purposes of Andalusian World shows, Iberian horses are defined as full sized horses developed for the purposes of mounted warfare and cattle-work in what is now either Spain or Portugal; the geographic region encompassing most of the peninsula, historically known as Al Andaluz.
These horses must be accompanied by documentation confirming their ancestry, from one or more of the several established, recognized studbooks for purebred Andalusians, Lusitanos, or Pura Raza Espanola horses.
To clarify, Iberian horses have strongly influenced hundreds of breeds worldwide, and have played a critical role in developing an array of New World breeds following the invasion of the New World during the 15th Century. These breeds, may be described as horses of Iberian heritage.
Partbred Iberian horses must be accompanied by paperwork documenting their immediate Iberian ancestry. Eg. Warlanders, Aztecas, and all IALHA Half Andalusians fall into this category, and may be shown at AWE or AWC as Partbred.
American ferals (mustangs), Lipizzaners, Friesians, Morgans, Appaloosas, and all other breeds developed independently of Iberia, but with some distant Iberian heritage, do not fall within the board’s parameters for a purebred or partbred Iberian horse.
History of the Andalusian
History of the Andalusian Horse
The Andalusian, defined in modern times as the Pure Spanish Horse, Spanish/Portuguese Horse, or PRE (Pura Raza Española), is an ancient breed of horses selected for bullfighting on the Iberian Peninsula over several thousands of years, and is named for the Carthusian horses from Andalucia. There are several registries to choose from, but all will only accept horses with pure Spanish or Spanish/Portuguese heritage, which must be proven with DNA. The Andalusian’s bloodlines have been painstakingly recorded since before the 15th century, and certain bloodlines look much the same as they have for hundreds of years.
Throughout the history of the breed, reaching back to Roman times, Andalusians have been prized as brave and agile war horses and bull fighting horses. It is the conformational attributes of a nimble bullfighter which incidentally make for a formidable war horse, as well as a very comfortable and noble pleasure riding horse. Extreme collection, lofty movements, and nimble directional changes while on the vertical are singular to the breed. Used as weapons of war, gifts to kings and queens, and as subjects for astonishing works of classical art, Europe as a whole prized the Andalusian horse throughout antiquity, and it became known as the Horse of Kings.
Due to changing styles of warfare in the 1400’s (namely knights using lances and heavy plate armor) a heavier, less nimble war horse was called for by the military, and a decree was issued for families to cross their pure Spanish mares to heavy draft horses. Some families could not bear to see their stock defiled by coarse outside blood, and sent their best animals to a monastery in Cartujana, where the resident monks maintained a pure bloodline for some 400 years. These horses became known as Carthusians, or Cartujanos, and even today, though scarce, are recognized by the same distinctive “Bocado” brand, in the shape of a curb bit.
Compact, agile, versatile and well-tempered, andalusians are still noted for their exceptional athleticism and good looks. Most famously gray in color, Andalusians do in fact come in a variety of solid colors, the most common of which are black and bay. Chestnut, and the dilute colors associated with the cream gene, once culled or hidden beneath gray, are now permissible in every registry. Leopard spots and pinto markings were once permissible, but fell out of fashion in the 15th century and were eliminated from the breed.
Civil wars damaged the herds of Iberian horses in both Spain and Portugal in the 20th century, and Spain placed an embargo on the exportation of horses until the 1960ies, when the Garrisons were able to bring Bocado stallion Legionario to the US. Since then, the breed has been exported to many countries worldwide, and there are over one hundred thousand registered Andalusians around the world. Today, with bullfighting and mounted warfare becoming antiquated riding disciplines, Andalusians have become pleasure riding horses, excelling in disciplines ranging from dressage, driving, trail riding, saddle seat, hunt seat, western pleasure, to the new and exciting discipline of working equitation.
Andalusian Breed Characteristics
Andalusian Breed Characteristics
OVERALL – Square in overall frame, with a short back, long legs, and powerful neck and hindquarters. A beautiful head and an elegantly arched neck define the breed. The Andalusian Horse’s overall conformation lends itself to sturdy, agile, and athletic animals who are exceptionally comfortable to ride. Averaging 1100 lbs, or 500 kg.
COLOR – Historically, approximately 80% of Andalusians were gray, though dark coats are becoming more common. The white coats and dark skin typical of grays are beneficial as protection against the heat and UV radiation of southern Spain’s hot sun. Black and Bay were also historically allowed in the studbook. More recently, chestnut, and the dilute colors associated with the Cream gene have been accepted into the studbooks, which include buckskin, palomino, cremello, and pearlino.
