The Lusitano Horse is also known as the Puro Sangue Lusitano or the pure blood Lusitano. It is a horse from Portugal and is related to the Andalusian horse of Spain. The Lusitano breed of horses existed in the Iberian peninsula thousands of years ago.
This horse breed is named the Lusitano horse because it originated in Portugal that was earlier known as Lusitania. Incidentally, an exactly similar horse was bred in Spain and that was the Andalusian horse. The Andalusian and Lusitano horses are the same breed but found in different countries, namely Spain and Portugal.
These horses were seen in the royal courts and were used as war horses. They were also used on the farm since they were versatile. The horses have also been used in bullfighting. Today they are used as show horses, sport horses, and general riding.
The ancestors of the Lusitano horses were the Iberian horses that were found in the Iberian peninsula as early as 25,000 BC. This has been seen in the cave paintings of those times. The wild horses of those times were used in war by the people of those times.
By the year 800 BC, the Celts and Iberians had formed an alliance and were breeding strong war horses. These horses were known as the sons of the wind. This was because of a legend that the mares were made pregnant by the wind. The resulting horses were therefore believed to be the fastest.
Ancient texts have references to these horses. It was believed that Hannibal had 12,000 of these horses. The Iliad by Homer also has references to these horses. In 711 AD, the Iberian peninsula was invaded by the Iberians. They brought Barb horses with them whose bloodline was added to the local horses.
The resulting horse was called the Iberian warhorse. It was taken by the Spanish conquistadors to the American continent. These horses were used locally for mounted bullfighting and in various riding academies throughout Europe.
The horses were used through the 16th and 17th centuries for war. They were bred to be able to carry warriors in armour. The production of cavalry horses was stopped by King Phillip III. Stud farms that were being operated started working in secrecy. These farms produced the modern Lusitano horse.
The name Lusitano horse was formally given in 1966 after the studbook of the Lusitano and Andalusian horses were separated. The Portuguese studbook was introduced and the APSL formed to regulate breeding and registration of this breed.
The colonial empire of the Portuguese came apart in the post-second world war era. During this time, many stud farms were closed and the horses sold to Spain. Breeders, however, put in a lot of effort to revive the species. Even as many horses were sold, the best were retained and bred.
The Alter Real is a strain of this bred that has been bred at the Alter real state stud in Portugal. A breeder named Ruy d’ Andrade played a key role in reviving this strain. The horses now continue to be produced at the state stud. These horses have been used by the royal family. They are used for dressage events.
The unique characteristic of the Lusitano horse is that it is a ‘baroque’ horse. These horses are a unique blend of elegance, strength, intelligence, and a calm demeanor.
Another distinguishing feature of this horse is the thick mane it has. The silky hair on the mane enhances its appearance. Its tail is also long.
Lusitano horses are easy keepers. They don’t require too much maintenance. A regular diet given for horses includes hay, grass, and grain. Being an easy keeper, there is a tendency of developing metabolic problems. The diet needs to be monitored for this purpose.
The horses should not be allowed to graze at lush pastures as this can lead to overeating and metabolic problems. Commonly hay, beet pulp, hay mix, vegetable oil, and a feed concentrate can be included in the horse’s diet. The concentrate usually does not exceed 2 kg per day.
Earlier these horses were fed more forage with low proteins (2%) and concentrate with high proteins (15%). Today the horses are fed forage with higher protein content (up to 11%) and concentrate with not more than 11% protein. More starch content was included that can be digested easily.
The diet of the Lusitano depends on its body weight and the nature of work done.
Breeding And Uses
Initially bred as a warhorse, the horse is today used for bullfighting, shows, and as a riding horse.
The Portuguese studbook has recognized six horses as being the foundation horses for the modern Lusitano. These six horses were:
- Regedor: This stallion belonged to the Alter Real variant and was born in 1923.
- Primorosa: This horse born in 1927 was a Dominquez Hermanos stallion.
- Destinado: This 1930 born stallion was also a Dominquez Hermanos stallion.
- Marialva II: This Antonio Fontes Pereira de Melo stallion was born in 1930.
- Agareno: This was a Veiga stallion born in 1931.
- Hucharia: This was a mare belonging to the Coudelaria Nacional was born in 1943.
The APSL (Associacao Portuguesa de Criadores do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano) is the statutory body in Portugal that is responsible for registration of the breed, grading, events, etc. The APSL is responsible for maintaining the studbook for this horse breed.
The International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association or IALHA is a combined registry maintained for horses that are crossbred and have one Lusitano as the parent. The Australasian Lusitano Horse Association of Australasia (LHASA) handles the registration in Australia and New Zealand. These organizations are recognized by the APSL.
