Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

The History of the Lipizzaner Breed

The Lipizzaner is the oldest European pure-bred horse. Its ancestry goes as far back as the 8th century, and derives mainly from Spanish or, more precisely, Andalusian bloodlines.



The Lipizzaner is the oldest European pure-bred horse. Its ancestry goes as far back as the 8th century, and derives mainly from Spanish or, more precisely, Andalusian bloodlines.

It was in 711 that the Moors of Arabia, filled with missionary zeal, first set foot on Spanish soil, where they remained the rulers of the Iberian peninsular for more than 700 years! They brought their own culture and also their beautiful horses with them, among them the fiery Berbers and the gentle Arabs, which they naturally continued to breed in Spain. Through the constant wars and conflicts, the conquerors discovered that breeding the offspring of Berbers and Arabs with the native Iberian horse, the Andalusian, produced a new breed of horse which though somewhat larger and stronger, was outstanding for riding in the hilly terrain of the Iberian peninsular. The Andalusian possessed desirable characteristics such as ease of temperament, stamina, and hard hooves, but also sensitivity to praise and discipline, a necessary basis for teaching and training.

One characteristic, however, was particularly developed: courage. The Andalusian could be ridden ahead into the field of combat, without relying on a herd instinct. This was an important characteristic in close combat.

It was in 15th century Renaissance Italy, with the rediscovery of the ancient art of riding, that the foundations were laid by the riding schools of Naples, in particular the school of a riding master by the name of Grisone, for a new form of equitation which would eventually influence the whole of Europe. The “new school” required a lighter, more agile horse than the heavy steeds of the Middle Ages. The much admired Andalusian horse was quickly introduced in Grisone’s riding school, because it was more able to meet the conditions imposed than other breeds. More and more Spanish horses were brought to southern Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries as a result of political and familial relationships between Spain and southern Italy, and they were also bred. The new breed of horse produced, the Neapolitan, soon enjoyed great popularity in Europe, although it was somewhat heavier in appearance and more impetuous in character than the Andalusian.


The Imperial Karst Stud was founded near Lipizza in 1580 by Archduke Karl II of inner Austria, a brother of Emperor Maximilian II, who ruled over Styria and whose lands stretched as far as the Adriatic Sea. In the same year, Karl II instructed the Imperial Ambassador in Spain, the Freiherr von Khevenhüller, to buy horses for the new stud, and so in 1581 the first 6 horses arrived in Lipizza from Spain. In 1582 these were followed by 24 mares and 6 stallions, and in the following years there were purchases from the nearby Italian area of Polesina and also of Neapolitans.

The breeding programme at Lipizza concentrated exclusively on horses with Spanish bloodlines until the 18th century, although stallions were purchased from Italy, Germany and Denmark as well as from Spain. Arabs were also used, and with the purchase in 1810 of Siglavy, an oriental stud, one of the original 6 Lipizzaner bloodlines was established which still form the traditional basis of today’s Lipizzaner horse.

Frequent wars forced the evacuation of the precious horses from the stud at Lipizza. However, these upheavals contributed significantly to the spreading of the “Spaniards from Karst” and formed a foundation for the breeding of these horses in the eastern territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which has continued successfully in each successive state until this day.

The name “Lipizzaner” first appears in the records of the Imperial stud in the 18th century and has been used ever since.




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