Breeds of the Iberian Peninsula: Differentiating Between PREs, Andalusians, and Lusitanos

May 2, 2024

It is no secret that horses are known for their power and beauty, but there is something truly magical about the Iberian horse. With a vested interest in equine ancestry, we at Etalon Equine Genetics are always thrilled to learn more and share about the special horses who have made the industry what it is today. With bold movements, a strong work ethic, and a rich history as invaluable partners in everything from parades and fairs to fieldwork, ranching, and war, Iberian horses are unmistakable in the equestrian world. Despite their noble reputation, they are shockingly easy to confuse if you don’t understand the differences between the various horses that fall under the Iberian horse umbrella.

Working our way from the broadest to the most specific terms, Iberian horses are horses whose ancestry lies within the Iberian peninsula. This means that their lineage is either Spanish, Portuguese, or a mix of the two. Spanish horses are often known by their blanket breed, the Andalusian. Similarly, Portuguese horses are often known as Lusitanos. But this is not the full picture!

Often called Andalusians or Lusitanos in nonspecific terms, some Andalusians are actually PREs (Pura Raza Espanol) which are different from Lusitanos. What exactly is the difference? Read on and let’s try to break it down!

A Pura Raza Espanola (PRES) stallion is shown with his Etalon Equine Genetics Ancestry DNA test results.

Pura Raza Española (PRE) - Pure Spanish Horse

As the name implies, Pure Spanish Horses or PRE’s, have bloodlines that originate in Spain as far back as the beginning of the eighteenth century. The ideal PRE is a truly balanced horse that is sound of mind, beautiful in appearance, willing to work, intelligent, and versatile. In 1912 the first “official registrar” for the PRE was created and the responsibility of managing the breed fell to the Ministry of Agriculture and part of the Cria Caballar. In 2007 the Spanish government passed the responsibility of the Studbook to the Royal Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders’ Association, also known as the Real Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Caballos de Pura Raza Española (ANCCE), which translates to the National PRE Breeders Association of Spain.

A Spanish horse can only truly be called a Pura Raza Española if both its sire and dam are registered with ANCCE, has been presented at an official inspection, and then accepted by ANCCE. Registered PRE horses have ribbons next to their names on the studbook website to indicate their status - yellow being the most basic approval and gold being the most prestigious.

The blood and brands of the four main lines of PREs are found throughout the registration papers of PREs: Carthusian lines are guarded by the Carthusian monks and considered the oldest line, Bocado lines were also established by the Carthusian monks but are a rare, closed line, Militar lines are from the military Spanish stud farm, and Escalera lines are kept by one family and are likely the most widespread throughout the world.

An Andalusian horse is shown with his Etalon Equine Genetics Ancestry DNA test results.


Named for Andalucia, a region in the south of Spain, Andalusian horses have a Spanish pedigree like the PRE. However, the distinction between Andalusian and PRE lies within their registration status. Andalusians have at least one parent that is not registered with the ANCCE, and/or is not registered with the studbook themselves. Because both parents are not fully registered, this means that the horse cannot be registered with the ANCCE and therefore does not qualify to be labeled as a PRE regardless of its heritage.

A Lusitano stallion is shown with his Etalon Equine Genetics Ancestry DNA test results.

Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL) - Lusitano

The Lusitano is named for the ancient Iberian Roman province Lusitania, which is located in southern Portugal. PSL horses have bloodlines that originate from Portugal. A horse registered as a Puro Sangue Lusitano (PSL) is a horse that is an offspring of two registered parents in the studbook of the Portuguese Association of Breeders of the Purebred Lusitano Horse (APSL).

Portuguese pedigree books have been found to date as far back as 1824 (11 generations). In 1942 the first Lusitano Studbook was established, bringing several Portuguese-born PREs into the Lusitano Studbook. In 1966, the Portuguese and Spanish Studbooks formalized their language to specify that horses born in Portugal were PSLs and horses born in Spain were PREs. This allowed the two studbooks along with their corresponding associations to continue to evolve separately from each other, even though the horses and lineage themselves had been evolving for different purposes since the early eighteenth century. In 1967, APSL was established and the responsibility of protecting the quality of these beautiful, versatile horses was passed from the Portuguese government to APSL.

The brands of the four main stud farms, Andrade, Veiga, Alter Real, and Coudelaria, are found throughout the registration papers of PSLs.


In learning about Spanish and Portuguese horses, you may also come across an Iberian breed known as the Cruzado. The Cruzado horse is a cross between a Lusitano or PSL horse and an Andalusian or PRE horse, effectively mixing Spanish and Portuguese pedigrees. Cruzados are not recognized by either ANCCE or APSL.

By understanding the nuances between these popular Iberian breeds down to the DNA, equine enthusiasts from all corners of the globe can gain a better appreciation for these unique horses with their captivating movements, strong character, and kind minds. Each breed embodies formidable traits and has provided immeasurable service to its riders in the past, present, and future. With the information provided here, you can now confidently recognize a Spanish or Portuguese-bred horse for what it is, based on its pedigree, registration status, and documentation. With Etalon’s Ancestry test, you can discover the composition of your horse and how much, if any, Iberian contributes to your horse's genetic makeup. So, go forth and explore the versatile beauty of Iberian horses and uncover the majestic features that make them so extraordinary!

Curious to learn even more about PREs and equine genetics? Check out Etalon’s discovery of the SW9/Giltor and SW10/Giltor color variants!

A Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) horse is shown with their Etalon Equine Genetics DNA test results.

Learn more about your horse's breed composition with our Ancestry testing today!

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