There are four lineages of the Lusitano breed that are recognized. These are:
- Alter Real (AR)
- Coudelaria Nacional (CN)
- Veiga (MV)
- Andrade (RA)
The Lusitano is not a large horse. Its size is between 15.3 hands (62 inches or 157 cm) and 15.3 hands (63 inches or 160 cm). Sometimes you can find a horse that is much taller and growing up to 16 hands (64 inches or 163 cm).
This medium-sized horse weighs between 900 to 1,100 pounds.
What Breeds Make Up The Lusitano Horse?
The Lusitano shares its bloodline with the Andalusian. Both these horses are genetically similar. It is only in the 1960s that the Spanish and Portuguese stud books were separated leading to this horse being named the Lusitano.
The wild Iberian horses that roamed thousands of years ago are believed to be the ancestors of this horse. The Sorraia horse that roamed the Iberian peninsula is the horse whose bloodline makes up the Lusitano. There are some who deny this saying the Sorraia is a recent breed and is hence not an ancestor to the Lusitano.
The Barb bloodline also has helped in making the modern Lusitano. These horses were brought to the continent by the Muslims of the Umayyad Caliphate.
The Lusitano horses can be of any solid color. There are no requirements in terms of color for the registration of these horses. Usually, the horses are bay in color, chestnut-colored, or gray. It is also possible to find black Lusitanos, dun colored horses, and even buckskin and Palomino horses.
Very rarely horses with cremello coloration can be found. These can also be registered.
What Do They Look Like?
The Lusitano is a medium-sized horse. It has a long and narrow head that gives it a noble appearance. The nose is finely curved. The horse usually has a convex profile. The eyes are large and are usually almond-shaped.
The horse has an arched neck that is thick. It has a high wither that is smooth from the neck until the back. It has sloped croups and the back is short and strong. The body has powerful shoulders that gave it the ability to be a warhorse. The chest is broad and deep.
The hindquarters are powerful. It has fine legs with the bone being dense. The hind leg position is behind the body axis. This ensures the hock action of the horse. The mane and the tail are silky and abundant. The tail is set low.
What Is A Lusitano Horse Used For?
The Iberian war horse from which the Lusitano descended was used for war to carry armored soldiers. The horse was also used by royals. Being a strong horse it was also used for heavy work.
The horse is used for dressage and driving. Lusitano horses are seen in driving competitions and have won the world championship. In the 2006 world equestrian games, the entire Portuguese team was seen on Lusitanos. The gold medal was won by the Belgian team that rode on Lusitanos.
The horses are used for bullfighting where the bull is not killed. It is considered an insult to the bullfighter if the horse is injured.
Where Do They Live?
The Lusitano and the Andalusian are Iberian horses found in Spain and Portugal. After the separation of the studbook, the Lusitano is found mostly in Portugal. These horses are popular and are found all over the world.
The Lusitano is found in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, UK, Germany, Netherlands, and other countries.
How Long Do They Live?
The Lusitano is a very old horse. It is a strong horse that has a long life. The horse can live for the full span of life, which is 25 to 30 years. This makes the horse one of the longest living ones among various breeds.
The horse is an easy keeper. It is usually in good health and does not face major health problems. Some specific problems that some horses of this breed face are:
- Metabolic issues that require proper diet management.
- Laminitis can occur in the hoof that requires long-term treatment.
- The horses may have lesser blood flow to the intestine.
How Fast Are They?
The Lusitano is a strong horse with good legs. It is not a racing horse but can run fast if needed. It has an average speed of 10 km per hour.
How Much Do They Cost?
The Lusitano is a long-lived horse with not many health problems. This makes the horse a bit expensive and may cost around $12,000 on average. It is possible to get a horse even at $6,000.
The best horses that are trained can be expensive and their price can go up to $48.000. The horses are available through the association and from breeders.
Are Lusitano Horses Good For Beginners?
The Lusitano is a strong horse that is fairly powerful. At the same time, it is gentle in nature. It is calm and quick thus able to handle the pressure in a bullfighting event. It is an intelligent horse that is amenable to training.
The horse is suitable for all types of riders thanks to its pleasant temperament. However, this horse has a forward movement that beginners can find difficult to handle. This is why it is more suited for intermediate riders.
Conclusion / Summary
The Lusitano horse and the Andalusian are Iberian horses of the same breed. They originated from the Iberian war horses that existed thousands of years ago. The Lusitano as a breed is a fairly new one. It was identified as a breed after a separate studbook was created in 1967.
The horse has been bred as a warhorse initially. It was also used for mounted bullfighting. Today this horse is used for bullfighting, dressage, and as a riding horse. The horse has done well in international events and won many medals.
The Lusitano is a powerful horse that is medium-sized. It lives for up to 30 years and is in good health. The horse is intelligent and gentle in nature. Handling the horse is not a problem. It is an easy keeper and owners won’t find it difficult to handle.
It is a multi-talented horse that is willing and eager to learn. This is why the horse has been successful as a show horse.