“It is the noblest horse in the world, the most beautiful of all. It has great spirit, great bravery and docility, it has the heartiest walk, the proudest trot and the best trotting action, the most arrogant gallop and it is most appropriate for a king on a day of triumph.”
— William Cavendish, 18th century Duke of Newcastle
While the ancestors of the Andalusian horse stretch back into the prehistory of the Andalusian Peninsula, the breed traces its origin to a decree by Phillip II of Spain in the year 1567. King Phillip II decided that an intensive and concerted effort should be mounted to improve the horses of Spain. To this end, money was appropriated to construct breeding stables in Cordobes and for the purchase of twelve hundred Mares of specified quality. Diego Lopez de Haro was put in charge of this project and he managed this breeding program for over thirty years until his death in 1599.
To his credit, he did not initially purchase the prescribed 1200 mares because he could not, in all of Spain, find 1200 mares that met his standards. Throughout his career, he steadfastly refused to compromise the quality of his horses so that the offspring of the Spanish breeding program that were culled because they fell short of Haros standards, were in great demand throughout Europe. Even the rejected horses from the Spanish breeding program were recognized as superior. The initial progeny of the program were used by the king and presented as gifts to the nobility of Europe.