HEIGHT – Generally standing between 15.2hh – 16.2hh when mature. Mares and Carthusians might be shorter in stature.
HEAD – Heads should be medium in length, well proportioned, with a slight convex (subconvex) profile. In the early 20th Century, a straight profile also became acceptable. Concave, and strongly convex profiles are undesirable. Cheekbones should be well developed, with fine, supple skin covering them, with a fluted nasal bone tapering down to a proportionally small muzzle.
THROAT AND JAW – The jaw should be well developed and long, with strong, but not overly large cheek bones. The throatlatch should be clean-cut, and should not be fleshy or thick. The widest space beneath and between the jaw bones should allow a human fist to fit between them.
NOSTRILS & MUZZLE – Nostrils should be distinctively narrow and elongated, able to open widely during exercise. The muzzle should have fine, silky whiskers, with discreet bifurcation of the upper lip, called “pico de liebre”. The entire muzzle should be relatively small in comparison to the jaw. The corners of the lips should just reach the bar of the mouth, to facilitate effective bitting. Round nostrils, coarse muzzles, and short mouths, or “rabbit muzzles” are undesirable.
EYES – Eyes should be large, forward-looking, and triangular in shape. They should be alert, lively, and kind-looking. Eyelashes should be long. They should be neither bulging, nor sunken, nor lacking the triangular shape iconic to the breed.
EARS – The ears should be medium sized, smaller in males. In both sexes they should be wide at the base, well-notched, spaced well apart, set partway down the head, and expressing a perfect half-crescent shape along the outer edge.
SKIN – The skin should be thin and tight against bones and muscle, with veins close to the surface so as to allow dispersal of heat. The color of the skin should be dark, without excessive white markings, though small facial markings are common and acceptable.
BACK – The back should be short, especially in males. It should be muscular and close to straight. The loin should also be short and powerful.
WITHERS – The withers of the Andalusian horse should be set back, and neither very high nor very low. They are powerful and wide, and flow smoothly from the neck and shoulder into the back. Set-back withers lend themselves to short backs, well set necks, and sloping shoulders. The wither should always be slightly higher than the hindquarters
CHEST – The chest should be full and deep, of medium width, with long, well-sprung ribs. Excessive wideness or narrowness is undesirable. When viewed from the front, the front legs should rise to the chest to form an “arch”, reminiscent of a cathedral arch.
SHOULDER – The shoulder should have a generously sloping angle, ideally 50 degrees to the horizontal, and should be long, wide, and powerfully muscled.
HINDQUARTERS – Hindquarters should be rounded and very powerful, with an acute angle of the stifle and a short, round croup. The tail should be low set and flush with the buttocks, and should not be raised or held away from the body except for rare occasions of unusual excitement. The length and weight of the head and neck should be directly proportional to the size of the hindquarters.
NECK – The neck should be high and arched, flexible, and uplifted, capable of completely comfortable and natural vertical head carriage. It should should be set high upon the shoulder, and end in a subtle upturn before the withers. The neck should be both shapely and muscular, neither straight and shapeless nor overly short and thick. The bottom outline of the neck should not be convex, and should spring from the top of the horse’s chest, not the center or the bottom. The crest should not excessively wobble when the horse moves. The throatlatch should be clean-cut, and should not be fleshy or thick.
LEGS – Both fore and hind legs should be proportionally long in comparison to the overall body length of the horse. Excessively light or heavy bones in the legs are undesirable. Pasterns should be of medium length and should not be excessively upright as in a draft, or laid back like a thoroughbred. The skin should be thin and tight against the bones and tendons of the legs.
FORE LEGS – The fore legs should be set well back from the chest and shoulder, with a narrow angle between the scapula and humerus. The forearm should be powerful and lean, and the cannon bones should be long. Knees should be flat, broad, and smooth. No feathering on the legs or pasterns should be present.
REAR LEGS – The gaskin should be muscular, and the hock strong and well-developed. Fetlocks should be lean and prominent. Rear legs should be set parallel to one another, and should not be sickle hocked or camped out.
HOOVES – Hooves should be wide at the base, medium in size, wider than they are tall, well shaped, and of superior hardness.
HAIR – The hair of the coat should be fine, shiny, and tight against the skin. There should be a unique opalescent sheen of the coats of grays. The mane and tail hair should be long and silky. Thin mane and tail, coarsely textured hair, and feathering on the legs are undesirable.
