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The Andalusian (a.k.a. Pure Spanish Horse or PRE) is one of the oldest Iberian horse breeds. Its power, beauty, and elegance inspired several iconic poets, writers, and artists, including William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.
Throughout history, the Andalusian served as the warhorse of nobility in Europe. Due to exportation, disease, and warfare, breed numbers reduced drastically in the 19th century. To save the remaining pure stock, Spain restricted the export of Andalusians for over 100 years until 1964.
The Andalusian horse is famous for its intelligence, agility, and good temperament. They are commonly gray, with an average height of 15.2 to 16.2 hands and abundant manes and tails. The breed excels in classical dressage, driving, and Western disciplines.
Here are ten interesting facts about Andalusian horses:
Andalusian Horses Originated in Carthusian Monasteries
Some scientists believe the ancestors of Andalusians came from the ancient Sorraia breed that dates back 22,000 years. Drawings of Sorraia horses can be found in prehistoric caves of the Iberian Peninsula and southwestern France.
Legend has it that the Spanish military ordered breeders to cross their pure Andalusian horses with heavier breeds to supply the heavy cavalry. Thanks to a knight called Don Álvaro Obertos de Valeto, a small number of purebred horses were preserved in a Carthusian monastery. For the next four centuries, the monks continued breeding this original strain of Andalusian horses. (Source: Animal Hearted)
While there is no evidence that this strain exists, research has traced back the lineage of all Andalusian horses to Spanish monasteries. However, King Felipe II first recognized the Andalusian as an official breed in the 15th century.
Andalusians Were Noble Warhorses
The ancestors of Andalusians were superior warhorses of the Ancient Greek and Roman Empires. They were also the preferred mount of Moorish and Carthaginian warriors and the Crusaders of France.
Due to centuries of selective breeding, the Andalusian breed developed outstanding athleticism and stamina. They made an agile and brave cavalry horse to the Spanish, who rode them to victory countless times. Andalusians are also celebrated as a symbol of refinement in the country.
Also Read: 7 Common Medieval War Horse Breeds
Andalusian Are the Royal Horse of Europe
It’s no coincidence that the Andalusian was dubbed “The Horse of Kings” in medieval Europe. Its majestic appearance and graceful movement perfectly complemented the grandeur of royals who sat astride them. The Spanish aristocracy even gifted Andalusian horses to the kings of Europe for diplomatic purposes.
The official breed standard was created by King Felipe II and has changed little over the centuries. It was also King Felipe II who changed the breed’s purpose from cattle driving, farm use, and war to dressage. Following his imperial decree in 1567, the Royal Stables of Cordoba began producing Andalusians for high school dressage. (Source: ialha.org)
Over 80% of Andalusians Are Gray
Andalusians are famous for their sparkling silver colors, and gray is the most common color in the breed. The remaining horses are 15% bay and 5% black, chestnut, dun, or palomino. Other recognized but rare colorations include cremello, buckskin, and pearl.
A fun fact is that white markings and whorls are associated with superstitious beliefs about the breed. Depending on where the marking is located, it may bring good or bad luck to the owner. On the other hand, Andalusians with no white markings are considered to be bad-tempered.
The Andalusian Influenced Many Modern Horse Breeds
For centuries, being such a popular horse meant that many breeders used the Andalusian to create and refine other breeds. For example, the beautiful Friesian horse originated from crossing Andalusians to local horses in Friesland during the 11th century.
Spanish horses also had a significant influence on many modern American horse breeds. Since they accompanied the conquistadors traveling to the New World, Andalusian bloodlines can be found in today’s wild Mustangs. Specifically, some of the purest lineages are among the Kiger Mustangs of Oregon.
In their homeland, Andalusians went on to influence many European horse breeds. A few examples are the Hanoverian, Holstein, Oldenburg, Gelderland, Knabstrupper, and Thoroughbred breeds.
Some Andalusian Crosses Are Their Own Breed
The Andalusian is famous for its ability to refine other horse breeds. Some Andalusian crosses have become their very own breed!
Such horse breeds are the Azteca horse (Andalusian x Quarter horse/Paint), the Spanish Arabian (Andalusian x Arabian), the Warlander (Andalusian/Lusitano x Friesian), or the Spanish-Norman (Andalusian x Percheron).
Also Read: 15 Native Spanish Horse Breeds
Andalusians Are Still Used in Bullfighting
Bullfighting was one of the earliest uses of the Andalusian breed. While the sport is illegal in most countries, it’s still practiced in Spain, a centuries-old tradition.
Andalusians have the agility, strength, and bravery to excel in this extreme sport. In the past, these qualities could mean the difference between life and death for the bullfighter. It also makes the breed ideal for working with cattle on ranches.
They Are Talented Dressage Horses
Ever since King Philip II founded the dressage academy for Andalusians at the Royal Stables, the breed has been prominent in the sport. Andalusians have a natural affinity for self-carriage, allowing them to perform complex High School dressage elements with ease.
The breed has also found international success in classical dressage. Two Andalusians were on the Spanish dressage team that won bronze at the 2002 World Equestrian Games and silver at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
The secret of the Andalusian’s success in the discipline lies in its powerful hindquarters, strong neck, and flexible joints. This is a result of centuries of selective breeding that is still ongoing today. Watching Andalusians dance gracefully is truly a sight to behold.
There Are Nearly 200,000 Andalusians in the World
According to Karina Brez, the number of Andalusians worldwide is close to 200,000. This was an increase from 2010 when there were around 185,000 registered Andalusians in the world. (Source: Wikipedia)
Once an endangered breed, the Andalusian has been steadily growing in numbers in the last few decades. According to the Foundation For The Pure Spanish Horse, the biggest population is found in Europe, while only around 5,000 of them reside in America.
Andalusians Are Popular Movie Horses
It’s no surprise that this fairytale-like breed has been featured in numerous historical and fantasy movies. Their majestic outline, expressive movement, and abundant manes and tails make these horses ideal for movies. The Foundation For The Pure Spanish Horse lists over 140 movies that used Andalusian horses.
Popular movies featuring the breed include Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, The Chronicles of Narnia, King Arthur, and Gladiator. Clint Eastwood also rode Andalusians to recreate the image of the Old West, such as in High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider.