The attached is
a résumé of a long history that unfolds itself over a period of
more than four thousand years. Knowing it will avoid the repetition
of many past mistakes. There is nothing to innovate on a several
thousand-year-old race, but a lot to preserve. The race alone
by itself, if properly bred will take care of its own evolution.
introduction as a war weapon in the Iberic Peninsula - which is
modern-day Spain and Portugal or Iberia - dates back to the second
millennium BC - much older than all that was recorded by historians
of the rest of the Ancient World on this subject. There is no
evidence of the use of mounted horses in Antiquity, the iconography
of Egypt and Babylon showing only chariots and carts.
horse existed in Iberia even before the Neolithic period. Archeological
findings, such as the tomb of ancient warriors in the South of
the Peninsula, prove that cavalry battles happened during the
Bronze Age and that infantrymen carried halberds - a weapon used
to dismount the enemy in open combat.
Homer in the
Iliad, Chap XVI, refers to the Iberian horses, fast as the wind
and sons of Podargo, the harpy that was impregnated by the wind
Zephyr while grazing at the borders of the River Oceanus - in
modern terms, the Atlantic.
description of the Punic Wars by Strabo is full of references
to the eximious Lusitanian riders who could easily climb
escarpments where no other mounted armies would dare to
such as bits, horseshoes and weapons, dating back to the Celtic
invasion in X and V Centuries BC indicate the continuous use of
cavalry in the Iberic Peninsula. Thucydides and Xenophon wrote
about the Iberian Horsemen sent by Dyonisius of Syracuse to help
the Spartans during the Peloponnesean Wars in IV BC.
In the invasion
of Spain during II BC the Carthaginians suffered heavy losses
inflicted by the Iberian Cavalry. Hannibal's father, Hamilcar,
died in this campaign. When the former departed from Spain to
invade Italy he took with him some 12,000 horses. The description
of the Punic Wars by Strabo is full of references to the eximious
Lusitanian riders, who could easily climb escarpments where no
other mounted armies would dare to try. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's
brother, took Iberian horses with him from Spain to Carthage.
that first appeared in America and later became extinct made his
return with Columbus, in his second voyage to the New World in
1493. From Hispaniola (Sto. Domingo) the equines gained the neighboring
islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica and from there reached
the continent in Central America. Originating in Central America,
two independent migration waves took place: one southwards to
Columbia and then Peru, Chile and Bolivia; the other northwards,
enlarged by late comers that arrived in Mexico with Cortez, entered
the west of the USA.
In South America,
a group of horses arrived in Buenos Aires in 1535 with Pedro Mendoza.
Following the destruction of the Argentine capital by the Indians,
a large group of horses escaped to become the future feral basis
of many herds of Cimarrones or Baguales, which later formed the
ancestral herds of the Crioulos. In 1541, Cabeza de Vaca landed
with several horses on the Brazilian coast at Sta. Catarina on
his way to Paraguay. All the horse breeds formed on the North
and South American Continents - such as the Mustangs, Quarter
Horses, Appaloosas, Seminolas, Cayuses, Crioulos, Mangalargas,
Campolinas etc. - are direct or indirect descendants of the Iberians.
the horse breeds formed on the North and South American
Continents, such as the Mustangs, Quarter Horses, Appaloosas,
Seminolas, Cayuses, Crioulos, Mangalargas, Campolinas etc.
are direct of indirect descendants of the Iberians."
Livy, both tell us how the Iberian Horses were terrible opponents
for the Roman Legions during the wars that lasted for more than
200 years. "…the Romans never excelled in the use of their
cavalry always surpassed by the Iberians," explains Dr Jose
Monteiro in his book O Cavalo Lusitano: "The combat
tactics and riding style of the Peninsula (gineta) were learned
and adopted by the Romans and a Lusitanian named Caius Apuleius
Diocles became very famous as a horseman in the III century AD
being honored with a statue in the Fields of Mars in Rome."
to Dr Ruy d'Andrade, a writer and the 'father' of the Andrade
lineage, the equestrian statues of Balbo, Caligula - mounted on
Incitatus - and later Marcus Aurelius - who was born in Spain
- are clear evidence of the widespread use of Iberian horses by
who invaded Iberia in 409 AD did not suppress the Roman civilization
they found in place and horse breeding continued as before. Isidore
wrote in the "Laudes Hispanie" that the Iberian Horses
were the best in the world.
and all other invaders came with a variety of different horse
breeds from Italy, Libya, Numidia and Mauritania among many others.
