Alter Real Horse Breed

Alter Real

Image from Students of the World

Country of origin: Portugal

The Alter-Real is a breed of horse that originated in Portugal. Their name comes from a combination of their home village of Alter do Chão and the Portuguese word for royal, or real. They are an Iberian breed and are considered Baroque horses. They are closely related to the more common Lusitano.


It has been said that modern-day Alter Reals look like the original breed from the 1700s. The breed has high action and great knee flexion. Standing between 15.1 and 16.1 hands, the primary colors are bay, brown, gray and chestnut.

The neck is arched, muscular, short and naturally carried high. A powerful, well placed hock contributes to action. The body is short and the croup slopes to a low-set tail. The head resembles that of the Andalusian or Lusitano in profile. Overall, they are well-suited for use in classical dressage.


The Alter Real was established in 1748 by the House of Braganza in Villa do Portel. The purpose was to provide horses for the Royal Stables at Lisbon that were suitable for classical equitation, and good carriage horses.

After eight years, the stud was moved to Alter, a town known for mineral-rich soil and grazing with a high nutrient content. The breed was started with 300 Andalusian mares, imported from Spain, and Arabian stallions.

In the Peninsular War (1804-14), much of the stock was spread by the French troops; Napoleon’s forces took all the best horses. In 1834, when King Dom Miguel I de Bragança abdicated the throne, much of the stud’s land was taken and it was ordered to close.

Attempts were made to revitalize the stock, with Hanoverian, Norman, English and Arabian stock, but none were very successful, and the Arab blood had a particularly bad influence. In the late 1800’s, Andalusian blood was added and this is what finally improved the stock.

When the monarchy in Portugal ended, the stud, and consequently the breed, would have disappeared. Ruy d’Andrade, Portugal’s greatest equestrian authority, prevented this. He was able to save a small amount of Alter Real breeding stock, and he line bred successfully to two stallions. In 1932, the stud was given over to the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture.

Since then the breed has been improved by culling out unsuitable mares and using only the finest stallions. There is still only a small number of Alter Reals, although they are not in danger of becoming extinct and they are a part of Portugal’s cultural heritage.

For More Information:

Alter Real – International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds
Alter Real – Ezine Articles
Alter Real
Horse Breeds