Origin: Spain (Andalusia)
Aptitudes: Riding Horse
Average Height: 15.1 to 16.1 h.h.
Population status: Rare
The Andalusian, represented by three bloodlines, the Purebred Spanish Horse (PRE), the Lusitano (PSL) and the original, Purebred Andalusian (PSP), 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.
So widespread was the use of this horse that it became known by many names, resulting in a good deal of confusion. The Andalusian has been represented by the names Iberian Saddle Horse, Iberian Was Horse, Jennet, , Lusitano, Alter Real, Carthusian, Spanish Horse, Portugese, Peninsular, Castilian, Extremeño, Villanos, Zapata and Zamoranos. The famous Jennet of ancient times is unfortunately extinct.
While the word Jennet applied to a specific type of Andalusian famous for its smooth, fast, ambling gait, the term ginete referred to a style of riding (with shortened stirrup) and only indirectly to the horse ridden. As the Spanish horse was ridden in this manner after the invasion by the Moors, it became widely known as Ginete or Jennet.
Those wishing to know the Andalusian should drop some of the widely spread misconceptions about the breed. The Andalusian did not appear suddenly with the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 A.D., when Berber horses were crossed on the native horse of Spain. Often we see history more clearly when it more distant in time. Archeology, anthropology, paleontology, and other sciences have rewritten history as new facts have been revealed.
Another misconception is that the Andalusian obtained its convex profile from the North African Barb. An observation of the probable origin of the Bard will dispel this notion and reveal the reverse to be true.
Invasion by the Arabs brought fresh infusions of Oriental (not Arab) blood to the already renowned horses of Andalusia. Prior to the Muslim invasion, however, the Iberian Peninsula had been invaded and occupied by many others, and the indigenous horses of Spain and Portugal had already received infusions of hot eastern blood as well as cold northern blood. Great quantities of Oriental blood were introduced into Spain centuries prior to the birth of Christ. Periods of civilization and/or invasion of the peninsula include those of the Iberians (originally from north of Africa), peoples of the Alamanni, Basques (province of Navarre), Carthaginians, Celts, Cimbrians, Franks, Greeks, the Moorish invasion of 172-175 A.D., the Muslim invasion of 711 A.D., Ostragoths, Phoenicians, Romans, Suebi, Teutons, Vandals, Vistigoths, and perhaps some others (and not in order given). Each of these civilizations brought horses that had an influence on the native horses of Spain.
Some claim the Iberians domesticated the “Iberian” horse in prehistoric times, and often the impression is given that his means indigenous horses on the peninsula. It is interesting to note, however, that the Iberian people (Ibero in Spanish) who first inhabited the southern coast of Spain are believed to have migrated from “white Africa”. Some migrated about eleventh century C.C., so it is conceivable that the ancient Iberians took with them into Spain in very early times horses that crossed with the indigenous horse. The true origin of their horses is unknown. Possibly they were descendents of early Equidae migrations from Spain, crossing the once existing land bridge at Gibraltar; possibly they had already been mixed with horses from the east.
The Hyksos, Semitic Asiatics who gradually infiltrated the area around the Nile Valley, seized power in Lower Egypt in the seventeenth century B.C. – 600 years prior to the migration of Iberians into Spain. The Hyksos ruled in Egypt during the fifteenth dynasty (ca. 1674-1567 B.C.). The name Hyksos, given by the Egyptain historian Manetto, was translated by the Jewish historian Josephus (first century A.D.) to mean “king shepherds” or “captive shepherds”. It was probably derived from the Egyptian word hequ-khase, meaning “rulers of foreign lands”. The Hyksos introduced many things to Egypt- until then a “backward” civilization- such as the horse, chariots, the compound bow, improved battle axes, and advanced fortification. They were expelled from Egypt by Ahmose I, who reigned about 1570-1546 B.C. It is not difficult to believe that horses spread across the north of Africa once they were established in Egypt. Horses of the Hyksos came from western Asia.
History records that the early Iberian horses improved the existing stock in Spain and that, as early as the eleventh century B.C., the horses of southern Spain were considered better than stock in other parts of the country.
