Name of breed: Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (pura raza española)
Country of origin: Spain
Breed origin: The Andalusian originated on the Iberian Peninsula in Spain, where its ancestors, Iberian horses, were present as far back as 20-30,000 BC. These horses had many influences as civilisations came and went from this bustling region of Spain, including the Celts, Romans, various Germanic tribes and the Punics and Moors (both from northern Africa). As a result, there are a great many similarities between the Barb horse of northern Africa and the Andalusian horse of Spain, both of which are still much-admired breeds. Since ancient times, the horses of the Iberian Peninsula have been prized as war horses and noble mounts throughout Europe, leading countless armies to victory and seeing many empires rise and fall. The Andalusian was recognised as an individual breed in the 15th century, becoming known as the ‘royal horse of Europe’. The breed was considered among the finest in the world, being used to develop or improve almost every other breed in existence in the western world (and the newly discovered Americas) at the time. In 1667 the Duke of Newcastle, William Cavendish, called the Spanish horse of Andalusia the ‘prince’ of the horse world, describing the breed as ‘unnervingly intelligent’.
Despite their ancient history, all living Andalusians trace to a small number of horses bred by religious orders in the 18th and 19th centuries. This is because at the beginning of the 16th century an influx of heavy horse blood diluted many Andalusian bloodlines, and only those protected by selective breeding – such as that undertaken by the religious orders – remained intact to become the modern Andalusian. During the 19th century, warfare, disease and cross-breeding reduced herd numbers quite dramatically, leading to the Spanish government placing an embargo on their export for over 100 years, until the 1960s. Since the embargo was lifted, the Andalusian has spread across the world rapidly, its popularity largely due to the its versatility. From High School equitation and dressage to cattle work, the Andalusian’s intelligence, bravery and physical capabilities make it a true pleasure to work with.
Distinguishing features: Andalusians are often described as a ‘baroque’ breed, being powerful, agile and elegant, with tremendous presence. They have a strong and compact build with excellent proportions and good bone. Their head is fine, with a straight or slightly convex profile, small, mobile ears and expressive eyes. Their neck is arched and broad with a well-developed crest, and their chest is wide, deep and muscular. They have a short, strong back, well-defined withers, long, sloping shoulders and rounded hindquarters. Their legs are clean with broad joints, and their hooves are extremely hard. They have a thick, long, and often wavy mane and tail and are most commonly grey, although most solid colours are seen and dilute colours occur occasionally. In previous centuries, almost all coat colours were seen, but in the 20th century there was a push to limit the breed to bay and grey, and ‘colour’ genes became extremely rare. However, more studs are now breeding for colour, and the diversity is gradually increasing once more. The temperament of the Andalusian is docile and willing, yet intelligent and sensitive. They bear themselves proudly and have exceptional courage. They are known for their ability to quickly learn complicated movements, such as advanced collection or turns on the haunches. Their movement on the whole is cadenced and collected, showing a perfect balance of extension, elevation, roundness and propulsion.
Modern day Andalusian: This beautiful breed of horse is used for many equestrian activities, including dressage, show jumping, pleasure riding, trekking, western pleasure, cattle and ranch work, hunting and driving. Consistently selected for their athleticism and beauty, the breed is also used extensively in movies, particularly fantasy epics and historical films (Gladiator, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, etc).
Image credits: Illixa PRE Stud, Alexia Khruscheva, Pinterest / Cartlija.