The Andalusian is one of the oldest horse breeds that is known to exist still today. Sometimes it is referred to as the “PRE,” which stands for Pura Raza Espanola, or the Pure Spanish Horse. Its origins begin at the Iberian Peninsula, where this breed’s ancestors have lived for several thousand years.
The Andalusian has been recognized as an individual breed for more than 600 years. The conformation for this breed has changed very little over the centuries, though its role in society has changed as the world has continued to evolve. This ancient breed has been prized by nobility, treasured as a war horse, and even been endangered at one point.
Here are some more interesting Andalusian horse facts to help you get to know this beautiful breed of horse better.
#1. Andalusian horses were often used as a tool of diplomacy.
The Spanish government during the Middle Ages recognized the value of this strong, mild-tempered horse almost immediately. The kings of Europe loved to own and ride Spanish horses, especially the Andalusian, because of their great versatility. Because of this, the Spanish would often give horses from this breed as a gift whenever they needed to create better ties with their neighboring governments.
#2. It is only recently that the Andalusian has become a global breed.
This is because the Spanish government actually banned the export of Andalusians from Spain until the 1960s. Part of this is due to the endangerment numbers from the 1800s when the horse breed was almost completely eliminated. Crossbreeding, warfare, and disease reduced Andalusian numbers dramatically in Spain and the recovery took nearly 150 years to complete. Today, however, there are nearly 200,000 registered Andalusians around the world.
#3. Most Andalusian horses are some shade of grey.
Andalusians have a compact and elegant style about them, but they are also built with great strength. The most common coat color for this breed is grey, though many other colors are allowed within the breed to still meet standards. About 80% of the horses that are registered for this breed have this coloring.
#4. Some breeders believe there is a “pure” Andalusian.
There is a sub-strain within this horse breed which is referred to as a Carthusian horse. Some breeders consider the Carthusians to be the purest strain of the Andalusian breed, but there is not actual genetic evidence to back up this claim. This sub-strain is considered to be separate from the main breed, which also means Carthusians tend to priced higher than a “standard” Andalusian.
#5. There are lawsuits in action regarding breed confirmation.
The Andalusian associations around the world have several competing registries and records for this breed. Many will register the horse as a PRE or Andalusian, but there can be many differences in what their definition of this breed happens to be. Even the purity of the various strains of the breed have different definitions in the various associations. There are also questions of legality in regards to stud book ownership. There is a lawsuit active currently to determine the ownership of the Spanish stud book for this breed.
#6. The Andalusian is considered to be a light horse breed.
This means that most of the horses within this breed weigh 1,500 pounds or less. This makes them useful today as a riding horse, for dressage, or for trail riding. You’ll also find them used for light ranch work and for racing, depending on the temperament of the individual horse. Most horses in this breed will stand at 14.3-15 hands, with mares often weighing less than 1,000 pounds. Their main physical feature is a broad and strong chest, though “elite” sub-strains may have specific features that they want emphasized in addition to those mentioned above.
#7. The history of this breed may date back as far as 20,000 BC.
It is believed that the Andalusian horse has its ancestry with the ancient Sorraia breed. The Sorraia is a horse that has been depicted in several cave drawings that were found on the Iberian Peninsula and the surrounding region. This means the bloodlines of the Andalusian horse date back as far as the modern human bloodlines that have been discovered to date.
#8. Andalusians may have helped to establish the Roman Empire.
The horses from the Iberian Peninsula were celebrated as some of the best cavalry mounts by the Romans, especially during the time when our modern calendar would transition from BC to AD. Several successful war stories from other empires also involve this horse breed or its ancestors, including the Spartan victory over Athens during the Peloponnesian wars.
#9. This horse breed has a high emotional intelligence.
Not only are Andalusians an intelligent horse from a “clever” standpoint, but they also have an almost empathic sense about them, understanding the emotions of their owners on a day-to-day basis. This also tends to make this breed more shy than other breeds, though these horses are quick learners and will excel in the right environment.
#10. Andalusians are generally considered to be a “low maintenance” horse.
This breed tends to stay at a healthy weight with a fairly low feeding requirement. Not every owner realizes this, so laminitis can be a real problem within this breed because the horses are being accidentally overfed or not being given enough daily activity.
#11. The Andalusian needs regular grooming in order to stay healthy.
The thick and beautiful mane and tail of this horse is often its most recognizable physical trait. Their coat requires regular trimming and pulling for the horse to remain healthy. In colder and wetter climates, rain rot can be a real problem for these horses without regular grooming. Scratching can also become an issue in certain areas. Many recommend that owners cut the tail straight across at the bottom, at the height of the fetlocks, to support good horse health.
#12. Andalusians make for beautiful dressage horses.
Their active gait and overall strength make this breed a popular dressage option. Their strength in the hindquarters in particular, allowing them to perform the Haute Ecole movements with ease, makes them one of the few breeds that succeeds regularly with High Dressage. You’ll also find Andalusians in eventing and show jumping on a frequent basis, though there can be Thoroughbred crossbreeding for jumpers and this may disqualify that individual horse from the breed registry.
#13. The Andalusian is still used for traditional purposes in Spain.
The popularity of the Andalusian breed may have spread around the world, but in Spain, these horses are still used for cattle work. They are also still used for bull fighting at the local level.
#14. The colorization of the Andalusian can make it more prone to skin cancer.
Because most of the horses in this breed are grey in color, they often have lighter skin than other horses. This makes the breed more prone to the development of melanomas than other breeds. Owners of lighter-colored Andalusians are often encouraged to watch for bumps on the horse, especially around the tail and the muzzle, to prevent a health issue from developing.
#15. Andalusians need to have support from an experience farrier.
Andalusians tend to develop quarter cracks and closed heels if their hooves are not worked properly. The hoof and pastern angle is larger with this breed than in other horses, so an inexperience farrier may cause unintentional harm to the horse by improperly trimming the hooves.
#16. There are several superstitions associated with this horse breed.
Like many breeds, there can be white markings within the coat of an Andalusian. The placement of these markings were considered to be evidence of certain temperament or physical traits. Some facial markings, for example, would make people believe that the horse was honest or loyal. A lack of white markings was often associated with the idea that the horse would be ill-tempered.
Even hair whorls were part of the superstitions associated with the Andalusian. If a whorl appeared in a certain spot, then it was considered to be a sign of good luck.
#17. Andalusians are widely available, but often quite expensive.
Because of the popularity of this horse breed, it is possible to own an Andalusian with relative ease. Offspring from a foundation mare will typically be priced in the $15,000-$20,000 range. This cost has caused many breeders to crossbreed with Quarter Horses or other breeds to create cross-Andalusians which sell for $3,500-$5,000 per horse.
These Andalusian horse facts prove that horse has long been a popular breed, especially with their great spirit and courage. From the battlefields of the ancient world to the farm fields of the last century, these horses are versatile, intelligent, and willing to take on any challenge.
With a lofty gallop and action in the trot, their ability to show well has given this horse a reputation of great beauty. They may be difficult to own because of their pricing, but most Andalusian owners would say that it was one of the best investments they ever made.