What’s In a Name? The Difference between Lusitanos and Andalusians
Graceful Agility, Polished Precision, Exquisite Elegance, Spirited and Intelligent Temperaments. These descriptive words fit both the Lusitano and the Andalusian horse. The beauty, power, and grace of Iberian horses is undeniable. With their shared history and similar physiques, the various Iberian breeds are often confused with one another. However, there are subtle yet significant differences between Andalusian and Lusitano horses. Genetically, both breeds are quite similar, yet they have enough differences that two separate breed registries were established in the 1960’s.
A Shared History:
The Iberian Peninsula, which is home to modern-day Spain and Portugal, has long been known for its superior horses. Norse sagas sing the praises of these fast and strong mounts, and the invading Roman Empire was brought to a standstill by the powerful cavalry. During these early times, the Iberian Peninsula was home to many loosely allied tribes. Their amazing horses tended to have similar characteristics due to frequent trades and alliances, which resulted in diverse and desirable bloodlines.
Even though Portugal traces its roots as a separate country back to the 12th century, it took some time for the breeds to diverge significantly. There remained little difference between the Lusitanos and Andalusians until the 17th century, when local laws and customs started influencing horse breeding.
Iberian horses have always been bred for performance rather than appearance alone, and this is reflected in the differences between the two breeds. The first major divergence happened in the late 17th century, when mounted bullfighting was outlawed in Spain but remained popular in Portugal. As Spanish bullfighters began fighting on foot, Andalusian horses began being bred as mounts for the nobility. Lusitanos still needed to prove themselves in front of a bull. The basic look of the two breeds, with their distinctive flowing locks, compact bodies, and Roman noses, remained the same, but subtle differences began to show. Although the two studbooks allowed cross-breeding until 1966, those differences are still present in modern Iberian horses.
The Modern Andalusian:
As Spanish breeders began shifting to accommodate their new market, the type of horse they bred changed accordingly. Those small changes have resulted in the modern Andalusian. These horses retain the compact frame and naturally balanced conformation of their ancestors, but they tend to have a smaller hindquarter and more delicate head than their Portuguese counterparts.
Andalusians are also known for their distinctive gaits. They are a popular choice for steeds in fantasy and historical movies because they tend to have dramatic knee action. Combined with their natural tendency towards collection, this flashy movement makes them popular among dressage riders. Since they were bred to be ridden by a variety of people with varying levels of skill, Andalusians tend to have a fairly docile and calm temperament.
The Modern Lusitano:
Unlike the Andalusian, Lusitanos remain close to their roots as bullfighting mounts. Their most distinctive attribute may be their remarkably strong hindquarters, which give them the ability to explode into movement from a standstill or pirouette away from a charging bull. These natural traits enhance performance in the dressage ring, providing the horse the ability to collect his gaits and use his haunches for upper-level work. Their powerful build also gives them versatility, which is evidenced by their successes in a variety of disciplines including dressage and show jumping. Traditional horsemen still use them to herd cattle, and they excel at the increasingly popular discipline of doma vaquera.
The highly spirited Lusitanos have a more fiery temperament than Andalusians. They are known for their spirit, intelligence and boldness of spirit which shows well in the dressage ring. They are naturally agreeable and want to please. Proper training and fair treatment bring out their best qualities. When trained correctly, Lusitanos have a tendency to become a true partner to their riders.
The Lusitano also tends to stand a little taller than the Andalusian, which is a benefit for many long-legged modern riders. The Andalusian tends to range from 15 to 16 hands, while Lusitanos tend to range from 15.2 to 16.2 hands. Since Lusitanos have been primarily bred with function in mind, they also tend to have more diverse colors than Andalusians. While both breeds accept a variety of colors, Andalusians are usually gray, while Lusitanos can be bay, palomino, dun, and more.
We at Sons of the Wind are partial to our beloved Lusitanos. Their strength, precision and depth of personality make them an ideal choice for amateur enthusiasts to competitive riders.