The history of the Lipizzan sets it apart from other horse breeds, being exclusively developed for royalty.
There is evidence to suggest the breed’s ancestors existed in 800 AD (this included Arabian and Berber stallions and Iberian mares), although the Lipizzan wasn’t developed until the Habsburg rule in the 16th century.
Primarily bred as an all-purpose horse that would excel in fashionable show riding and as a military equine, the Habsburgs founded a stud at Lipizza, from whence the horse acquired its name, which served to produce the lithe riding and carriage horses that went on to appear at the world famous Spanish Riding School.
Popular during the Renaissance, the Lipizzan boasted strength, ability, intelligence and beauty (like its forebear the Andalusian), and was unrivalled as a mount when it came to classical horsemanship. The Lipizzan population has been threatened several times and today breed numbers remain low. It is believed that only 3,000 horses exist globally today.
A large majority of Lipizzans are grey due to selective breeding during the royal Habsburg reign, although a percentage of other colours are seen. The average height for this horse is 14.5 hands and the typical life expectancy is 20-35 years. The Lipizzan is now the oldest breed of horse in Europe.
Lipizzans are rarely born white but usually emerge black, developing the white/grey colouring around age 6.