The native or indigenous Iberian horse was the ancient Equus stenonius, still represented by a small remnant of the Sorraia breed. While most historians claim domestication of the horse first took place in the Ukraine, possibly 5,000 B.C., in China about 4,000 B.C. and in Mesopotamia about 2,500 B.C., evidence has been found that could indicate horse domestication as early as 25,000 B.C. on the Iberian Peninsula. Cave paintings were discovered in 1879 in Altamira in northern Spain, and these were linked to previous discoveries in the Dordogne in France. In cave paintings dated approximately 5,000 B.C., in Canforos de Peñarubia in the northwest of Spain, Mesolithic horses are portrayed begin led by men and women – and Magdalenian horse paintings dated about 15,000 B.C. are shown with what appear to be rope halters on their heads. Some scientists dispute this claim, suggesting that the artist was only showing the border of the “mealy mouth” and the lateral lines running down the side of the skull, which together give the impression of a halter.
The horses depicted bear an undeniable likeness to the Sorraia breed, with so-called “Barb” head clearly in evidence. It should be noted that drawings of horse being led does not prove horses were ridden during that period. Probably they were kept as meat and milk animals long before they were used as beast of burden in any capacity.
Equus stenonius was one of the types of original horse believed to have inhabited Spain in prehistoric times. Research indicates this horse migrated into North Africa several millennia prior to domestication of the horse. The Arab invasion in 711 A.D. brought horses from the east which crossed with descendents of Iberian horses in North Africa, producing the Bard. When they penetrated Spain it is probably true to say that more original Spanish blood was returned to the peninsula that any other type. The horses of Spain had become quite mixed by that time with many breeds and were heavier than those of North Africa. The Barb horse did not impress its convex profile on the Andalusian; rather, the ancient Iberian was in full possession of the “Barb” head centuries before there was a horse known as the Barb. Infusions at various times of European and Oriental blood influenced the native horses of Spain, and the Andalusian developed.
The Celtic people, migrating in waves from the eighth to sixth centuries B.C. onward, settled heavily in north and central Spain, penetrated Portugal and Galicia, but left the indigenous Bronze Age Iberian people intact. The name Celtiberian was given to peoples where two cultures overlapped.
One breed usually overlooked when considering equine bloods taken into Spain and Portugal is the Camargue horse, highly though of by Julius Caesar and introduced to the peninsula by the Romans. One interesting characteristic of this ancient breed is the color; all of the foals are born dark, black or bay, and turn grey with maturity – a well-known characteristic in the Lipizzan, a descendant of the Andalusian.
The Goths (Visigoths) from the island of Gotland (in Sweden) also made a contribution to the horses of Spain. About 200 B.C., they migrated through the region now constituting Germany and Poland and into western Russia, settling near the Black Sea for approximately one hundred years. Sacking Rome in 410 A.D., they invaded the Spanish Peninsula in 414 A.D. and rules until the Muslim conquest. This points toward influence of the Gotland horse and undoubtedly to horses of Central Asian steppes such as the Turkmenian.
This great melting pot simmered with varying degrees of infusion and influence of different horse breeds and types as they crossed with various native horses of Spain and Portugal – and there were several. It is a great testimony to the dominant character of one particular native horse- the Sorraia, that throughout all the admixture of foreign blood the emerging result still retained the so-called Barb head, sloping croup, powerful quarters, exceptional action and extremely calm, kind nature.
When we speak of the original Spanish horses we should acknowledge that none is more “Spanish” than another. Those still exist today in relative purity (excepting the Galician), yet their blending added to the ingredients of the Andalusian. Perhaps the most prevalent and dominant was the Sorraia.
The Austuran from the northwestern province of Asturia in Spain in another ancient equine native that contributed to the development of the Andalusian. In the Asturian we may find the origin of the famous Jennet, for the Asturian was (and still is) an ambler. The Galician was the ancient small horse of Galicia, a small Spainish province west of Asturias in the North of Spain. The pure Galician is extinct today but was likely also amoung the horses that made up the Andalusian. The Garrano is another early Spainish and Portuguese horse, thought to be one ancestor to the Asturian and surely an ingredient of the Andalusian. The Pottok or Basque pony, a breed of great antiquity, is also a native of Spain and a possible part of the Andalusian recipe. It is unrealistic to believe, as many do, that the North African Barb was taken into Spain and crossed to the Sorraia alone to produce the Andalusian. It was a much more involved process than that.
While the Andalusian was greatly admired prior to the Arab invasion in 711 A.D. and used as a war horse by the Romans and others, the horses of the Berbers brought refinement and refreshment to the heavier breed, as well as a new style of riding to the country; a la jineta (riding with a shortened stirrup). The inhabitants of Spain, riding their heavier Andalusians in the old style, a la brida, and encumbered by their heavy armor, were no match for the fast Berber warriors, who literally ran circles around them.