Andalusians are Pure Spanish Horses (Pura Raza Española or PRE) and are descended from the native horses of Spain and Portugal. The breed came to prominence during the Renaissance when horse activities became more popular and equitation was practiced by aristocrats. The nobles demanded horses that were both beautiful and agile. Being gorgeous, the breed became a tool for diplomacy in the Elizabethan Age. Hapsburg monarchs sent their native horses as gifts to kings all across Europe who prized their Spanish mounts.

Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and his Andalusian stallion Fuego compete at the London Olympics in 2012.  Bob Langrish photo

In the mid 1400’s, during the Reconquista, some notable stud farms were established in Spain.  Carthusian monks on the Iberian peninsula were tasked with the responsibility of documenting the horses’ lineage and improving the breed. The Carthusians, a catholic religious order established in 1011 AD, were among those select few who could read and write. To facilitate the accuracy of their record-keeping, the central breeding facility was located within their monastery. The most famous breed horse was a stallion named Esclavo.

There are two additional characteristics unique to the Carthusian strain, believed to trace back to the strain’s foundation stallion Esclavo. The first is warts under the tail, a trait which Esclavo passed to his offspring, and a trait which some breeders still feel is necessary to prove that a horse was a member of the Esclavo bloodline. The second characteristic is the occasional presence of “horns”, which are frontal bosses, possibly inherited from Asian ancestors. The physical descriptions of the bosses vary, ranging from calcium-like deposits at the temple to small horn-like protuberances near or behind the ear. However, unlike the tail warts, these horn-bumps are not considered proof of Esclavo descent.

In the 16th century, the Andalusian became the basis of many North American breeds when Spanish conquistadores brought the horses over to the Americas with them to use as war horses and breeding stock. Their bloodlines heavily influenced modern breeds including Appaloosa, Mustang, Morgan, Lipizzan, Friesian, Quarter Horse, Paso Fino, and Peruvian Paso. All living Andalusians trace back to a select number of horses bred by Carthusian monks.

Despite their popularity, the horses diminished in numbers when even lighter and smoother horses became more popular for activities such as racing and hunting. After World War II, Andalusians were threatened when famine and plague virtually wiped-out the breed. The Spanish government was forced to ban the breed’s export and that restriction was only lifted in 1960. Now Andalusians are bred in more than sixty countries around the world.


How to Identify an Andalusian horse?

Andalusians are famous for their beauty.  They stand between 15 to 16.2 hands tall and have noble heads with gentle eyes. They have a straight or slightly convex profile, broad neck and well-developed crest.  Their most common coat color is gray, followed by bay, although they can be found in many other colors. They always have thick manes and tails. They are strong and energetic with cadenced and elastic paces showing elevation, extension, and collection. They are obedient yet spirited, noble and friendly animals who learn easily and adapt to diverse tasks and situations.


Are Andalusians the most expensive horses?

Andalusians are priced higher than other breeds, especially if they have any show training. Each Andalusian horse is a representative of PRE, Pura Raza Española, and as such the prices are usually influenced by three factors: correct conformation, quality of movement and typiness (being typy is a horse word that means embodying the ideal characteristics of its variety or breed), as ascribed by judges at the Conformation Shows for Pure Breed Spanish horses. These are qualities that the PRE horse should show in the eyes of the Spanish judges at the Concursos Morfológicos, the Conformation Shows for Pure Breed Spanish horses.

Good show horses have sound pedigree and sharp minds and they move with the grace and style expected of the breed.  A young prospect will be cheaper than one that’s ready for the ring, but juveniles need training, and that costs money too. The traditional movement of the PRE horse is upward and forward, and their more pronounced knee-action flutters hearts when competing in International FEI dressage, and so that makes the horses even more coveted by equestrians all over the world. Mares, stallions and youngstock with a quality show record can be very high-priced at sale, as well as those animals that have passed the second phase of the breeding approval revision called Reproductór Calificado. Chestnut coloured Andalusian horses are rare and they’re in high demand so obviously their scarcity pushes-up prices.


What are Andalusians used for today?

An Andalusian gives a demonstration at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. Bob Langrish photo

Andalusians excel at Eventing, in dressage, show jumping, and driving, and also for general riding. They are agile, energetic, have a natural gait, and are easy to train. Dressage, an ancient equestrian discipline, has made Andalusians the Royal Horse of Europe.  The Duke of Newcastle, in 1667, wrote, that the Andalusian is “the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful that can be. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile; hath the proudest trot and the best action in his trot, the loftiest gallop, and is the lovingest and gentlest horse, and fittest of all for a king in his day of triumph.

PREs have been quite successful on the world stage since the beginning. But once again during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Muñoz, members of the Spanish dressage team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, placed 5th overall and were joined on the team by PREs Norte and Gnidium.

More than any other breed, Andalusians are used in the sport of bullfighting. This is because bullfighting is a product of Andalusia, a region of Spain. As part of the ceremony, Andalusians are still ridden by rejoneador during the event.

During the actual bullfight, the horses’ temperament and athletic ability are on full display. The horse must remain calm while being charged-at by a raging bull, and then at the last moment the lively horse leaps clear of the beast’s horns, and high steps in a taunting gait.

Their graceful beauty also makes the Andalusian horse a favourite for movie roles.

For more information:
International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association
National Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders’ Association