Spanish Horse Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below
The Spanish Horse, according to traditional fables, was bred by Zephr (the golden or gentle west wind), also known as Pegasus since ancient times. This horse was the reigning symbol in Olympus of all the contemporary horses of the Punic-Roman world until the last years of the eighteenth century.
The Spanish horse has a long and ancient history. Science shows that there was at least one prehistoric wild horse that the Spanish horse traces back to, and old documents mention a wild horse that was called zebro, zebra, or encebro. Today’s Sorraia represents what is left of this primitive,wild, ancestral horse.
The influence of the Spanish horse was incredibly widespread, as they were taken by invaders returning to their own territories and countries. These horses were a known fact to the invading Greeks as far back as 3000 B. C. when they quickly learned to fear the Iberian cavalry.
It is known that the Spanish horse or Iberian horse was much prized by the Phoenicians, Carthagians, Greeks, and Romans. The Moor’s found the Iberian horse superior, and during their long occupation of the Iberian Peninsula continued to breed it.
Horse breeders being what they always are, they soon learned to breed selectively and the genetic influence of the original Iberian horse has been astounding - or perhaps not, when one considers the dominant characteristics that were so prized by mankind over the millennia since this horse was domesticated.
It needs to be noted that for most of their common history, there was hardly any distinction between the two major Iberian breeds (or Spanish Horses), the Andalusian and Lusitano. In the minds of Portuguese breeders, they were not breeding a different horse than the Spaniards, and often acquired breeding stock in Spain, where the horses were more plentiful. The horsemanship was also the same for most of that common history in both Iberian countries.
The Andalusian of Spain, along with Portugal’s Lusitano, grew to be the royal horse not only of Spain but also throughout Europe, and this breed began as early as the 15th century to have a developmental impact on many other breeds.
The Andalusian in Spain is called the Pura Raza Espanola, the pure Spanish Horse and the purity of the stud book and breed is carefully maintained. The aesthetics of pure Spanish blood stand out because of this breed’s elegance, and distinction.
Once introduced into any other breed, a distinctive stamp occurs that may be seen centuries later. It was the Andalusian that gave the Lipizzan of the Spanish Riding school its great strength and high school ability!
In Europe, numerous breeds owe much to the Spanish horse and many more owe something: The Frederiksborg of Denmark, the spotted Knabstrup, the Kladruber of Czechoslovakia, the Alter-Real and Lusitano of Portugal, and the Friesian horse, and German Warmbloods, for example. In Britain, the Andalusian has also had an influence, if less clearly marked, on the Cleveland Bay, Hackney, Connemara and Welsh Cobs and Ponies.
In the new world, if now much diluted, the Spanish Horse lives on in the Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, mustang and many others. More noticeably indebted are the horses of South America: the Peruvian Paso, Argentine Criollo and Paso Fino and now the national horse of Mexico, the Azteca.
In studying the history of many, many horse breeds, and with modern day ability for DNA study, the blood of the Andalusian is found and with it, an elegance and quality that are unmistakable. The breeders of the world drew heavily on the Spanish horse for centuries to create as the original improver of many native breeds elsewhere around the world.
For information regarding the Sorraia horse, the Vale de Zebro Wild Horse Refuge, and the Sorraia Mustang - visit www.sorraia.org
Photos from left to right. 1) Prehistoric cave painting in Spain, showing a longer-necked horse than what is typically found in cave further north, and which clearly shows the convex profile of the Spanish or Iberian Horse. 2) Neolithic cave paintings in Spain, showing horses led by people - at least the beginning of domestication, and the earliest found anywhere! (Sketches made by Ruy d’Andrade after the original cave art.) 3) Bronze sculpture (300 years B.C.) showing the characteristics of the Spanish Horse. 4) The photo at the top of the page is of a 14th century relief, depicting the Portuguese king Fernando. 4) Painting depicting Spanish riders, 16th century. The Spanish horse from prehistoric times to the present, exhibits Spanish horse traits!