10 Best Spanish Horse Breeds

Bay Andalusian stallion cantering through a field of yellow flowers

Abramova_Kseniya / Getty Images  

Spanish horse breeds may owe their ancestry to Spain, but many of these breeds are now found all over the world. Most of these horses are known for their strength and endurance, and some are also sought after for their comfortable gaits. Many are popular riding horses. Some are suited for beginners while others are best for more advanced riders.

Here are 10 horse breeds that have Spanish origins.

Tip

Choose a horse based on its individual temperament and training, not its pedigree. The best way to figure out whether a horse is right for you is to spend time with it.

  • 01 of 10

    Andalusian

    Grey Andalusian horse wearing a bridle in a meadow

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    Originating in the Andalusia province, the Andalusian is a descendant of horses that lived on the Iberian Peninsula of Spain. Explorers brought additional horses to the peninsula, influencing the breed that became the Andalusian in the 1400s. The resulting horse was tremendously agile and fast, making it a favorite among European royalty. Today’s Andalusians are compact but still have that strength displayed by the original horses. That combination of power and agility means the breed is well-suited for disciplines including dressage, driving, jumping, and more.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 to 16.2 hands

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Heavy build; convex or straight profile; lush mane and tail; typically gray or white

  • 02 of 10

    Paso Fino

    Bay Paso Fino wearing a headstall and prepared for a show

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    The Paso Fino owes its heritage to the many breeds that Christopher Columbus brought to the Dominican Republic. Conquistadors rode Barbs, Spanish Jennets, and Andalusians throughout Latin America, and the offspring of those horses became the Paso Fino breed. The breed became highly popular with land owners who valued the horses’ smooth gaits during long days of riding across their plantations. Soldiers brought Paso Finos to the United States after the end of World War II, and the breed quickly gained in popularity there, too.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13.2 to 15.2 hands

    Weight: 700 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small head; wide-set eyes; strong, lean legs; small hooves; lush mane and tail; comes in all equine colors and markings

  • 03 of 10

    Peruvian Paso

    Peruvian Paso foal running

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    The Peruvian Paso, also called the Peruvian horse, is descended from horses that arrived in South America in the 1500s. The Jennet, Barb, and Andalusian were brought from Spain and Panama to serve as transportation for plantation owners and workers. All of these breeds combined to form the Peruvian Paso, a breed with natural ambling gaits that allowed plantation owners to comfortably ride all day long.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 to 15 hands

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; wide chest; medium-size head with straight or concave profile; low-set tail; comes in several colors including roan, gray, bay, brown, and black

  • 04 of 10

    Galician Horse

    Cantering bay Galician horse in a paddock

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    The Galician horse, also called the Galician mountain horse, originated in Galicia in Northwest Spain. This breed is believed to have descended from the horses that Celtic immigrants brought to the region in 500 BC. The Galician grew to be hardy and surefooted because of the rugged landscape of the area. The breed has continued to reside in the area, but during the 1980s stallions from other breeds were introduced nearby. These stallions could have threatened the breed’s integrity, so in the 1990s a conservation plan was developed to help preserve the breed.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 12 to 14 hands

    Weight: 400 to 660 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact, short body; muscular legs; colors include bay and black

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  • 05 of 10

    Colonial Spanish Horse

    Herd of Spanish mustangs on grasslands

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    Also known as the Spanish mustang, the Colonial Spanish horse originated on breeding farms in the Caribbean and Mexico, descending from horses that were brought over from Spain. Their ancestors include the Iberian horse and the Barb. While some ranchers introduced breeds such as the thoroughbred into these herds, diluting the Spanish blood, other isolated herds went without outside breed influence. Feral herds of these horses were tamed by Native Americans. The tribes carefully bred and refined the horses to be hardy, surefooted mounts with good stamina.

    Breed Characteristics

    Height: 13.2 to 14 hands

    Weight: 700 to 800 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact build; long head; typically a straight to concave profile; comes in a range of colors

  • 06 of 10

    Spanish Trotter

    The Spanish trotter originated on the Balearic Islands of Spain. In the 1800s, these islands held trotting races. So breeders refined local horses by crossing them with imported stock, including the French trotter and Orlov trotter, to compete in these races. The horses tend to be trainable with good temperaments, also making them ideal for recreational riding. Today most registered horses of this breed still live on the island of Mallorca.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15.7 to 16.7 hands

    Weight: 900 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Well-proportioned body; long legs; usually chestnut but can be several other equine colors

  • 07 of 10

    Mérens Horse

    The Mérens horse breed is native to Southern France and Northern Spain, though its exact origin is unknown. Horses fitting its description were recorded all the way back to the Middle Ages, but it likely was around even before then. It comes in two types: a smaller, more agile mountain horse and a taller, more powerful horse. It was often used for farm work as well as for riding and carriage driving, among other roles.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14.1 to 15.1 hands

    Weight: 880 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact build; straight or slightly concave profile; beard-like hair below cheeks; black coat color

  • 08 of 10

    Hispano-Árabe

    The Hispano-Árabe has its origin in Andalusia in the 1800s. The breed is a cross between the Arabian and the Andalusian. The breed standard wasn’t published until 2002. And because this is a hybrid, there can be a lot of variation in the horse’s appearance. Hispano-Árabes are mostly used as riding horses, and their athletic build allows them to excel in equestrian sports.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 to 16 hands 

    Weight: 880 to 1,000 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Well-proportioned, slender body; usually gray or another dark color but can vary in appearance 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Mallorquín

    The Mallorquín is native to the island of Mallorca, though its origin is unclear. It is a rare horse breed that’s not often seen in other parts of the world. Island locals commonly used Mallorquíns as riding horses, rather than for farm work. They tend to be hardy and easygoing horses with good endurance. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 to 16 hands

    Weight: 880 to 1,000 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Convex profile; short, thick, arched neck; black coat color; white markings permitted only on the face

  • 10 of 10

    Pottok

    The Pottok is a pony breed that’s native to the Basque Country of Spain and France. Its origin is a mystery, though the ancient breed likely has lived in the region for thousands of years. But today the breed is endangered in the wild due to habitat loss and crossbreeding. These horses are surefooted over mountain terrain and have been used for mining work and in circuses.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11.1 to 14.2 hands

    Weight: 660 to 770 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large head with a short neck and small ears; long back; short legs; small hooves; typically black coat but can be other colors