MOVEMENT – Movement should always be expressive, lofty, and rhythmic, with distinctive joint flexion and articulation. Carthusians display more suspension and action than other bloodlines, which may instead offer more in the way of gait extensions.
TEMPERAMENT – Andalusians, historically bullfighting horses, must be obedient, brave, intelligent, and sensitive. They are fast learners, and respond well to advanced training and difficult situations when treated with respect and kindness. Agile and responsive, Andalusians are versatile and can adapt well to most modern disciplines. Andalusians are one of the few breeds consistently capable of the focus and determination required of the airs above the ground.
History of the Lusitano
The Lusitano, also known as the Pure Blood Lusitano or PSL (Puro Sangue Lusitano), is a Portuguese horse breed, closely related to the Spanish Andalusian horse. Both are sometimes called Iberian horses, as the breeds both developed on the Iberian peninsula, and until the 1960s they were considered one breed, under the Andalusian name. Horses were known to be present on the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 20,000 BC, and by 800 BC the region was renowned for its war horses. When the Muslims invaded Iberia in 711 AD, they brought Barb horses with them that were crossed with the native horses, developing a horse that became useful for war, dressage and bull fighting. In 1966, the Portuguese and Spanish stud books split, and the Portuguese strain of the Iberian horse was named the Lusitano, after the word Lusitania, the ancient Roman name for Portugal. There are three main breed lineages within the breed today, and characteristics differ slightly between each line. There is also the Alter Real strain of Lusitano, bred only at the Alter Real State Stud.
Lusitanos can be any solid color, although they are generally gray, bay or chestnut. Horses of the Alter Real strain are always bay. Members of the breed are of Baroque type, with convex facial profiles, heavy muscling, intelligent and willing natures, with agile and elevated movement. Originally bred for war, dressage and bullfighting, Lusitanos are still used today in the latter two. They have competed in several Olympics and World Equestrian Games as part of the Portuguese and Spanish dressage teams. They have also made a showing in driving competitions, with a Belgian team of Lusitanos winning multiple international titles. Members of the breed are still used in bloodless bullfighting today, where it is expected that neither horse or bull will be injured.
Horses were known to humans on what is now the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 25,000 to 20,000 BC, as shown by cave paintings in the area. Among the local wild horses originally used by humans were the probable ancestors of the modern Lusitano, as studies comparing ancient and modern horse DNA indicate that the modern “Lusitano C” group contains maternal lineages also present in wild Iberian horses from the Early Neolithic period. These ancient horses were used for war, with clear evidence of their use by Phoenicians around 1100 BC and Celts around 600 BC. It is believed that these invaders also brought horses with them, contributing outside blood to the ancestry of the modern Iberian breeds. By 800 BC, the alliance known as Celtiberians had been formed by the Iberians and Celts, and from this point on the horses bred in this area were renowned as war horses. Xenophon, writing around 370 BC, admired the advanced horsemanship and riding techniques used by Iberian horsemen in war, made possible in part by their agile horses. Legend claimed that mares of the area were sired by the wind (hence their amazing swiftness, passed onto their foals), and one modern hypothesis suggests that the bond between Iberian humans and horses was the initial inspiration for the centaur, which was believed to come from the area of the Tagus River. Later invasions into the area by Carthaginians and Romans resulted in these civilizations establishing stud farms that bred cavalry horses for the Roman army from local stock.
When the Umayyad Muslims invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 AD, their invasion brought Barb horses, which were crossed with native Iberian horses. The cross between these two breeds produced a war horse superior even to the original Iberian horse, and it was this new type that the Conquistadors introduced to the Americas. Called the Iberian war horse, this ancestor of the Lusitano was used both on the battlefield and in major riding academies throughout Europe. Bullfighting on horseback and displays of high school dressage were common entertainment for the Portuguese gentry.
Mitochondrial DNA studies of the closely related modern Andalusian horse, compared to the Barb horse of North Africa, present convincing evidence that Barbs and Iberian horses crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in each direction, were crossbred with each other, and thus each influenced the other’s maternal bloodlines. While Portuguese historian Ruy d’Andrade hypothesized that the ancient Sorraia breed was an ancestor of the Southern Iberian breeds, including the Lusitano, genetic studies using mitochondrial DNA show that the Sorraia is part of a genetic cluster that is largely separated from most Iberian breeds. One maternal lineage is shared with the Lusitano, however, Sorraia lineages in Iberian breeds are relatively recent, dating to the Middle Ages, making the Sorraia an unlikely prehistoric ancestor of the Lusitano.
