What is a Lusitano?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Lusitano is the second of two ancient horse breeds, often lumped together as Iberian horses because they originated in the Iberian peninsula. The Lusitano is bred and prized in Portugal, while the other Iberian horse, the Andalusian, is bred in Spain. Although the two breeds of horse are sometimes referred to together, they have been bred for different characteristics, and separate stud books are maintained for each, although some interbreeding does occur.

Lusitanos originate in Portugal and are often grouped with Andalusians as Iberian horses.
Lusitanos originate in Portugal and are often grouped with Andalusians as Iberian horses.

The origins of the Lusitano are thousands of years old, making it one of the oldest breeds of horse in Europe. The horses were greatly prized for their performance in the battlefield historically, and their development was heavily influenced by breeds such as the small and sturdy Celtic horses as well as Arabians, brought to the Iberian peninsula with the Moors. In time, the finely bred horses were also highly sought after by royalty.

Bravery and calmness are two traits associated with the Lusitano, which has been bred in Portugal to perform in the bullring. The ability to confidently face down an angry bull is also useful in the chaos of a battlefield, and the Lusitano was a popular choice of combat horse for this reason. The horses also have immense stamina, and strong bodies to carry themselves through a long day of work.

The dominant colors for Lusitanos are bay, gray, and black, although a wide range of colors is accepted in the breed. Palomino and cream horses are rare and particularly sought after, with some stud farms specializing in developing pale Lusitano horses to please their clients. The horses tend to have convex Roman faces, rather than the fine boned faces associated with Andalusians, and they have arched necks, short, strong backs, and muscular chests.

Riders prize the Lusitano for its calm and brave nature, and the horses are used in a variety of equestrian disciplines. Lusitanos frequently star in Olympic events like show jumping and eventing, and they are also used in dressage and driving. The highly intelligent horses are slow to panic, and well-trained Lusitanos are excellent choices for beginning riders, as they tend to be patient and serene, rather than fractious and difficult to manage.

In dressage, both types of Iberian horses are favorites because of their powerful, high stepping gaits. The horses are also incredibly muscular, allowing them to perform physically demanding dressage moves with apparent ease. The Lusitano also has a very noble and elegant appearance, which appeals to many dressage judges and riders alike.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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