LusitanoFamily: EquidaeEquus caballusPhoto © Animal World: Courtesy Ken Childs
The Lusitano, like its close relative the Andalusian, is one of the oldest breed of horse!
The Lusitano is named for Lusitania, a name the Roman's gave to the land that is known today as Portugal. The Lusitano along with the Andalusian can trace their ancestry back to the primitive Sorraia horse from the Iberian Peninsula, which around 900 B.C. was mixed with horses from Northern Africa. The Sorraia, perhaps the oldest breed of horse, is depicted in early cave paintings found in that area dating back to 22,000 B.C.
The Lusitano is a Portuguese breed that is closely related to the Andalusian. Their shared ancestry gives them similar characteristics; a short back, strong hindquarters, and a high-stepping gait. The two began to differ in the 17th century, when the Spanish veered the development of the Andalusian more toward pleasure riding. The Lusitano on the other hand, was selectively bred for bull fighting, which it is still used for in Portugal today. It is known for bravery, calmness, agility, and a tendency to move toward a threat. It is also amazingly gifted at high level dressage.
Until the 1960's, Andalusians and Lusitanos shared a registry. But the Lusitano breeders wanted to re-emphasize the distinctive characteristics of the breed, and formed the first official Lusitano registry in 1966.
The Lusitano is a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or 'other'. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the 'other' classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. The 'other' types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the Lusitano fits into is the 'other' class.
The Lusitano and the Andalusian can trace their ancestry back to the primitive Sorraia horse found on the Iberian Peninsula as far back as 20,000 BC. The Sorraia is depicted on cave paintings dated to this time period. Phoenician traders and Celts brought horses from Northern Africa to the Iberian Peninsula around 900 BC, which mixed with the Sorriaia horse.
The Lusitano derives its name from Lusitania, the name the Romans gave to the part of the Iberian Peninsula that is now Portugal. The Lusitano has a shared ancestry with the Andalusian, and has similar characteristics of a short back, strong hindquarters, and a high-stepping gait that also make it an amazing dressage horse.
The two breeds began to differ in characteristics when the Spanish stopped using horses for bull fighting in the 17th Century, and therefore started breeding Andalusian horses more for pleasure riding. The Portuguese continue to use Lusitanos for bull fighting, and therefore sought to keep their characteristics intact.
The prime characteristics they bred for were bravery, calmness, and agility; with a tendency to move toward a threat. The Lusitano was used by most people as an all around workhorse for farm work, pulling carriages, and as a cavalry mount. Until the 1960s, Andalusians and Lusitanos shared a registry, but Lusitano breeders wanted to re-emphasize the distinctive characteristics of the breed and formed the first official Lusitano registry in 1966.
The Lusitano is a compact horse with a short back, muscular shoulders and hindquarters, and long, slender legs. It has a beautiful thick, arching neck and a full, wavy mane and tail.
The features that most distinguish it from an Andalusian are the more pronounced convexity of the head, the more sloping croup, and the lower set tail.
Lusitanos generally stand between 15 and 16 hands high, and, like the Andalusian, are predominantly grey in color.
Lusitanos are high energy horses so they ideally should be exercised on a regular schedule and turned out in a paddock daily. Their manes and tails require regular grooming to keep them thick and healthy.
Lusitanos continue to be used in bull fights in Portugal, and the same agility, strength, and beautiful gaits that make them great bull fighting horses also make them amazing dressage horses. Along with the Andalusian and the Lipizzaner, the Lusitano is one of the few breeds that can properly perform the Haute Ecole dressage movements. It is also a beautiful carriage horse.
Since most Lusitanos are grey, they tend to be prone to melanomas. Melanomas are a problem in any light-colored horses due to the lack of pigmentation in the skin. They tend to form in areas where the hair is thin, such as on the muzzle and around the tail, so keep an eye out for bumps in these areas.
The Lusitano is becoming more popular in the United States and the UK, but it is still a fairly rare breed and may be a bit difficult to find. As they are rare purebreds, they will tend to be expensive.