Prior to modern times, horse breeds throughout Europe were known primarily by the name of the region where they were bred. The Lusitano takes its name from Lusitania, an ancient Roman name for the region that today is Portugal. A very similar horse, the Spanish Andalusian, originally described the horses of distinct quality that came from Andalusia in Spain. Some sources state that the Andalusian and the Lusitano are genetically the same breed, and the only difference is the country in which individual horses are born. The Lusitano is also known as the Portuguese, Peninsular, National or Betico-lusitano horse.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, horses moved continually between Spain and Portugal, and horses from the studs of Andalusia were used to improve the Portuguese cavalry. Portugal’s successful restoration war against Spain (1640–1668) was in part based on mounted troops riding war horses of Spanish blood. During the reign of Philip III of Portugal (also Philip IV of Spain), Portuguese horse breeding reached its lowest point. The Spanish passed laws to halt the country’s production of cavalry horses, and what stud farms did exist were run in secrecy with horses smuggled or stolen from Spain. These secret farms, however, provided the base for the modern Lusitano. In 1662, when Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza of Portugal, the royal dowry included Portugal’s Tangier and Bombay garrisons. These garrisons included large groups of Portuguese cavalry, mounted on Iberian horses.
Prior to the 1960s, the Iberian-type horse was called the Andalusian in both Portugal and Spain. In 1966, the Lusitano name was adopted by Portugal after a studbook separation by the two countries. The revolutions of Portugal’s African colonies resulted in the near economic collapse of Portugal. The landed class attracted political agitators, estates were vacated, and stud farms were broken up and their horses sold to Spain. However, the best lines were saved through the efforts of breeders, and breeding soon increased. Today, Lusitanos are bred mainly in Portugal and Brazil, but maintain a presence in many other countries throughout the world, including Australia, the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, and other European countries. Crossbred horses of partial Lusitano blood are popular, especially when crossed with Andalusian, Arabian or Thoroughbred blood.
HEIGHT – Medium; at the age of six years, the average height, measured at the withers is 1.55m (nearest conversion 15.1hh) for females and 1.60m (15.3hh) for males.
COAT – The most appreciated and esteemed are all shades of grey and bay.
TEMPERAMENT – Noble, generous and ardent, but always gentle and able to support duress.
MOVEMENTS – Agile, elevated forward, smooth and having a great facility to carry the rider in comfort.
APTITUDE – A natural ability for concentration, with a great disposition for High School work; courage and enthusiasm for the gineta exercises (combat, hunting, bullfighting, work with cattle etc.).
HEAD – Well proportioned, of medium length, narrow and dry, with the lower jaw not too pronounced and the cheek inclined to be long. Slightly sub-convex profile with slightly curved forehead (in advance of the eyebrows’ bones); the eyes, tending to an elliptical form, are big, alive, expressive and confident. Fine, narrow and expressive ears of medium length.
NECK – Of medium length, with fine hair line, deep in the base, well inserted between the shoulders, rising up arched from the withers without convexity, ending at a narrow and fine junction with the head.
WITHERS – Long and well defined, with a smooth transition from the back to the neck, always higher than the croup. On adult stallions is sometimes covered with fat but always prominent from the shoulders.
CHEST – Of medium size, deep and muscular.
RIBCAGE – Well developed, long and deep, slightly arched ribs obliquely inserted into the spinal column giving rise to short and full flank.
SHOULDERS – Long, slanting and well muscled.
BACK – Well placed, tending towards the horizontal and making a smooth connection between the withers and the loins.
LOINS – Short, wide, slightly convex, well connected with the back and croup with which they form a continuous line.
CROUP – Strong and rounded, well-balanced, slightly slanting. The length and width of identical dimensions; harmonious convex profile with the point of the hip unobtrusive, giving the croup a cross section of elliptical shape. Tail with long, silky and abundant hair gently emerging from the convex line of the croup’s profile.
LEGS – The forelegs are well muscled and harmoniously inclined. Upper arm straight and muscular. Knees are thick and dry. The cannons tend to be long, dry and with well-pronounced tendons. The fetlocks are dry, relatively big and with very little hair. The pasterns are relatively long and sloping. The hooves are of good constitution, well formed and proportioned without being too open; the line of the coronet is not very evident. The buttock is short and convex. The thigh is muscular, normally short and oriented in such a way that the patella gaskin is in the same vertical line as the hipbone, or point of the hip. The legs are normally long, placing the point of the hock in a vertical line with the point of the buttock. The hocks are large, strong and dry. The hind legs form relatively closed angles.