Use and characteristics of the Lusitano
The Lusitano horse takes its name from Lusitania, the Roman name for the region which now includes Portugal. Their height is usually between 15.2 hands (62 inches/15 cm) and 15.3 hands (63 inches/160 cm) high, although it is possible to buy a Lusitano that is over 16 hands (64 inches/ 162 cm). The majority of Lusitano horses are grey, bay or chestnut, though any solid colour is accepted. The famous Alter Real State Stud breeds only bay Lusitanos and produces probably the most important line for breeders who sell a Lusitano of this colour for breeding stock. Lusitanos combine strength with intelligence and willingness. They are horses of great beauty, with convex facial profiles and graceful paces.
Origin and history of breeding Lusitanos
Lusitanos, like Andalusians, were once thought to be the descendants of ancient horses that were in the Iberian Peninsula up to 20,000 years ago. Recent DNA research has shown that there were two ancient horse lineages, one in central Asia and the other in Iberia. However, the Iberian horse type became extinct, and domesticated horses were probably introduced into Iberia during the Neolithic period. Nonetheless, Lusitano and Andalusian DNA is believed to show evidence of a link to these Neolithic equines, which is still a very long history in terms of European horse breeds. Long before Spain and Portugal existed, the Iberian Peninsula was a place of passage for different groups of people and their horses. The Carthaginians of North Africa were noted breeders and trainers, as were Iron Age tribes from northern Europe such as the Vandals who occupied parts of Iberia and North Africa. In Roman times, Iberia was divided into Lusitania, Tarraconensis and Baetica and auxiliary cavalry units were drawn from all these regions, proving the quality of their horses. It is now known that a local horse breed with ancient roots, the Sorraia, shares ancestry with the Lusitano. Further developments in horse breeding went on when the Moors ruled large areas of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly due to the influence of the Barb, or Berber horse. By late medieval times, Spain and Portugal had both built empires, and horses from the region were the envy of the world and much prized by royalty. The Portuguese Alter Real State Stud was founded in 1748 and royalty bred fine horses here. Until 1966, the Andalusian and Lusitano were effectively the same breed, but in that year, Portugal established a separate studbook for the Lusitano.
Lusitano horses in equestrianism
The compact, agile Lusitano was traditionally used as a war horse and for dressage and bullfighting. These skills now make the Lusitano an excellent choice for any type of equestrian sport or game. They are also used in harness. The important Alter Real Stud has survived many dangers over the centuries and today The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art (Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre) only uses Alter Real Lusitanos in its displays.