Lusitanos are generally gray, bay or chestnut, though they can be of any solid color, including black, dun and palomino. Only bays are bred at the Alter Real stud.They usually stand 15.2 and 15.3 hands (62 to 63 inches, 157 to 160 cm) high, although some stand over 16 hands (64 inches, 163 cm). Members of the breed have narrow, but well-proportioned, heads with profiles that are slightly convex. The necks are thick and arched, leading to well defined withers, shoulders that are muscular and sloping and a deep, broad chest. The horses have short, strong backs and rounded, sloped croups, leading to a low-set tail. The legs are sturdy and muscled. Lusitanos are known as powerful horses, noted for their intelligence and willing nature.The breed’s gaits are agile and elevated, but generally comfortable to ride.The Lusitano differs from the Andalusian through having a more sloped croup, a lower-set tail, and a more convex head profile. The mane and tail are extremely thick in both breeds.
The Andrades are tall, powerful saddle horses, with rounded croup, head profile nearly straight, very functional, with elegant gaits, excellent for bullfighting, dressage and work.
The Veiga bloodline produced the most genuine war horse of Ancient Lusitania. “Veigas” are extremely functional and smaller than the other lineage–excellent for bullfighting.
Prior to modern times, horse breeds throughout Europe were known primarily by the name of the region where they were bred.The Lusitano takes its name from Lusitania, an ancient Roman name for the region that today is Portugal. A very similar horse, the Spanish Andalusian, originally described the horses of distinct quality that came from Andalusia in Spain. Some sources state that the Andalusian and the Lusitano are genetically the same breed, and the only difference is the country in which individual horses are born. The Lusitano is also known as the Portuguese, Peninsular, National or Betico-lusitano horse.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, horses moved continually between Spain and Portugal, and horses from the studs of Andalusia were used to improve the Portuguese cavalry. Portugal’s successful restoration war against Spain (1640-1668) was in part based on mounted troops riding war horses of Spanish blood. During the reign of Philip III of Portugal (also Philip IV of Spain), Portuguese horse breeding reached its lowest point. The Spanish passed laws to halt the country’s production of cavalry horses, and what stud farms did exist were run in secrecy with horses smuggled or stolen from Spain. These secret farms, however, provided the base for the modern Lusitano. In 1662, when Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza of Portugal, the royal dowry included Portugal’s Tangier and Bombay garrisons. These garrisons included large groups of Portuguese cavalry, mounted on Iberian horses.
Prior to the 1960s, the Iberian-type horse was called the Andalusian in both Portugal and Spain. In 1966, the Lusitano name was adopted by Portugal after a studbook separation by the two countries.The revolutions of Portugal’s African colonies resulted in the near economic collapse of Portugal. The landed class attracted political agitators, estates were vacated, and stud farms were broken up and their horses sold to Spain. However, the best lines were saved through the efforts of breeders, and breeding soon increased. Today, Lusitanos are bred mainly in Portugal and Brazil, but maintain a presence in many other countries throughout the world, including Australia, the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, and other European countries. Crossbred horses of partial Lusitano blood are popular, especially when crossed with Andalusian, Arabian or Thoroughbred blood.
The ancestors of the Lusitano were originally used for classical dressage, driving and bullfighting on horseback. Today, Lusitanos are seen in Olympic disciplines, including high-level combined driving competition and dressage.
More recently the intermarriage of Veigas and Andrades, both extremely functional horses, produced some of the most famous stallions of the last quarter of this century: Neptuno, Opus, Novilheiro and Trinco, all sons of Firme (Andrade) with Veiga mothers.
Breed Association:International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association.