It can be tricky to know what sort of horse you are looking for, even if you spend a lot of time researching the different breeds, as some of them are pretty similar! Take the Lusitano vs Andalusian, for instance – both eye catching horses with a lot of things in common, but enough differences to make them two distinct breeds. Let’s take a look at some of the differences.
The Lusitano is a Portugese horse, sometimes known as the Pure Blood Lusitano (PBL) or Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL). It originated on the Iberian Peninsula, where horses have been known to roam wild as far back as 25,000 years ago, with evidence from cave paintings showing this. Studies comparing modern and ancient horse DNA have proven that the ancestor of the Lusitano as we know it today was among the first wild horses used by ancient humans.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, horses were moved frequently between Spain and Portugal, with Spanish horses being used to improve the studs of Portugal. Today, Lusitanos are bred primarily in Portugal and Brazil, and both the purebreds and the crosses enjoy huge popularity.
Until the 1960s, the Andalusian and Lusitano horses were considered to be one and the same. It was only in 1966, when the Portugese and Spanish stud books split, that the two were identified as separate breeds. Also known as the Pura Raza Espanola, or PRE horse, the Andalusian shares a common ancestor with the Lusitano, namely the wild herds of horses who roamed the Iberian Peninsula up to 30,000 years ago.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the breed was affected by disease, crossbreeding and warfare, and numbers dropped significantly, to the point that exports of Andalusians from Spain were restricted until the 1960s. All Andalusian horses today can trace their ancestry to a small group of horses which were carefully protected from disease, theft and interbreeding at a monastry in Cartuja. Despite the struggles faced by the Andalusian, the breed has thankfully recovered and is now popular and thriving worldwide.
Lusitanos generally stand between 15.2 and 15.3 hands, though some are over 16 hands.
Andalusians are slightly smaller, with stallions and geldings averaging 15.1 hands and mares 15 1/2. The minimum height for registration set by the Spanish government is 15 hands for males and 14.3 hands for mares.
Generally, Lusitanos are gray, bay or chestnut, though black, dun and palomino are also allowed. Any solid color is permitted, and you tend not to find many white markings on the face or the legs.
The Andalusian is generally bay or gray, though in the past most coat colors were found – even spotted patterns. The vast majority of Andalusians in the US are gray, with bay taking a close second. Unusual colors such as buckskin, pearl and cremello are rare, but are allowed as colors registered to the breed.
Lusitanos have narrow, well proportioned heads with a slightly convex profile. The neck is thick and arched, leading to muscular shoulders and a deep sloping chest. They have short, strong backs, rounded croups and low set tails. The legs are sturdy and well muscled.
Andalusian conformation has remained largely unchanged for centuries. They are elegant and strongly built, with medium length heads whose profiles should be straight or very slightly convex. The neck is long and broad, and runs into a massive chest and clean legs. The back is short and broad, and the croup well muscled leading to strong hind legs. The main and tail are excessively thick and long, but the breed has little to no feathering on the legs.
The Lusitano’s gait is agile and elevated, and is generally thought to be comfortable to ride. They possess the same ability to turn their hooves to the “high” schooling ass the Andalusian, and as such some are produced exclusively for high school dressage.
The Andalusian has an elevated, extended way of moving which is extremely pleasing to the eye and to the rider. There is a balance of roundness and forward movement, and they are extremely agile and well known for learning difficult moves, such as turns on the haunches and advanced collection, with great ease.
The Lusitano is noted for its intelligence. Along with that, it has generations of bravery bred into it, and a propensity to remain calm under pressure, so they are generally excellent horses for just about anything. Lusitanos are also known for their warm, affectionate natures, which make them ideal for a long term riding partnership.
Andalusian horses have been described as “unnervingly intelligent”, and it is true that they are bright horses who are extremely quick to learn. They tend to be docile types, with a sensitivity and responsiveness that is a great plus point in their character. This intelligence and docility makes it easy for their riders to bond with them and they develop close relationships with people.
As the Andalusian and the Lusitano were once considered one and the same, it is probable that both their ancestors were also once used as war horses. The more recent ancestors of the Luistano were used for driving, bullfighting on horseback and classical dressage, and while they are still used in a form of bullfighting today (a form where the bull is not killed, and every effort is made to ensure the horse is not injured), they are becoming increasingly popular in the driving world.
Because of their remarkable athleticism, Andalusians are used for a range of disciplines, including riding, driving and dressage. Throughout their history they have been prized as war horses, because of their remarkable strength and stamina, and their great speed and willing natures. In the old days of peace they were used as stock horses, partly due to their calm natures and ability to deal with the aggressive Iberian bulls. These days they are still used in bullfighting, but dressage is becoming more and more the selected discipline for the eye catching Andalusian.