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Breed History

P.R.E. ~ Pura Raza Española ~ Pure Spanish Horse ~ Andalusian

The Legacy of Kings Awaits You!

History of the Name Andalusian

  In the Iron age the Phoenicians, Greeks, Celts, Carthaginians and Romans came to the Iberian peninsula. Carthage extended its control to include all of Iberia except the Basque Country. Andalusia was the major staging ground for the war with Rome led by the Carthaginian general Hannibal. The Romans defeated the Carthaginians and conquered Andalusia, which was fully incorporated into the Roman Empire. 


Celtic tribes migrated, not invaded, the Iberian Peninsula from about 1000 – 300 BC in two migratory waves: 900 BC and 700 – 600 BC. The Vandals moved briefly through the region during the 5th century AD before settling in North Africa, after which the region fell into the hands of the Visigothic Kingdom.  During this period, around 555 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire conquered Andalusia and established Spania, a province of the Byzantine Empire from 552 until 624.  The Visigothic era came to an abrupt end in 711 with the Umayyad conquest of Hispania.


In this period, the name "Al-Andalus" was applied to a much larger area than the present Andalusia, and in some periods it referred to nearly the entire Iberian peninsula.   Al-Andalus is the Arab name for Andalucía, came from prior name derived from the 'Vandals', the Goth people that occupied that land after the roman empire decaying in the 5th century.   The entire peninsula was called Andaluz,hence the name of the horse after the peninsula.

Taking this ancient name Andaluz several centuries later, the region of Andalucia, Spain, is the location where many early breeders of the Pure Spanish Horse or Andalusian were concentrated.  There are multi-generational breeders of the Spanish Horse still flourishing today in this region, with long established, century old breeding programs. After the demise of the Military cavalry, the 20th century brought diminished numbers for the breed.  Spain experienced a severe draught, a recession and the unwelcomed African horse sickness in 1966 as well as 1987-1990 which claimed the lives of thousands.  Once more, the breed flourishes, and today there are several hundred of breeders of the Pura Raza Espanola. The climate of Spain is certainly ideal for raising horses.

The name P.R.E. - Pura Raza Española, or Pure Spanish Horse, originated in 1567 Spain with an unprecedented  breeding program developed by King Philip II.  By the king’s decree and highest standards, he selected roughly 1200 mares procured from breeders around the countryside. These mares and a select group of stallions possessing the ideal phenotype or desirable breed traits were brought to the Royal Stables of Cordoba.  The king began his breeding program with the intention of concentrating and defining those baroque traits and improving the breed type, casting his eyes upon the past, reclaiming the purest Baroque horse of the history pages.



"It is the noblest horse in all 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.   - William Cavendish,  Duke of Newcastle,  England  1667

The Legacy of Kings

Awaits You


From "This is the Spanish Horse" written by Juan Llamas Perdigo…

"In the 17th century, referring to multi-kilometer races, William Cavendish said, "They were so much faster than all other horses known at that time that none was ever seen to come close to them, even in the many remarkable races that were run."


In 1831, horses at five years old were expected to be able to gallop, without changing pace, four or five leagues, about 12 to 15 miles (19 to 24 km). By 1925, the Portuguese military expected horses to "cover 40 km over uneven terrain at a minimum speed of 10 km/h, and to gallop a flat course of 8 km at a minimum speed of 800 metres per minute carrying a weight of at least 70 kg", and the Spanish military had similar standards."



    Highly skilled in battle… known for his braveness, strength, and willingness to charge forth into danger, the Iberian horse was triumphant and unmatched for his swiftness, sound limb and athleticism.  He had the stamina to cover vast regions with surprising fleetness, and the sensibility not to give away the position of his rider in ambushes. He learned battle skills such as the capriole and courbette, which were later developed in the classical riding schools as Airs Above the Ground.  This is the very breed from upon which the classical dressage masters developed the foundations of modern day dressage.   

    He was the chosen mount of royalty and present in most of the royal courts in Europe. He possessed striking beauty, nobility, intelligence, versatility, tractability and kindness. He became known as the Horse of Kings or the Royal Horse of Europe.

    Throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the Iberian horse was well known for his superiority throughout Europe.   Riding academies were formed in Austria, France, Italy, Germany & Portugal where dressage & high school movements were developed, refined and flourished. The Iberian horse was the favored mount of the academies for it’s impulsion, forward motion & agility.


    The Spanish & Portuguese horses have been highly prized as bullfighting mounts and utilized for working cattle, carriage driving, and competitive dressage. They are known for their natural ability for collection. 

