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Lipizzaner Horse Breed Profile: History, Facts, Traits, Breeding & More

Lipizzaner Horse Breed Profile: History, Facts, Traits, Breeding & More

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Regal and refined, the Lipizzaner horse has captivated the world with its elegance, athletic prowess, and striking silvery-white appearance.

Born from the passionate endeavors of the Habsburg monarchy in the late 16th century, this breed has grown to symbolize the epitome of equine excellence.

Renowned for their ability to perform haute école, or “high school” movements, Lipizzaners have carved out a unique place in the world of classical dressage.

These majestic creatures, brimming with a rich history and cultural significance, not only serve as a spectacle of grace and power, but also act as a living testament to centuries of selective breeding and human ingenuity in horse mastery.

Below is an in-depth guide to the amazing Lipizzaner horse breed, including it’s history, characteristics, breeding standards, facts, FAQs, and much more.

Lipizzan Horse Breed History

The Lipizzan (sometimes Lipizzaner) is royal since its origins. The Habsburg family, ruling Austria and Spain then, derived this breed from their need for light and agile riding and war horses. They founded two studs, one in Kladrub and one in Lipica (located in modern-day Slovenia).

In these studs, Spanish and Arabian stock and Barb gave origin to the Lipizzan horse breed. The Neapolitan, an Italian breed, also helped in the creation of the Lipizzan. These horses are now extinct, but the Neapolitano lineages still exist in the modern Lipizzan’s foundation stock.

White lipizzaner stallion prancing in spring time field
Zuzule /

The Spanish Riding School cemented the Lipizzan horse breed’s reputation, though. Founded in 1572 and set in Vienna, Austria, it is the world’s oldest, still-existing riding school. Only Lipizzan stallions perform at the Spanish Riding School. The current hall, where the school still operates, was built in 1729.

In 1920, the Austrian government consolidated breeding at Piber, which would become the Piber Federal Stud. This stud existed since 1798 but became dedicated to the Lipizzans in 1920. The Piber Federal Stud breeds the stallions used by the Spanish Riding School to this day.

The Lipizzaner faced near-extinction several times due to war. World War II saw an incredible cooperation between Alois Podhajsky, head of the Spanish Riding School, and the American general George S. Patton.

The latter, an avid horseman, cooperated with Podhajsky to move the horses from Hostau, Czechoslovakia, where the Nazi high command had moved them, across the German border, to Kotztinz, in the so-called Operation Cowboy.

This operation saved 1,200 horses, including over 300 Lipizzaners. The horses only returned to Piber in 1952, well after the war.

You can see the Spanish Riding School stallions perform at the Wembley Arena, here:

Lipizzaner Horse Breed Physical Characteristics

The Lipizzaner horse typically stands at a height of 14.2 to 15.2 hands (58 to 62 inches) and is characterized by a compact, muscular frame. The breed standard calls for a noble head with a straight or slightly convex profile, large expressive eyes, and small ears.

Their muscular yet elegant neck seamlessly blends into a strong back and well-sloped croup. Sturdy legs and strong hooves further add to their physical resilience, enabling them to perform complex maneuvers with effortless grace.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of the Lipizzaner breed is their coat color. Lipizzaners are born dark – black, brown, or bay – and transform dramatically, turning a pale grey or white when they reach their late teens.

Lipizzaner Horse Breed Behavioral Traits

Renowned for their intelligence, sensitivity, and trainability, Lipizzaners are considered to be highly cooperative and eager to please.

These traits and their natural athletic ability make them exceptionally suited for the demands of classical dressage and high school movements.

Beautiful white lipizzaner horse running in nature
Best dog photo /

It’s worth noting, however, that the Lipizzaner’s highly attuned sensitivity requires handling and training by experienced individuals who can cultivate a trusting, respectful relationship with these horses.

The Lipizzaner Horse in Modern Times

Lipizzaners are arguably most well-known for their association with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, where they continue to demonstrate their astonishing aptitude for classical dressage.

As it’s often described, the “ballet of the white stallions” is a breathtaking spectacle where Lipizzaners perform complex dressage maneuvers such as the piaffe, passage, and the legendary “airs above the ground.”

However, Lipizzaners are not solely confined to the performance arena. Their sturdy build and stamina make them suitable for various equestrian disciplines, including driving, pleasure, and therapeutic riding.

Official Lipizzaner Horse Breed Standard

The preservation and breeding of Lipizzaners are overseen by the Lipizzan International Federation (LIF). This organization collaborates with national associations and breed registries to uphold the breed standards and maintain the Lipizzaner’s unique traits.

Currently, there are around 10,000 Lipizzan horses in the world.

Here is the official Lipizzaner horse breed standard:

1. Size and Build: Lipizzaners should stand between 14.2 and 15.2 hands tall. They must possess a robust, muscular build indicative of their strength and agility.

2. Head and Neck: The breed standard calls for a noble, expressive head with a straight or slightly convex profile, large eyes, and small ears. The neck should be muscular, yet elegantly arched.

3. Body: A Lipizzaner should have a strong, compact body with a well-sloped croup.

4. Legs and Feet: The legs should be sturdy and strong, with tough hooves that contribute to their sure-footedness.

5. Coat and Color: While Lipizzaners are born with dark coats, they should gradually turn a grey so pale it appears white by their late teens.

6. Temperament: Lipizzaners should display intelligence, sensitivity, and tractability, indicative of their trainability and suitability for dressage.

Gray Lipizzaner horse running unbridled in a green grassy field surrounded by a white fence
Karen Geswein Photography /

Common FAQs About the Lipizzaner Breed

1. What is unique about Lipizzaner horses?

Lipizzaner horses are best known for their ability to perform haute école or “high school” movements, including complex maneuvers such as the piaffe, passage, and ‘airs above the ground’.

Their unique silvery-white coat and historic association with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna also make them iconic in the horse world.

2. How long does it take for a Lipizzaner’s coat to turn white?

Lipizzaner foals are born dark – black, brown, or bay – and gradually lighten over time. By the time they reach between 6 and 10 years of age, their coat has usually turned grey, eventually becoming so light by their late teens that they appear white.

3. Are all Lipizzaners white?

While the iconic silvery-white coat is most commonly associated with the breed, not all Lipizzaners turn completely white. A small percentage retain their dark color into adulthood.

Horse Rule

Saturday 26th of September 2020

This is a gorgeous breed of horse. Readers will be able to know a lot from this useful artilce. Thank you for sharing.