Lipizzan Breed News and History
The Lipizzan (or Lipizzaner)
Lipizzans trace their history back to the early 1560's after the Moorish occupation of Spain. This breed is almost 450 years old, making it one of the oldest pure breeds in the world. Others are the Arabian and Andalusian form which the Lipizzan is derived. Some say the Pyranees horse called Vilanos was mixed in to produce a taller stronger horse for carrying knights in armor.
Emperor Maximilian II of Austria brought Spanish horses to Austria about 1562 and founded the court stud at Kladrub. This might seem odd but then again the King of Spain was his uncle, another Hapsburg.
His brother, Archduke Charles established a similar stud with Spanish stock at Lipizza near the Adriatic Sea. He bought the whole village and surrounding territory 1580. This is near Trieste, Italy. After construction was finished the first Spanish horses were brought in 1586.
Maximilian was the last of the knights and the Age of Chivalry died with him. Firearms were introduces and drive the mailed horses from battle. The renaissance however was the birth of horsemanship as art.
From the Lipizza Stud Farm, came the name Lipizzan. Today the city Lipizza is known as Lipica and is in northwest Slovenia, near Trieste, Italy.
At these two stud farms, the finest Arab blood was crossed with athletic Spanish horses and local Karst horses to create the Lipizzan. Lighter horses were now in vogue as they no longer carried those knights in armor.
The term Karst refers to the geology of the region, full of limestone caves and springs. (Interestingly, Touchstone Acres in Jefferson County, WV has Karst topography too.)
The Spanish breeds used were Andalusians, Barbs and Berbers.
The local Karst horses were white in color, small, slow to mature, and extremely tough. They were popular in jousting tournaments. Most people would think that Lipizzans inherited their high stepping gait from the Spanish horse. It was, however, the Karst horse who gave the Lipizzan its high stepping gate.
The Kladrub stud became known for its heavy carriage horses while the Lipizza stud produced riding horses and light carriage horses, exclusively for the Hapsburg Royal Family.
The two stud farms were linked closely and on occasion exchanged breeding stock.
To strengthen the original Spanish-Arab strain, several stallions were purchased during the 18th and 19th centuries for use at Lipizza and Kladrub (Bohemia.) During the 18th century these horses included sires from Denmark (Pluto, 1765) and Holstein (Favory, 1779.) They were however of pure Spanish descent.
In the mid-to-late 1700s, Lipizza had 150 broodmares.
The Kladrub stud produced Maestoso and Favory, two of the foundation sires of today's Lipizzan. These lines were developed between 1792 and 1815.
Spanish Riding School
It is impossible not to mention the Spanish Riding School when discussing Lipizzan history.
The Hapsburg monarchy (of the Austro-Hungarian empire) built a winter riding hall and school in 1572. They replaced it with a new riding hall and school in 1735 in the imperial palace in Vienna. This happened as part of the major rebuilding of Vienna after the repulsion of the Turks.
The finest stallions from Lipizza were sent to Vienna each year at age 4. This was the purpose for which they were bred.
The first purpose of the school is to perpetuate the art of classical horsemanship. This includes the training of the young riders and the horses according to the principals of dressage. This was art for arts’ sake. The second purpose of the Spanish Riding School is the breeding of the Lipizzan horses. Only the best are kept to continue the line.
The Empress Maria Theresa enjoyed leading the Womens’ Carousel in the riding hall. This was an elaborate pageant of horses under saddle and pulling carriages.
Here the stallions also learned the “airs above the ground.”
Wars & Other Disasters
In the late 1700's the Lipizzan stud farm horses were moved three times during the Napoleonic Wars.
First- In 1796 Austria declared war on Napoleon I. The horses evacuated to Hungary. 300 horses were marched for 14 days to reach safety. None were lost, proving the hardiness of the breed.
The French army destroyed the farm and all its records.
Second- After the war, reconstruction began and the horses returned in 1798.
In 1803 an earthquake destroyed most of the buildings. This was quickly followed by anther threat from France. So the Lipizzans marched off to Hungary again in 1806 returning in 1807.
Third- In 1809, The Treaty of Vienna ceded the territory to France and the horses left for Hungary. They marched from May 13 till June 27. Here in Petska the herd suffered from infertility and miscarriages.
Finally they returned to Lipizza in 1815 to flourish until WWI.
Emperor Franz Joseph built the riding hall still in use today and the six stallion lines were founded.
Until 1916, the Lipizzan stud farm always remained a private possession of the Habsburg monarchy. This changed after WWI. During this war, breeding stock was sent to Austria and young stock to Kladruby in Bohemia. In 1918 Italy defeated the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Lipizzans were split into 3 herds:
1-Lipizza regained 107 horses
2-Piber, Austria kept 97
3- Topolcianky, Slovakia kept 37
The expansion of the breed has been affected over the centuries by military conflicts. Whenever warfare threatened the Lipizza stud, the horses were moved away. During these moves, individual horses would occasionally be given or sold to other studs. From these horses came other small Lipizzan studs, usually within the boundaries of the Austrian empire.
4- Hungarian State Stud at Bobolna
5- Rumanian State Stud at Fogaras
6- Yugosavian State Stud at Stancic
7- Macedonian State Stud at Demir Kapja
Italy was defeated by Germany. The Lipizza horses were moved to Hostau Czechoslovakia. The Germans moved the Austrian, Serbian, and Polish studs and other minor ones as well.
Lipizza became part of Yugoslavia. The troops did not leave till 1957. They had been using the farm buildings as a depot for tanks and trucks.
