The Andalusian reigned for several centuries throughout the known world as the embodiment of perfection in horseflesh. There is hardly a breed in existence that has not felt the dynamic impact of its influence and been greatly enhanced.
Those wishing to know the Andalusian should drop some of the widely spread misconceptions about the breed. We have covered some of the more recent ones on our FAQ page.
Often we see history more clearly when its more distant in time. Archaeology , anthropology, paleontology, and other sciences have rewritten history as new facts have been revealed.
One misconception is that the Andalusian obtained its convex profile from the North African Barb. An observation of the probable origin of the Barb will dispel this notion and reveal the reverse to be true.
The Barb horse did not impress its convex profile on the Andalusian: rather, the ancient Iberian was in full possession of a “Barb” head centuries before there was a horse known as Barb.
The Andalusian has always been known for its incredible athletic ability as a war horse but it was in the hands of the bull owners that the Andalusian earned its reputation as the greatest athlete and stock-working animal in the equine world. The Quarter Horse and other breeds noted for their “cow sense” inherited this ability from their Andalusian ancestors. In the valley of Guadalquivir River, Spanish cowboys have long used their Andalusian horses in handling the bulls, considered exceedingly temperamental stock. Few horses would feel comfortable working these dangerous animals, yet Andalusians appear to delight in the work. With the incredible speed and handiness, they can maneuver an angry bull, dodging in and out and barely missing the hooking horns when the bull charges.
The very best Andalusians are used in a daring spectacle that takes place in the bull ring. A skilled bullfighter on horseback, called a rejoneador fights a toro bravo (fierce bull) in a spectacular display which combines intricate high school movements with curving dashes, coming with in inches of the dangerous horns. It is here the obviously superior qualities of the Andalusian a stock-working horse are readily apparent to all. The natural calm temperament is underscored by the fact that one moment the horse is perilously close to death and the next, he turns to doing intricate high school movements in a perfectly calm state of mind.
Blood of the Andalusian had a strong influence on almost every breed of the known world in ancient times. Agile and powerful, the Andalusian made the best type of war horse. Besides agility and strength, this horse has always had a regal carriage and high step fit for any king or knight. Thus earning the nickname “Horse of Kings”. Far be it for any wealthy knight (for the Andalusian has always been expensive) to be seen plodding along on a bored, low-headed mount!
According to traditional fables, the Spanish horse was bred by Zephyr, the golden or gentle west wind. Also known as Pegasus since ancient times, this horse was the reigning symbol in Olympus of all the contemporary horses of the Punic-Roman world until the last years of the eighteenth century.
The Spanish horse bred in Andalusia, made up the Iberian and Celtiberian squadrons of the famous Carthaginian horse troops that carried the Roman army in it’s conquests throughout the ancient world.
Breeds were spawned by the spread of this horse from the lukwarm waters of the Betis River (now called Guadalquiiver) to the frozen banks of the Volga. One of the most famous chargers of old was the Friesian breed developed when Andalusians were taken into Holland during the Crusades and crossed with the native Friesland horses. The Friesian has been bred pure for centuries, yet the Spanish Influence is still evident.
Mounted on Spanish Andalusian horses like El Cid’s horse Babieca, Christian horsemen battled the Arabs of the Reconquest, and because of it’s well-earned reputation , Andalusia, the land of their birth, was called by Cervanties, “the origin of the best horses in the world.
This same horse along with the beloved Spanish Jennet, carried the conquistadors on their forays into the Americas, and both North and South America owe a great deal to Spain for the quality found in American breeds.
The Andalusian was at one time nearly extinct and because of its rarity the Spanish government placed an embargo on their export allowing no Andalusians to be exported out of the country.
They were virtually unseen in the rest of the world for over 100 years until the 1960’s when the ban was lifted. October 19th 1964, the first Andalusian arrived in America.
The aesthetics of pure Spanish blood stand out because of this breed’s incomparable elegance, harmony and distinction. Spanish blood, once introduced into any other breed leaves a distinctive stamp that may still be seen centuries later. Famous for their fire and elegance combined with the majestic peacefulness, great endurance and liveliness, Andalusians are a perfect example of controlled power. It was the Andalusian that gave the Lipizzan breed its great strength and high school ability.
Their athletic ability is astounding, their versatility is unequaled. Still used in Spain today as a bullfighting horses they carry their riders with unimaginable grace and quickness yet they can easily excel in any discipline you choose . From high levels of Dressage to Western from Jumping to Working ranch horse.
Bred genetically strong they will pass on these amazing qualities to partbred offspring. Because of this, for centuries they were used throughout the world to improve other breeds and they still are today. Crossing with an Andalusian can improve, athletic ability, disposition, intelligence, movement, size, bone and hooves.
Read here for more information on partbred Andalusians.
Today there are many Andalusian crosses and some that have developed into recognized new breeds of their own such as the American Azteca, Warlander, Spanish Norman, Iberian Warmblood and Hispano Arab.
The Andalusian is well built; a finely sculptured head with straight or subconvex profile; mobile ears; vivacious eyes with a quiet and kind expression; elegant arched neck with a well developed crest and a long, profuse and often wavy mane and tail. It has well-defined withers and a strong back; well developed chest and rounded quarters with a low tail-set; long sloping shoulders; strong legs with ample bone, broad flexible joints; and the hoof is well formed, sound and iron hard.
Size is generally 15-16.2 hands
Grey is the predominant color followed by bay and black which is more rare. Other colors now accepted include chestnut and the dilute colors.
Today the Andalusian horse can be seen in a wide variety of uses. They versatility is unequalled and they can and do excel in all events and riding and driving disciplines.. When we speak of versatility we are not only referring to the breed as a whole but to each horse. You can do many different things with one horse, with this breed.
They are excellent western event horses, cattle events and working ranch horses and all English events from hunter, pleasure to dressage. Their performance as jumpers is outstanding and they are phenomenal driving horses.
Speaking of dressage: The Andalusian is the original dressage horse and with its easy trainability, exceptional athleticism, natural collection and recent appearances in the Olympics, is today proving to be the ultimate choice for dressage riders.
Take a look at the recent recommendations for the top dressage breeds .
One can really only understand the outstanding qualities that set this breed apart by being around them.
Words cannot adequately convey how wonderful their disposition, willingness and talents really are but their owners will tell you ! They are beautiful, smooth riding and have breathtaking movement. They are highly intelligent and sensitive, easily trained, always responsive and expressive and extremely versatile.
If you have not experienced an Andalusian we highly recommend that you do!
International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds
By Bonnie L. Hendricks, Anthony A. Dent pages 28-33