Famous Spanish Horse Breed – Qualities & Behaviors


Balearic Horse Breed

Another ancient breed is to be found on the island of Majorca, in the Balearics. These horses, which are most abundant in the Palma district, differ markedly from all other breeds. Especially characterized by their slender limbs and free, graceful carriage, they vary in color from dark to light brown, and have short, thick, and arched necks, with thick, upright manes, which are often clipped.

The delicate head, with backward directed ears, is distinctly roman-nosed and is carried sharply against the short neck when the animal is galloping. In this respect, the Majorcan breed differs markedly from Algerian and Andalusian horses, which carry their heads stretched out straight, nearly in the line of the neck. The Majorcan horses may be compared to those depicted on ancient vases and Greek coins, and it is believed that they are the survivors of the ancient type.

This identification, if trustworthy, is of great interest, as it serves to indicated that the hog-manes of the early Grecian horses, like those sculptured on the frieze of the Parthenon, were natural, although, as in the case of the Majorcan breed, improved by trimming. This seems to be indicative of the affinity of both breeds to the wild tarpan; and affords further evidence that the falling manes of modern horses, other than the Arab, are due to domestication.

It will be appreciated that the Balearic breed is, from the point of view of the student of horse-breeding, one of exceptional interest, and even the novice will realize that this is a most unusual breed.

Andalusian Horse Breed

The Iberian (Spanish) horses were light, clever, and sure-footed. Crossed with the Barb, they became known as the Andalusian, taking the name of the province in the south of Spain where they were bred. There were two types, the light Jennet and the heavier Villanos, but the latter were chiefly bred in Castille. The Andalusian horse has been further crossed with French and English blood, but it has retained the Barb head.

It is a strong-bodied horse, normally having a good front with a deep body and high strong quarters. Its temperament is excellent.

Spanish Horse Breed

When the Saracens invaded Spain they brought with them a large number of Barb and Arab horses, which in consequence greatly improved the native stock. The crossing of Spanish horses with Barbs and Arabs resulted in the Spanish Jennet, famous for its beauty, great docility, and obedience. Their main characteristics were a great width of the breast, powerful shoulders, roman noses, long arched neck with full and flowing mane, goose rumps, and rather extravagant high action so much appreciated later on in the Vienna School, where they excelled at the traditional ‘artificial airs’.

This proud, showy action and splendid appearance recommended them for studs in Austria and Italy, where special breeds were created such as Kladruber, Lipizzaner, and the Neapolitan horse, which was used for parades.
The Spanish Jennet described by Berenger as “docile and affectionate to man yet full of spirit and courage” deserved the highest praise from the Duke of Newcastle in ‘A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horse’ (1667):

‘If well-chosen, is the noblest horse in the world…the most beautiful that can be, for he is not so thin and lady-like as the Barb, nor so gross as the Neapolitan. He is of great spirit and of great courage and docile, hath the proudest walk, the proudest trot and the best action in his trot; the loftiest gallop, the swiftest careers and is the most loving and gentlest horse and fittest of all for a King in the day of Triumph…much more intelligent than even the best Italian horses, and for that reason the easiest dressed, because they observe too much with their eyes, and their memories are too good.

They made “absolutely the best stallions in the world to breed horses for War, Ménage, Ambling pad-horses, and for running horses.”

The best Spanish Jennets were bred in the Spanish Royal Stud at Cordova and are supposed to descend from the Barb stallion called ‘The Cusman” and Andalusian mares.

Later, the Spanish horses degenerated considerably, except the Andalusian breed, which goes back to the Middle Ages and carries much Arabian and Bard blood, and which in the past provided a large proportion of army remounts. Today the most important stud in Spain is at Jerez, where are bred ‘warm-blood’ horses.

Click this site to learn about the qualities and behaviours of Spanish horse bread.

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