    The Spanish Horse has influenced many of today's Warmblood breeds as well as Thoroughbreds.  He arrived on the American soils with the Conquistadors and is the forbearer of many of today’s most popular breeds in the Americas, including the Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Mustang, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso, Morgan and Azteca as well as influencing the Lipizzan & Friesian in Europe.

    See Articles section for definitive proof of Iberian blood in the foundations of many warmblood breeds of today.


"It is the noblest horse in all 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."  

~ William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, England 1667



A Spanish Warhorse captured at the Battle of Nieuwpoort ca. 1600


13th Century... Carthusian Monks

Some of the earliest written pedigrees in recorded European history were kept by Carthusian Monks, beginning in the 13th century. Because they could read and write, and were thus able to maintain careful records, monastics were given the responsibility for horse breeding by certain members of the nobility, particularly in Spain. Andalusian stud farms for breeding were formed in the late 15th century in Carthusian monasteries in Jerez, Seville and Cazalla.  


16th Century:

the Finest Horses  in the World

By the 16th century, during the reigns of Charles V (1500–1558) and Phillip II (1556–1581), Spanish horses were considered the finest in the world.  Even in Spain, quality horses were owned mainly by the wealthy.   


During the 16th century, inflation and an increased demand for harness and cavalry horses drove the price of horses extremely high. The always expensive Andalusian became even more so, and it was often impossible to find a member of the breed to purchase at any price.  [source: Bennett, Conquerors].



William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle (UK)

17th Century:

the  Horse  of Kings

By 1667, William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, called the Spanish horse of Andalusia the "princes" of the horse world, and reported that they were "unnervingly intelligent".

The Iberian horse became known as the "Royal horse of Europe" and was seen at many royal courts and riding academies, including those in Austria, Italy, France and Germany. 








Spanish horses also were spread widely as a tool of diplomacy by the government of Spain, which granted both horses and export rights to favored citizens and to other royalty.  As early as the 15th century, the Spanish horse was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean, and was known in northern European countries, despite being less common and more expensive there.  As time went on, kings from across Europe, including every French monarch from Francis I to Louis XVI, had equestrian portraits created showing themselves riding Spanish-type horses.


The kings of France, including Louis XIII and Louis XIV, especially preferred the Spanish horse; the head groom to Henri IV, Salomon de la Broue, said in 1600, "Comparing the best horses, I give the Spanish horse first place for its perfection, because it is the most beautiful, noble, graceful and courageous".  War horses from Spain and Portugal began to be introduced to England in the 12th century, and importation continued through the 15th century.


In the 16th century, Henry VIII received gifts of Spanish horses from Charles V, Ferdinand II of Aragon and the Duke of Savoy and others when he wed Katherine of Aragon. He also purchased additional war and riding horses through agents in Spain.  


By 1576, Spanish horses made up one third of British royal studs at Malmesbury and Tutbury.  The Spanish horse peaked in popularity in Great Britain during the 17th century, when horses were imported from Spain and exchanged as gifts between royal families.



Celtic Iberians - 4th Century

Celt-Iberian bronze horse standard, from
celtiberianhorseman BC ancients-1.jpg
denarius of Arsaos, a city in the mounta

this section is under development!


PRE Historic - Paleolithic Period


Caves at Altamira c. 15000 BC

Cave Painting at La Pasiega.jpg

Cave Paintings   of La Pasiega (16,000 BC)
Cueva de La Pasiega, Monte Castillo, Spain

Armintxe cave in the Basque village of L

From where did this Baroque Horse Originate?


     Many believe the Iberian horses are one of the oldest breeds on Earth. He was already present on the Iberian peninsula when the Celts arrived in the 4th century.  The breed is thought by many to date back long before the Roman empire. There is evidence....


    Cave drawings found in the region of Andalucia date back to approximately 30,000—20,000 B.C.  As recently as 2016, additional cave paintings with horses were located in Spain's outlying regions. {ictured are a few examples. These caves are not open to the public for preservation purposes. Carbon dating estimates 12.000-14,500 ryrs old. 


    The Phoenicians encountered this horse in battle in 4,000 BC.  The Celts discovered him upon their arrival in the 4th century Iberia. The Greeks  & Romans were taken with it’s bravery & cunning.  The Moors arrived in the 7th century invasion and returned to their homelands with many Iberian horses.


    Since its presence and definitive type was identified long before the Moorish invasion, it was clearly not a product of Arabian blood outcrossing.  Some accounts of Andalusian history are completely incorrect on this matter.

Armintxe Cave, Basque town of Lekeitio,14,000 BC

Spain. Casa Cusau Local Area.jpg

Cave drawings, Spain. Casa Cusau area

caves at La Pileta Malaga, Spain.jpg

Cave drawings  at La Pileta, Malaga, Spain


Quotes  from  the  Masters

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