|The Lipizzaner Stallion has galloped boldly out of the pages of 400 years of European history into the hearts of millions of Americans. Walt Disney's motion picture, The Miracle of the White Stallions, depicting the rescue of the horses by General Patton's men during World War II, did much to publicize and to create sympathy and admiration for the Lipizzaners in the United States.
The Lipizzan is the aristocrat, the royalty, the light and the nimble dancer and the aerialist of the equestrian world. His distant ancestors from the Orient bore Ghengis Khan out of the wastes of Asia to conquer much of the then-known world. The fleet Arabic strain in the Lipizzaners patrolled, guarded and raided treasure-laden caravans in the golden sands of the Sahara. Their masters were Bedouins, Tuaregs and riders from a dozen long forgotten tribes.
It is believed that the forerunner of the Lipizzan was bred in Carthage, more than 2,000 years ago. The Carthaginian stock was bred to the Vilano, a sturdy Pyrenees horse, and with Arab and Barbary strains. The result became the fabled Andalusian of ancient Spain.
During Spain's 700 years of Moorish domination, the breed remained essentially the same. Occasional crossing with fresh Arab and Oriental blood by the breeders of Cordoba and Granada assured that the fleetness and agility so prized by the Arabs remained qualities inherent in the stock. The Spanish began to export the horses after Spain rid itself of Moorish rule. The most notable stud farms were established in Italy and Frederiksborg, Denmark. The Danes produced excellent stock from the Spanish progenitors; the Italian "Neapolitan" bloodline became famous in Europe.
Archduke Maximilian, later Emperor of Austria, began breeding Spanish horses there about 1562. Eighteen years later, Archduke Karl, ruler of four Austrian provinces, established a royal stud farm in Lipizza, located in the hills of Karst, near Trieste. It was rugged, craggy country with little vegetation or water, but the Lipizzans thrived on it, lending to their endurance, strength and speed.
They became almost exclusively the property of the nobility and the military aristocracy. The stallions were trained for battle. Their great leaps and caprioles struck fear in the hearts of foot soldiers who opposed their well-born riders. The gentle intelligent white mares became the coach horses of the elite.
Fresh Spanish stock was systematically added to the blood line at intervals to maintain the strength of the breed. Oriental stallions were used occasionally for the same purpose. In the 17th and 18th centuries, horses from the northern Italian stud farm at Polesnia and the highly regarded Neapolitan strain were brought to Lipizza to mingle with the resident stock and the descendants of the original Spanish line out of Denmark and Germany.
General Patton was not the first to rescue the Lipizzans from the exigencies of war. In 1781, during the Napoleonic Wars, 300 horses were evacuated in a forty-day march to Stuhlweissenburg. They returned to Lipizza after peace was established. In 1805 they were moved again to Slavonia, and in 1806 to Karad, a Hungarian village with a population of less than 4,000. They returned to Lipizza, only to flee the advancing armies of France.
From 1809 to 1815 they lived in the lowlands of the TISZA
River, which flows into the Danube. The land was hard on them. It took several years and an infusion of fresh blood to recapture the vitality and high standard of the line. In May of 1915, the Lipizzans were split up. One group was taken to Laxenburg, near Vienna, and the other to Kladrub.
The fall of the Austrian House of HABSBURG in 1918 brought about the break up of the old Austrian Empire. Lipizza became a part of Italy. The Italian and Austrian governments divided the Lipizzaner herd equally. The Republic of Austria took their horses to Piber in Steiermark. Piber, a privately owned stud farm, was founded in 1798 to breed calvary mounts for the army. In 1858, it became a government breeding farm and produced Lipizzans of another and lighter strain for stud purposes in the provinces. Although "The World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions are not affiliated with "The Spanish Riding School," a number of the Lipizzans appearing in the show were purchased from the School or born at the Piber Stud Farm.
The Lipizzan is a long-lived horse. Thirty to thirty-five years is their average life span. They are usually born black and change slowly through a period of six to ten years to their final, pure white color. Occasionally a Lipizzaner colt is born pure white, but they are rarities. Those, so born, in the days of the
HABSBURG were chosen to draw the royal equipages.
There are six significant bloodlines in today's Lipizzaner breed. They originated with and date back to the following stallions: The Dane, "Pluto," 1765; The Neapolitan, "Conversano," 1767; "Maestosa," 1773; "Favory," 1799; "Neapolitano," 1790; and the Arab, "Siglavy," from the stables of Prince Schwarzenberg, 1810.