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The Origin of the Purebred Spanish Horse

Without a doubt, much has been written and talked about the purebred Spanish horse and yet, when it’s origin is mentioned it is quite common to feel that despite so many studies and so much historical documentation reviewed, we still do not have all things clear.

Most of those who have written about our horses state that they come from the Palaeolithic, however quite recently it has been proven that this is not true. The horse arises in America, evolves from the Eohippus and gets to the Equus that stretches across America, passes through the Bering Strait, arrives in Asia and spreads all over the world. But at the end of the Pleistocene, all the horses are extinguished, except for a few that remain in the Asian steppes that will repopulate the whole world.

Spanish Purebred HorseThis particular region in prehistoric times was a human overcrowding that did nothing but expand, invading neighboring villages with their horses. The specimens that remained evolved and resulted in the form the Mongolian horse, from which the Prjewalskii (a race that bears the name of his discoverer, an English officer called Prjewalskii) is born. Then it evolved to the Tarpan horse, more to the west side of Mongolia. The Prjewalskii spread across South Asia and arrived to Africa, while the Tarpan did the same tothe north and arrived at Europe. Those are the ones that will give birth to the horses we’ll see.

As far as the Iberian Peninsula is concerned, according to the cave paintings found in the Paleolithic caves of Altamira or La Pasiega, in Cantabria, and La Pileta, in Malaga, we know that more than 20,000 years ago there were already horses in the current Iberian territory, but also here, at the end of the Pleistocene, these horses were extinguished. The horses will not appear again in the peninsula until the beginning of the Iron Age.

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The horses depicted in the Paleolithic caves disappeared. Many writers on specialised on horses think that the Spanish Purebred descends from those, but it must be taken into account that these horses disappeared in the Pleistocene. Actually, in Spain, there are paintings of horses in the cave of La Pileta in Malaga, and in Cantabria. But if these specimens disappeared, the horses of Spain have their origin, first, in the ones brought by the Tamazigt (approx. 12th century BC) from Africa and, secondly, from those brought by the Celts and spread all across Europe. As such, in the first millennium before Christ, we already have in the Iberian Peninsula three different morphotypes of horses: One is the “Iberian”, which passed from Africa to Spain. The other two, a large one: the “Fieldon” or “Thieldon”, which was brought by the protoceltas at the end of the second millennium before our era, and another smaller specymen, which arrived in subsequent waves during the 7th and 6th centuries BC.

The Iberian horse and the Fieldon will develop later, and through time, the Spanish Purebred. This race steadily improved until getting to the Spanish Purebred race horse: From three distinguished horse morphotypes: The Iberian, which was described unanimously by the classics as a regular body horse, beautiful head and ugly legs, convex profile, upright neck and rounded rump. The Fieldon or Thieldon, which arrived with the first waves from Indo to Spain, a horse rather tall and large, with around 7 quarters, large head, straight profile, short and straight neck, narrow chest, rump tending to the horizontality. A very sturdy horse. Of these two original types of horse many others will derive. The Iberian gave place to the Andalusian, from the Spanish Arabs. of the Fieldon or Thieldon derives the Castilian-Leonese horse. This will be the horse used by the Christians in the Reconquista. and the Celtic, on the other hand, which is small, gives rise to all the Spanish ponies, the Asturcón itself, the Galician pony, the Portuguese Garrano, the Losino, the Jaca Navarra, and even the Ariegeois. From the crossroads of Andalusia with Castile, the Andalusian is developed, which will improve the Spanish breed, in the Times of Charles I and Felipe II.

Therefore, there is no doubt on the origin of the purebred Spanish, but nevertheless, we still find people who believe that the Spanish Purebred horse comes from the Arabic, when in fact this horse derives from nineteenth century Spanish horse.

If you want to live a unique experience in which to get to know the purebred Spanish horse in a traditional southern Hacienda, have a look at our private tour from Sevilla, Purebred Horses Farm Tour.