This is the most accurate account of the development of the Lipizzan horse as it was written by the world's authority, the Lipizzan International Federation.

The Lipizzaner is the oldest of the European horse breeds and its documented origins trace back over 400 years.


The ancestors of this, the most noble of horses, include the chariot horses of Hittites who are portrayed in the frieze on the Parthenon in Athens,the stallions Aquileia and the Quadriga horses of the Romans.

The Eastern horses of Arabia have also played a vital role as have the Berbers, the Iberian breeds, the Castilians, the Andalusians, the Villanos, the Neapolitans and of course the hardy horses of the Karst.

All of these ancient breeds have contributed in producing the Imperial Horse of Kings and Emperors, named by many as the Horse of the Gods - The Lipizzaner.


In prehistoric times, Spain possessed outstanding well gaited horses with oriental blood running in their veins. These horses, were the Iberians, the forebears of the Andalusian. These tough Iberian horses were held in high esteem by the Greeks and Romans as swift and fleet footed competitors groomed for victory at their important games and races. A variation of which has come down through time to us today and is known now as the Olympic Games.


These fine horses were used by the French Court whose stable master wrote of them in 1664 - 'They are extremely fine horses, the most suited of all breeds to stand as models to a skilled painter or serve a king as his favourite steed. Neither as light as the Berber nor as heavy as the Neapolitan, they possess the best qualities of both breeds……

The Straights of Gibraltar divide Europe from Africa and the Berber developed on the African side of the Straights as the native breed of that continent. Developed from the Numidian Horse which was descended from the original African breed brought eastwards in the seventh century and then refined by the Arabs, the Berber greatly influenced the development of the Iberian Horse.

The Berber in its original form - roman nose, long ears, short thick neck, coarse mane and tail, thick set croup and ungainly dock - has died out but through the Andalusian it has left the Lipizzaner genetically coded with traces of all of these attributes but more especially with one of the most pronounced features of the breed, the roman nose. All Lipizzaners carry this gene and even though in these modern times a more attractive head is sought, the legacy of the Iberian still runs in its veins. Through the centuries, with the exception of the Arab Siglavy Dynasty, the Lipizzaner still carries a little bit of Africa with it.


In the eighth century, the Moors introduced further Arab blood into the Iberian horse breed. These Muslim conquerors wished to improve the endurance qualities of their light oriental breeds as they demanded mounts able to withstand many attacks from the heavier horses of the Christian knights. Conversely, the Christians wanted to improve the more cumbersome aspects of their mounts and sought to infuse some lighter more agile Oriental blood.


So while the oriental Genette was regarded as the lighter Spanish mount, the Northern Villanos with its heavier build was capable of carrying a knight in battle.The uniting of both of these old bloodlines produced elegance, strength, endurance and patience coupled with a naturally high action known as the Spanish Step.


And so began the birth of the Andalusian.Elegant and showy, with noble head and beautifully curved neck, the Andalusian became the show horse of its time. With its loose gait, pliant strong limbs and dancing movements, the Andalusian possessed a fiery temperament coupled with a docile attitude and it was obedient and highly trainable.

The Lipizzaner has inherited all of those characteristics which have made it the magnificent creature of elegance and hardiness it is today.

The Andalusian no longer exists in its original form which reached its zenith in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. From that time on, the breeding of the Andalusian gradually declined.


Luckily, the Carthusian Monks of the time opposed all forms of cross breeding and because of their strong and demanding views, we still today have the pure blooded Andalusian in areas which used to surround the old monastery in the province of Cordoba and also in Seville and Cadiz. To this day, these areas still form the centre of Andalusian breeding.

The old breed is known as Cartujanos (Carthusians). Along with the modern Andalusian they have been accepted as the nearest relatives of the oldest breed in the stud books - the Pura raza espanola..

In this, the 21st century, the noble attributes and high actions of these forbears have been imparted to the Andalusian and its close cousin the Lusitano of Portugal. All of these attributes are a constant reminder to us that the three noble breeds as we know them today, the Lipizzaner, the Andalusian and the Lusitano, are still closely related and the same blood runs in their veins as did many centuries ago.


The Arab Horse has been influential in the development of the Lipizzaner not only through the Andalusian but also through the Neapolitan lines.

But, as you the reader are now doubt aware, a much more direct cross took place at a later time in history. The Arab was, and still is, considered to be the natural source of new, quality bloodlines when a breed is in need of 'vitalising new life'.

It is written in the Koran:

When the Creator wished to create the horse, he said to the Wind, I shall have thee bear a being who shall carry my worshippers. This being shall be loved and regarded by all my slaves. It shall be feared by all who fail to heed my commandments. And he created the horse and I said to it, I have made thee without equal. All the treasures of the earth lay between thine eyes. Thou shall cast mine enemies beneath thy hooves, but my friends thou shalt bear on thy back. This shall be the seat from which prayers ascend to me. Over the whole earth thou shalt be fortunate and preferred before all other creatures. In thee shall be the love of the Lord of the Earth. Thou shalt fly without wings and conquer without a sword.

As these words were recounted by countless generations in the Bedouin tents, they grew up honouring the steed of Ishmael, son of Abraham - The Arab Horse.

