Name of breed: Lusitano
Country of origin: Portugal
Breed origin: The Lusitano, also known as the Pure Blood Lusitano, is a Portuguese horse breed, closely related to the Spanish Andalusian horse. Both are sometimes called Iberian horses, as the breeds both developed on the Iberian peninsula, and until the 1960s they were considered one breed, under the Andalusian name.
Horses were known to be present on the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 20,000 BC, and by 800 BC the region was renowned for its war horses. When the Muslims invaded Iberia in 711 AD, they brought Barb horses with them that were crossed with the native horses, developing a horse that became useful for war, dressage and bull fighting. In 1966, the Portuguese and Spanish stud books split, and the Portuguese strain of the Iberian horse was named the Lusitano, after the word Lusitania, the ancient Roman name for Portugal.
Distinguishing features: Lusitanos can be any solid color, although they are generally grey, bay or chestnut. Horses of the Alter Real strain are always bay. Members of the breed are of Baroque type, with convex facial profiles, heavy muscling, intelligent and willing natures, with agile and elevated movement. Originally bred for war, dressage and bullfighting, Lusitanos are still used today in the latter two. They have competed in several Olympics and World Equestrian Games as part of the Portuguese and Spanish dressage teams.
Lusitanos are known as powerful horses, noted for their intelligence and willing nature.The breed’s gaits are agile and elevated, but generally comfortable to ride. The Lusitano differs from the Andalusian through having a more sloped croup, a lower-set tail, and a more convex head profile. The mane and tail are extremely thick in both breeds.
Modern day Lusitano: Today, Lusitanos are seen in Olympic disciplines, including high-level combined driving competition. In 1995, a four-in-hand team driven by Belgian Felix Brasseur won the FEI Driving World Cup, and took the World Championships in 1996. In 2002, there was a Lusitano on the World Equestrian Games bronze-winning dressage team that went on to collect a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. In 2006, the entire Portuguese dressage team rode Lusitanos at the World Equestrian Games, as did one Spanish dressage competitor. The Belgian Brasseur took the gold medal in four-in-hand driving at the same competition with a team composed solely of Lusitanos.
They are still used for mounted bullfighting today, in a form where the bull is not killed and it is considered a disgrace to the rider if the horse is injured. Horses bred for this sport must be agile and calm, remaining in the control of the rider even when confronted by a bull.