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 Historia y Tradición

The Carthusian horse

The origins of the influence of the horse and, in particular the Andalusian horse, within our culture coincides with the flourishing of the first large civilisations in the Peninsula.

The origin of the presence of the horse in our country is so remote that neither historians nor palaeontologists have been able to precisely establish these origins. The oldest remains found in the Iberian Peninsula come from the Palaeolithic era and are found in the form of cave paintings which show the importance that horses already had in the lives of people in prehistoric times. During this era, it seems that horses extended throughout continental Europe.
But a sharp change in temperature, around ten thousand years before the present era, brought about the disappearance of the wide grasslands that served as the feeding grounds for the large herbivores. This then forced a migration to the north of the continent in search of new pasture land. As a result of this, horses survived only in two areas of Europe, the Tarpan in the steps of southern Russia and the Przewalski in the steps of Mongolia. The present day breeds of horses were to descend from those two species. Europe was repopulated with horses which descended directly from the Tarpan, which were characterised by their straight - lined profile, which gave rise to the Celtic horse, while in Africa the descendants of the Przewalski prevail, with a convex and sub - convex profile.
Historical artefacts, including weapons of war found in our country, indicate that since very ancient times the horse has been used and trained to take part in fighting wars, even before this occurred in other parts of the continent.

From ancient times, the horse has played an important role in our culture, a fact which has been demonstrated through numerous pictorial testimonies. In the Iberian Peninsula in particular, it is known that horses already formed part of the everyday life activities in the earliest civilisations. These activities were to gain importance in parallel to the rise of the large cities which spread across our land and whose main writers were to praise the magnificence of the horse.

The origins of the influence of the horse and, in particular the Andalusian horse, within our culture coincides with the flourishing of the first large civilisations in the Peninsula. The Carthaginians incorporated large numbers of horses into their armies due to their strength and endurance. Later, the ancient Romans were capable of appreciating the bravery of the Andalusian horse and used this breed to its full potential both as a means of transportation in civilian life, as well as in the frequent violent conflicts, as a sign of distinction reserved for kings and emperors. Horses were also selected for the events in the Roman Circus.
The importance of horses, and even the equine culture which existed in the Iberian Peninsula at that time, can be clearly seen in the written testimonies which have been documented by some of the great classical writers such as Homer, Xenophon, Virgil or Pliny. The invasion of the Germanic hordes did not have an influence on the characteristics of the Andalusian horse. This can be explained by the fact that these invaders made their entry into the Iberian Peninsula largely on foot and the few specimens of horses which were brought into the Peninsula did not mix in significant numbers with the autochthonous herds, given that, in addition, Roman laws were upheld in defence of the Spanish specimens.

The Arabs organised their armies to include a light cavalry, which was almost exclusively formed by Andalusian horses. This light cavalry was important in the Arab expansion in Spain. From their first contact with the breed, the invaders admired the virtues of the Andalusian horse and their great triumph lay in conserving and strengthening the characteristics or the Spanish race itself. This led to the creation of several important breeding centres and horses were even sent as gifts to Constantinople, Baghdad and other major cities throughout the Islamic Empire. The importance that the Arabs gave to horses during their reign in Spain is reflected in the origin of the words "caballero" (gentleman / knight / horseman) and "caballerosidad" (gentlemanliness / chivalry) originating in the Middle Ages to classify with honour the owners of these prized animals and their virtues, respectively.
The internal struggles of the Muslim rulers and the long years of re - conquest decimated the horse population. The considerable increase in agriculture and farming activities from the end of the re - conquest, in addition to the low demand for the use of horses for purposes of war, saw horses being replaced by mules, which were much more practical for hard work. Horses had to be protected from undesirable cross - breeding through various government decrees, along with the intervention of religious orders, which protected horses within their monasteries, as was the case of the Carthusian monasteries.

From its foundation towards the end of the XV century, the Monastery of La Cartuja has been converted into the cornerstone of the Jerezano thoroughbred horses. For three centuries, which coincided with the centuries of greatest splendour of the kingdom of Spain, the Carthusian monks established a breeding stock which, through time, would be converted into one of the most celebrated and appreciated stocks in the world. The exemplary livestock management, carried out in the surrounds of the splendid Renaissance building, situated in an exceptional geographical location in terms of climate and fertility, where the universally renowned Jerez wines are also grown, was interrupted at the beginning of the XIX century as a result of the War of Independence and coincided with the years of splendour in Spain and, as a consequence, of its horses.


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