The Muslim invaders entered Europe in July 711. Under the command of Tariq, 25,000 men and their horses crossed over and took possession of a Spanish Rock which was later to be named Gibralter.

The wish of Mohammed was only brought to a halt in 732 A.D. during the battles of Tours and Poitiers in the centre of Europe.

The Arab Horse is unequalled for it beauty and harmonious movements, being fleet of foot and fiery of temperament, it is elegance in motion. It is possessed of good health and longevity combined with excellent fertility. Its endurance capabilities are without question. In a competition with the English Thoroughbred it covered just under 90 miles from Cairo to Suez and then back again in eight hours. The Arab was fresh after this gruelling test whilst the thoroughbred had collapsed on the way.

Today the criteria for the breeding of the Arab Horse is still purity of bloodlines, speed and endurance. The infusion of this noble blood into the aristocratic Lipizzaner is like the meeting of great minds and bodies.. PERFECTION

One of the most important Arabs introduced into the Lipizzaner bloodlines was named Vezir. He was the property of Napoleon and was one of his favourite mounts. Between 1807 and 1816, seven other Arab stallions arrived at Lipizza with Siglavy being the most outstanding. In 1843, two more Arabians were introduced and later on several more were purchased. Arab mares were also purchased in order to introduce fresh blood into the Lipizzaner lines.


In 1856 Emperor Franz Joseph sent a commission to Arabia to purchase a herd of sixteen stallions, fifty mares and fourteen foals. Two stallions and sixteen mares went on to Lipizza.

Emperor Franz Joseph was crowned King of the Magyars on 8th June 1867. He took the oath on the back of Lipizzaner Stallion Maestoso Cerbero.

The stud tried breeding pure bred Arabs in addition to Lipizzaners but the Imperial Court was not satisfied with them and it was decided that the Arab stallions would only be cross bred with Lipizzaner mares.

The Neapolitan had an important influence on the development of the Lipizzaner. This breed was much praised and revered by the Romans. In later centuries the Medici merchants imported the best Arabs from Syria to improve the breed. Andalusians were also used.

The Neapolitan horses were considered to be the best in all of Italy. They possessed docile natures combined with fiery elegance and were extensively used for carriage and ridden work.

The Neapolitan was at the peak of its success in the 17th century. The high bend of the knee made it an ideal choice for haute ecole and its elegance made it the ideal choice for conveying princes and cardinals in stately coaches.

Continuous wars coupled with erroneous breeding ( Nordic strains were used unsuccessfully) led to a slow but steady decline in the Italian bloodlines. Now, in the 20/21st century, the purebred Neapolitan no longer exists.


While the breeds we have already mentioned have contributed greatly towards the development of the Lipizzaner, the core of the breed still lay with the native Karst Horse. Horses had been bred on the Karst, an area around Trieste, for centuries and they were much in demand for their dexterity and endurance qualities. They were raised under totally natural conditions. Winter and Summer they lived outside. When there was insufficient pasture, they were given hay. In exceptionally bad conditions, they were sheltered under slab stone roofs.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, a Karst Horse Fair was held annually on 24th June - St John The Baptist Day - at Stivan near Prestranek and peole came from far and wide to buy and sell.

These horses, whose precise origins are not known but who were believed to have been used by the Romans for their chariot races in Ancient Rome, originated mostly from Aquileia, a city on the Northern edge of the Adriatic in a region known in those times as Thrace. There is believed to have been a temple in the region dedicated to the Thracian God Diomedes, patron of horses.

The Thracian horses were renowned for their speed and beauty. Thrace is were the spotted and piebald horses so well depicted in Hamilton's famous painting, originated from.


The Romans used these horses extensively for crossbreeding with their existing horses and soon there were horses carrying Karst blood swarming throughout Europe, carrying the conquering Roman Army to victory after victory.

The Romans and the Greeks, who were particularly careful about maintaining purity of the breed for their sacred games and of course for war, kept extensive breed records.

Thigh brands distinguished between the individual families.


The colour white had always been of special significance from earliest recorded times. White horses were dedicated to the Gods and drew the chariots of the kings as symbols of peace and fairness.

The principles of breeding according to the Romans, were careful choice of female lines, sires possessed of great stamina and courage, accurately recorded family trees, careful location of the breeding centres and a continual strengthening of the breed by selection of the best from the best.

Those principles are as important today as they were then.

The Romans, once they discovered the useful, vitalising qualities of the Karstland, systematically set about breeding from the Karst Horse. A breed admired down the ages for its stamina, strength, courage and toughness.

In the middle ages Karst Horses , because of their outstanding qualities, were expensive. They often fetched three times the price of other horses. They were used extensively by merchants and consequently they spread over a large area of Europe.

Trade routes carried them to places such as Graz, Vienna and Salzburg.

These strong, sturdy predominately white horses were in effect the first Lipizzaners and formed the backbone of a breeding programme which used horses whose ancestry we have described above to produce the perfect horse.

Austrian breeders at that time agreed that whilst the Arab was a superb horse in its own right, the best horses for the Viennese Court were those which still carried a sizeable proportion the old Lipizzaner bloodlines.

Home | About Lipizzans | Lipizzan Art
Books | Lipizzan Photos | Lipizzan/Equine Links | Breeding