But, as pointed out by Ruy d'Andrade in his book Alrededor
del Caballo Espanol "…the peaceful and restful atmosphere
that prevailed in Iberia since the year 100 BC until approximately
600 AD, plus the 250 years or so of Gothic domination (450 to
700 AD) form a time span of more than 800 years, more than enough
for the fixation of a local breed perfectly adapted to the environment."
discuss the Arab invasion of the VII century in contradictory
terms. Dr Jose Monteiro explains: "…the Moslem invasion of
the Peninsula was carried out with the deployment of a very small
cavalry exclusively formed by Berber horses…some disagree putting
the numbers at 17,000; others up to 30,000."
long period of Moorish domination lasting from 711 to 1492 AD,
foreign blood was introduced with the horses brought in from North
Africa. However, because the Berber and the Iberian are very closely
related, this wave of foreign blood was easily absorbed without
impact upon the indigenous homogenous racial type of the Peninsula.
We know by the numerous testimonies of that period that the Iberian
horse fascinated the invaders who were a horse loving people like
the Iberians. It is also clear that not only did the breeding
of the Iberian Horse continue to prosper but more than that, many
excellent animals were then exported to Africa and the Middle
East. The Middle Ages was also a period of prestige for the Iberian
Horse and they were used during the Crusades by many famous warriors
such as Richard the Lion Heart (1119 AD).
of the Middle Ages considered the Iberian Horse as the thoroughly
noble blood horse and for that reason it was exported to
all the parts of the continent to produce lighter fighting
horses," writes Ruy d'Andrade.
In the Renaissance
the Iberian Horses were known under the denomination of Ginnetes
or Villani and were probably the result of crosses with other
breeds from Germany, France and Flanders. This search for a sturdier
and taller horse grew during the reigns of the Spanish monarchs
Charles V, Philip II and Philip III and was responsible for the
introduction of the Neapolitan Horse.
XVII and XVIII centuries it was necessary to breed a stronger
bigger horse, capable of carrying man in armor. From 1700 onwards
with the improvement of the roads in Europe came the rapid development
of carriages and carts as a preferred way of transportation.
between the Lusitano and the Spanish horses began in the XVII
century as explained by Jose Tello Barradas. "Among
the many factors that caused the differences that exist today
between the Lusitanian and the Andalusian races, I believe that
the most important one was the introduction and absolute preponderance
of the bullfighting on foot in Spain at the beginning of the XVIII
Cordeiro further describes this fact in the following passage
from his book Cavalo Lusitano:
of the bullfight on horseback in Spain forced the introduction
of a new selection process in horse breeding…which became focused
on the selection of a sporting horse with elevated and exuberant
movements. In Portugal however, where bullfighting on horseback
continues to be the only accepted form, a more cautious selection
was practiced to produce a specialized fighting horse, that combines
muscular force with progressive movements, making possible the
sudden sprints and abrupt stops…"
In the XIX
century the development of Postal Services, the improvement of
the roads and finally the railroads brought the relative decline
of the saddle horse. The process was accelerated in the XX century,
particularly during World War I (1914/18) with the increased use
of the automobile and the disastrous introduction of Arabian and
Thoroughbred bloods in the military services and breeding programs.
"The Iberian Horses, even in the Peninsula itself, were the
victims of these fashion trends from which only a handful of traditional
and wise breeders escaped unscathed," wrote Dr Ruy d'Andrade.
The long several
thousand year history of the Iberian Horse shows that this powerful
race survived all these accidents and trends. No matter how extensive
or how bad the incursions of other bloods or fashions, there is
today, everywhere, a renewed interest and strong demand for these
fabulous animals resulting in a steep increase in their market
A few thousand
inferior horses introduced by the barbarian invasions could not
alter the essential qualities of a population of over half a million
horses that already lived in the Peninsula. For the same reasons
the arrival of Arabian blood in the VII century and the later
presence of northern races in the XIX and XX centuries did not
have a lasting effect upon the Iberian races. The colonization
of America has shown that large herds living at large in nature
end up returning to the original type and in this process, "the
spurious disappears expelled by the inadaptability" (Ruy d'Andrade),
Horse has thus survived as a pure breed, notwithstanding the differences
in size, type and utilization in the many regions of Portugal
and Spain. In 1967 the Portuguese Stud Book (Livro Genealogico
Portugues de Equinos) was officially introduced under the responsibility
of the Portuguese Association of Lusitano Horse Breeders (Associação
Portuguesa de Criadores do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano - APSL).