Today there is a vacation resort in Lipica as well as a stud farm and riding school. It is the 3rd largest riding arena in Europe. It was spared in the recent Yugoslavian war but other stud farms were devastated and Lipizzans starved. The international horse community did raise money to feed them and trucked in hay at considerable risk. Nearly 300 horses perished.
By 1880 there were 341 Lipizzan horses at the Lipizza stud farm. Of all the sires used in the 18th and 19th centuries, only six founded the original stallion lines of the Lipizzan breed: SIGLAVY, NEAPOLOTANO, MAESTOSO, FAVORY, PLUTO, and CONVERSANO. Later, in Croatia and Hungary, the TULIPAN and INCITATO lines were developed.
Of all the sires used during the 18th and 19th century, only six of these horses were accepted to found the family lines of the Lipizzan as known today:
1. CONVERSANO, black, a Neapolitan (Italian) (b. 1767). Conversanos have Arab blood, strong ram-like heads short backs, broad hocks and dignified movements.
2. FAVORY, dun, a Bohemian origin (b. 1779), transferred from Kladrub. The Arab influence is noticeable in the Favorys by their lighter build but the soft curve of their nose still calls to mind their Spanish ancestry.
3. MAESTOSO, grey,(b. 1773), transferred from Kladrub. Maestosos are powerful horses with a long back, extremely muscular croups and heavy heads.
4. NEAPOLITANO, bay (brown), from another Neapolitan sire (b. 1790). Neapolitans retain their original tall, more rangy appearance and they have graceful movements and high action. They are Italian horses.
5. PLUTO, grey, was from the Danish stud in Fredericksborg (b. 1765). Pluto's, their ancestors from Spain and Denmark, are sturdy horses with a rectangular build, ram-like heads and a high set neck.
6. SIGLAVY, grey, an Arabian (b. 1810). The Siglavys typify the Arab Lipizzaner with aristocratic heads, a slender neck, high withers and a relatively short back. Seven Arab stallions were used to develop the breed during the period from 1807 to 1856. They were: SIGLAVY, TADMOR, GAZLAN, SAYDAN, SAMSON, HADUDI, and BEN AZET. Of the seven Arabian stallions used, only Siglavy founded a separate dynasty.
In addition to the stallions, there are 18 mare family lines. Click here and scroll down the page to learn about the mare families.
In many countries every stallion has two names, the sire's name and the dam's name. This explains the name such as Pluto Balmora.
Today, most mares in the USA are named with the first letter of the dam’s name and end in an “A.”
Grey is the dominate color of the Lipizzan today. Since white horses were preferred by the royal family, the color was stressed in breeding. Greys have dark skin, in contrast to white horses who have pink skin. So the White Stallions of Vienna are not really white!
Born dark, black-brown, brown or mouse-grey, most Lipizzans whiten somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10.
As late as two hundred years ago, there were a great number of blacks, browns, chestnuts, duns and even piebalds and skewbalds.
These are still the base colors but are turn grey with age.
Today non-white Lipizzans are a rarity and only now and then is a black or bay found.
The SRS keeps one bay for the head rider. We have imported semen for two rare black Lipizzans!
Not a tall horse, the Lipizzan averages about 15 hands, and presents a very powerful picture. The SRS horses are 15.1 ¾ hands, matched for the quadrille. There are some taller Lipizzans from the Carriage Horse lines.
The first thing noticed in the head are the large, appealing eyes. The influence of Arabian blood is found in the head, the small alert ears and the nose.
The body, set off by a short powerful neck, presents a picture of strength.
Lipizzans have well-rounded quarters, heavy shoulders and short, strong legs with well defined tendons and joints.
The tail is carried high and, like the mane, is thick and long.
Lipizzans are the slowest horses in the world to mature but compensate by living a long time.
They are not started under saddle until age 4. Some are still stars of the SRS at 25. They are known for their intelligence and trainability.
There are about 3000 Lipizzans in the world, with about 1000 in the US. The US horses cam from 3 sources:
Opera singer Countess Maria Jeritza imported the first Lipizzans to the US in 1930.
In the 1960s Evelyn Dreitzer of Washington State imported several, as did Tempel and Esther Smith of Illinois (Tempel Farms.)
The American Horse Council published a study in 2005, reporting 9.2 million horses in the US.
Other Breeds, 50%
Out of 4.6 million "others", Lipizzans number about 1000.
Lipizzan 1,000 0r 0.01%. They are on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy's "Threatened" list.
Unless you have seen the traveling Lipizzan shows, you may never have have seen one in person before. They and Cleveland Bays are about the most rare breeds in this country.
Lipizzans in the Miilitary Today
There are still some Lipizzans at the Old Guard Caisson Platoon at Arlington national Cemetery in Arlington, VA. In 1981, ten Lipizzans were donated to the platoon for military funerals and inaugural parades.
Where to see Lipizzans in the Movies
1976 Paul Newman movie Buffalo Bill - Pluto Calcedona from Raflyn farm
Miracle of the White Stallions
Now this is the story in the Disney movie, The Miracle of the White Stallions.
Colonel Alois Podhajsky trained the SRS stallions in Vienna. He transferred them to St. Martin in Innkreis, Upper Austria. Ten horses and two riders traveled by train 250 miles. When American troops occupied the area, a performance was given in honor of Gen. Patten. He agreed to rescue the mares from Hostau and returned all the school stallions and broodmares to Colonel Podhajsky. Actually Col. Reed did under orders from Patton. He set up an interim school in Wels, where he had first learned to ride in the cavalry. It was not until 1955 that the Vienna school was ready for them to come home.