One of the most recognizable horse breeds in the world today has to be the Andalusian, or the Purebred Spanish horse. Large and glossy, these horses have been found on the Iberian peninsula for millennia. They were popular with Spanish nobles throughout the history of the country, and are a highly protected national treasure in that country. In fact, exporting of Andalusians was illegal until the late 1960s. This has made Andalusians one of the rarest breeds in the world today.
Andalusians are one of the few horse breeds that can claim direct descent from wild, prehistoric stock. The ancestors of the Andalusian have been depicted on cave paintings throughout the Iberian Peninsula.
These horses always caught the eye of whichever was the dominant culture of the Peninsula at the time, whether it was the Romans, the Celts, Moors, or Germans. As you may have noted, all of these cultures were particularly warlike, and the strength of the Andalusians would aid them in many battles.
The distinct appearance of these horses meant they were coveted by the highly placed throughout the world. Andalusians have one of the oldest stud books in the world for any breed, going back to the late 1400s. They are unique in that monasteries were the first to record efforts to breed this horse specifically, in contrast to the efforts of nobility and the rich with other breeds.
Despite monastic origins, however, the Andalusians as a breed were by no means confined to the simple life. Representatives of the breed were to be found at every royal court in Europe, and in fact Andalusians were known as the “royal horse of Europe”. Cortez and other Conquistadors would take Andalusians to the New World with them, although the blood lines of course could not remain pure.
The bloodlines of the horse were threatened when Napoleon and his armies invaded Spain and captured many of the coveted animals. Some were kept hidden, however, and the breed was revitalized from that stock. Diseases would also take their toll on the population, with a serious epidemic breaking out in 1832. In fact, only one small herd would survive the plague, in a monastery in Cartuja.
There are several Andalusian registrations associations in the world today, including those in countries such as the United States, Spain, and Australia. The breed continues to be rare, however, and remarked upon whenever they may be found.
Andalusians are among the larger of the horse breeds, with typical individuals standing from 15.2 to 16.2 hands high. They maintain this size while also retaining a lot of power in their strong forms. At the same time, they are still one of the world’s most elegant horse breeds in appearance, with flowing and sharply defined lines.
Andalusians have very large chests, perhaps one of the most distinctive features of the breed. They also have average head lengths. They are known to be proud horses, although docile and sensitive. They are also regarded as highly intelligent, easily learning different moves for both work and show.