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Andalusian - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Andalusian Andalusian Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Andalusian horse is the direct descendant of an indigenous Iberian wild horse, which in prehistoric times roamed in southern Iberia and even crossed over into Northwest Africa by way of the land bridge that existed where the Strait of Gibraltar is now. It is also quite possible that the Iberians had introduced some of their horses in Northwest Africa when they crossed over by ship - long before the Moorish invasion.


This Iberian, or Spanish, horse was known as the jennet (several other spellings existed), and proved to be superior in combat, for the hunt of wild boar and bull, and in the bullfighting arena. The active and brilliant paces of the Andalusian horse made it the ultimate mount for high school riding, and its presence, proud carriage, flowing mane and tail, symmetry and elegant good looks ensured this breed’s place as the first choice for European monarchs. Many such monarchs were depicted astride the Andalusian when painters were hired to paint royal portraits, and in sculptures of emperors and kings, war heroes and explorers. For centuries the Andalusian was known as the Spanish Horse. El Cid, the Spanish national hero, rode a favorite Andalusian horse for over 20 years named Babieca, which was buried at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena, where a monument stands in his honor. The Andalusian became the most popular riding horse in Europe. Who could not afford one got himself at least one with plenty of Spanish blood.

A true story or romance and drama unfolded when from the fifteen century on the Carthusian monks battled to ensure the breed’s purity and in many cases its actual survival. The monks were called to defy a Royal Edict directing that foreign central European blood be introduced into the Spanish studs. Later, they successfully hid enough of their beloved horses from Napoleon’s armies to ensure the breed’s ongoing survival. To this day, it is claimed that no Arabian or any other foreign blood played a part in the breed’s development.


When the Muslims occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula between A.D. 711 and 1492, they found the horses of the “infidels” there “bigger and better” than their own, also more plentiful. They fought their first battle with the 100 horses they had brought over, and after winning that battle mounted themselves with the horses of the “infidels”, thus turning their infantry into a cavalry. This is recorded in their own chronicles. Once they settled in the newly invaded land, they began breeding these horses that they had found superior to their own. This shows that there is no credence to the often-repeated myth that the Spanish horse owed anything to the Barb. The Barb horse was a cousin to the Spanish horse, but usually did not live up in size and beauty to the Spanish horse, and definitely not in ability as a war horse.

The spectacular paces and the agility of the Andalusian met the demands of the mounted bullfighters. In a period of several centuries when the mounted bull fight was prohibited in Spain by a royal decree, the Andalusian was still ridden out in the campus, but found a new role as a spectacular carriage horse. This horse was taken to Italy by the Spaniards in the 15th century for their wars in the kingdom of Naples, where they defeated the heavy French cavalry, and where they helped create the Neapolitano breed, the horse of Naples. It was here, then, where riding academies were founded, and the newly improved horsemanship spread to other parts of Europe. The Neapolitano, along with pure Spanish horses, helped develop the Lipizzan and Kladruber breeds. In all these breeds, the flamboyant paces of the Spanish horse were selected for to suit the demands for the haute ecole. The great riding masters - La Broue, La Noue, Pluvinel, La Gueriniere, Duke of Newcastle, Riedinger - all without exception tell of the unrivalled qualities of the Spanish horse.

The Andalusian was used in the development of many breeds: Lipizzan, Kladruber, German and Scandinavian Warmblood, Friesian, Nonius, Connemara, Shire and Clydesdale, Cleveland Bay. Also most American breeds descend from Spanish Horses


The body of an Andalusian is short and strong, with well-sprung ribs and a broad chest. The hindquarters are melon-shaped, rounded, and strong. A feature of the Andalusian are the long, luxuriant and often wavy tail and mane, and the tail is typically not raised very high, not even when the horse is excited. In height this horse measured 15 hands or a little more. Today’s top show horses however exceed this by far - and at the same time, they also lost the type, the typical Andalusian characteristics. The Andalusian’s head profile is usually sub-convex. The forehead is broad and large, with a kind eye. The neck is reasonable long and deep, but elegant; stallions often have a well-formed crest. Shoulders are long and sloping with well-defined withers. Limbs are of medium length but very elegant, strong and clean, and with comparatively long cannon bones, which make for knee action and elevated movements.

The action of the Andalusian is showy, proud and lofty. The trot is high-stepping; the canter is rocking and smooth. The Andalusian has natural balance and agility, along with a docile temperament. The greatest feature in regard to riding qualities is his inherent ability for collection.


In Andalusians, and Lusitanos to some degree, an action of the front legs is found that is not straight forward, but swings out laterally to a degree - not just the lower leg, but often the whole limb from the shoulder outward. This is discriminated against by horse people elsewhere, but seems to be an inherent trait of the Iberian horse and is called “campaneo” by the Spanish. It does not seem to be in any way unsound, or to hinder the horse, but may well be a trait associated even with surefootedness. Some Andalusians can be found which also do a lateral gait.


The original colors were dun, grulla, and bay, but nowadays the grey factor has taken over so much that it’s hard to find an Andalusian that is not a gray. Red (sorrel and chestnut) is discriminated against, but the Spanish breed association’s standards are irrespective of color genetics, and many a dark chestnut is registered - no distinction is being made between a dark chestnut and a bay.

There were strains in the old Spanish horses that were spotted and parti-colored; they are believed to have their origin in North European blood introduced in medieval times, resulting in the so-called “villanos”. The coat patters of the American Appaloosas and Paint/Pinto horses are inherited mostly from Spanish stock brought over by the Conquistadors in the 16th century.

The Spanish horse was known as Andalusian, Estremenjo, or Castillian, depending on the region where it was bred, but “Andalusian” became a synonym for the Spanish horse, arguably because it was in the Andalucia region where the best ones were bred. Today, this breed is known as
“Pura Raza Espanola” (PRE), meaning “Pure Spanish Breed”.

Article copyright HorseShowCentral.com Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photos copyright Oelke or Oelke Archive.

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Andalusian Pura Raza Espanola Spanish Breed Andalusian exhibition

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