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What is a Lusitano?

The Lusitano is a breed of horse from Portugal that closely resembles the Andalusian. Like the Andalusian, it is also an Iberian horse. It was used as a cavalry and carriage horse, but today excels in bullfighting, due to its very calm temperament, and great agility and speed.

The breed is also used as a pleasure mount, dressage, farm work and light draft work. They make excellent riding horses, due to their extremely levelheaded temperament. They are intelligent, sensible, and brave horses and have great balance.

Although usually gray the horse can be any solid color and usually stands 15 to 16 hands. They are compact, with powerful hindquarters, high-stepping action, and a thick mane and tail. They have a very pronounced Roman nose, with a very wide forehead, as opposed to the Andalusian's straighter profile, which was due to the Arabian blood infused into it. They also have a more sloping croup and lower-set tail, as well as shorter backs than the Andalusian. They have a well set neck, a broad chest, well-sprung ribs. They are extremely powerful and strong, due to their muscular hindquarters and strong, long legs.

The Lusitano derives its name from lusitania, the Latin word for Portugal.


The Lusitano horse originated in the hilly and rough areas of the Iberian peninsula (Portugal and Spain). The environmental adversities of the region caused the Iberian horse to develop as a hardy horse with great intelligence, courage and agility. 

The resemblance with the Berber horses (Barb), found in North Africa, suggests that the Iberian horses have also been transferred to that continent. Together with the Arabian horse, the Lusitano influenced the development of many other breeds. For example, the Thoroughbred horse resulted from crossing oriental stallions, particularly the Godolphin Barb, the Darley Arabian and the Byerly Turk, with English mares of strong Lusitano heritage. 

Iberian horses have, for thousands of years, been used as war horses. Their strength, courage and agility made them well suited for battle and the selection of Lusitanos as war horses further ingrained these qualities. Their courage and natural collection also made them the horse of choice for bull fighting in their native Portugal. 

The Lusitano transmitted confidence to its rider in both the battle and the bull ring. Through thousands of years, the lives of many horsemen depended on the bravery and agility of this remarkable horse.

Listed below are the standard breed characteristics of a Lusitano, while keeping in mind that each horse is an individual and has it's own unique personality.

  • Middleweight (weight around 1,100 lbs.)
  • Medium shape
  • Subconvex profile throughout the body (with rounded outlines the silhouette of which can be fitted into a square).
  • Medium, to be measured at the withers with a measuring
    stick at 6 years of age
  • Average height females: 1.55 meters {15.1 h.h.}
  • Average height males: 1.6 meters {15.3 h.h.}
  • Most common colors are grey and bay
  • Black and Buckskin are the unique and rare colors that are in demand.
  • Noble, generous, ardent, always gentle and able to support duress.
  • Agile, elevated forward, smooth and having a great facility to carry the rider in comfort.
  • Natural ability for concentration, great disposition for High School work, courage and enthusiasm for the gineta exercises( combat, hunting, bullfighting, cattle work)
  • Well proportioned, medium length, narrow, dry
  • Lower Jaw not too pronounced, cheek is inclined to be long.
  • Profile slightly sub-convex with the forehead in advanced of the orbital arches.
  • Eyes are almond shaped, big, lively, expressive and confident.
  • Ears are medium length, fine, narrow, expressive.
  • Of medium length, arched with a narrow hairline
  • Neck is deep in the base and well inserted between the shoulders, rising up from the withers without any convexity.
  • Withers are well defined and long with a smooth transition from the back to the neck.
  • Always higher than the croup.
  • Chest is medium size, deep and muscular
  • Ribcage is well developed, long and deep with the ribs obliquely arched into the join with the spinal column which promotes a short and full flank.
  • Shoulders are long, slanting, well muscled.
  • Back well defined and tending towards the horizontal making a smooth union between withers and loins.
  • Loins short, wide, muscular, slightly convex, well connected with the back and croup with which they form a continuous harmonius line.
  • Croup strong and rounded, well balanced, slightly slanting, the length and width should be of identical proportions, the profile convex and harmonious with the point of hip relatively unobtrusive, giving the croup a transverse section of eliptical shape.
  • Tail emerges from the same line as the croup, being of long, silky and abundant hair.
  • Forelegs are well muscled and harmoniously inclined.Upper arm straight and muscular
  • Knees dry and wide
  • Cannons are long and dry with well defined tendonsFetlocks are dry, relatively large, with very little hair
  • Pasterns are long and sloping
  • Hooves are strong, of good conformation and proportion, not very wide and the coronet not very visible.
  • Buttocks short and convex
  • Thigh is muscular, relatively short, oriented such that the patella is directlty vertical from the point of hip.
  • Leg is somewhat long, the point of the hock directly vertical from the point of the buttocks.
  • Hocks are large, strong and dry.
  • The hind legs have relatively closed angles.
Source: Associacao Portuguesa de Criadores do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano (APSL): Characteristics of the Breed

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