Quixote (Part 2): Why Lusitanos?

This is the second part of the article explaining how I got Quixote and ended up with Lusitanos in Montana.

The Long Story of How I Ended Up with Quixote and Lusitanos (Part 2)

My family had been breeding registered Hereford cattle since the ‘50s and one thing that I learned from it was that if you wanted to improve the breed, you needed to carefully do some line breeding to be able to discover and weed out poor recessive traits.

However, if you wanted to have top-performing, healthy, strong individuals, it’s best to do outcrosses of unrelated lines.

In other words, if you’re breeding for heifer calves, you should stick with a bull that’s somewhat related to your cows. If you’re breeding for market calves, you should find a bull that’s completely unrelated, but preferably of the same “type”.  My dad wouldn’t consider breeding a Hereford to a Holstein because they were not the same type and the cross would produce a big, bony animal that would lose both its parents’ advantages in size and rate-of-gain.

However, in my dad’s experience, breeding his Hereford cows to Angus bulls produced calves with smaller heads to make calving easier, and because of hybrid vigor, the black-baldy calves had a faster rate-of-gain and matured larger than either of their parents. When I was a kid, my best 4-H calf was a black white-faced heifer who outperformed that year’s purebreds, both Hereford and Angus – a lesson I have never forgotten.

Because Andalusians were a horse bred for war, their numbers were way down between the Napoleonic period and the Spanish Civil War. Genetically, they have a “bottle-neck” which is caused by only a few individuals passing on their genes.

I never intended to do a lot of breeding. I wasn’t interested in dedicating my life to refining the best of a breed, although I certainly admire and am grateful to those who do. What I wanted was to breed sensible, reliable horses with people-loving characters who had enough athleticism for any amateur event – and to breed only enough of them to supply me, my family, and a few friends with the horses we wanted in our lifetimes.

Therefore, I wanted to find a stallion for Fannie who was not closely related to her, but who would still complement her best qualities.

After a lot of reading, for me, the obvious choice to consider was a Lusitano.

Andalusians are from Spain and Lusitanos are from Portugal. They were considered essentially the same breed up until their stud books split in 1966. They and Barbs from North Africa (not Arabians) were crossed back and forth for centuries. However, now that horses’ DNA has been mapped and studied, it’s been discovered that some Lusitano horses, even though they are of similar “type” as Andalusians, carry slightly different DNA.

The Lusitano stallion I found was in Arizona. His name was Q and he was a perlino sired by a Portuguese national champion, Umbaba, who was also his maternal grandfather.

“Umbaba was the chosen mount of riding Maestro Luis Valenca and his daughter, Luisa, of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. Umbaba’s career highlights include three of Portugal’s highest honors: the National Champion of Portugal (1983), and two-time Golega Horse Fair Champion (1981, 1982). Umbaba is 3/8 Veiga, 3/8 Coudelaria Nacional, 1/8 from Carlos Ferriera de Miranda’s breeding stock, and 1/8 from Dr. Alberto Ayres Mateus’ breeding stock.” From Umbaba’s farm’s website

Umbaba was sold to a woman in Germany, but at least three of his offspring (that I know of) – Q , Sapphiro, and Legacy – were imported to the US. As far as I can tell, Q is a descendant of Agareno (a Viega stallion b 1931) on nearly all top sides meaning all the stallions in his ancestry descended from Agareno. Talk about a bottle neck!

Q was a similar size as Fannie, and had a similar build and face. It sounded like he had a similar temperament. They didn’t have a common ancestor going back at least to 1931. And – this was a fun plus for me – a perlino (double dilute) crossed with a bay had a strong chance at either a buckskin or a palomino. Coming from the Arab world, I looked forward to having another color other than gray. I would have to ship semen, so I decided to breed Valia , Breeze, and Daisy to him, too, because I was determined to have at least two palomino or buckskin fillies that year.

Fast forward past a summer full of breeding difficulties, a year later Fannie foaled a buckskin colt (Quixote), Valia foaled a smokey-black filly (Maia), Breeze wouldn’t take so I had to use her breeding on a liver chestnut mare who foaled a gorgeous palomino-pinto colt (Rio), and Daisy foaled a huge cremelo colt (Diego).

Honestly, I had not planned to breed the liver chestnut, but Rio turned out to be one of the best horses we ever bred.

What impressed me the most about this breeding was that even though the four mares were extremely different, the “stamp” Q put on all four of his offspring. Except for variations in size and color, they were definitely all his.

Or rather, maybe they were all Agareno’s.