All About the Cartujano Horse of Spain

photo of Andalusian horse

This article will introduce you to one of the strains of Andalusian horses known as the Carthusian or Cartujano horse. Another term used is "Bocado" because the horses were branded with the Hierro de Bocado brand.

What horse has such proud and lofty action? a showy and rhythmical walk? or a high stepping trot full of impulsion? Where can you find a horse with a smooth rocking canter, natural balance, agility, and fire? Combine theses spectacular paces with a docile temperament and you have a breed of horse well suited for any horse owner. 

photo of Andalusian horse

The Carthusian horse, or Cartujano is not a distinct breed of horse but rather an offshoot of the pure Spanish horse and is considered the purest strain remaining with one of the oldest stud books in the world. Roughly 82% of the Pura Raza Espanola (PRE) population in Spain contains Cartujano blood. But there are less than 3% pure Cartujano horses within the PRE population and only 500 pure Cartujanos in existence in Spain today. The breed has a rich and interesting history, at times controversial, although very little information is available in English. Specific breeding of the Spanish Carthusian horse began as long ago as in the 1400’s. 

photo of Andalusian horse photo of Andalusian horse

By the 1700s and 1800s, the Spanish horse breed was beginning to be well established. The Carthusian monastery had been established in 1475. How the horses got there is a bit of a mystery. One theory says “Don Pedro Picado, was unable to pay his ground rent to the monks, he decided to pay them with in kind by offering them his mares and colts. These animals had been bought . . .from the brothers Andrés and Diego Zamora . . .who formed this small stud farm from a stallion bought from a soldier, and one of its sons, a colt of extraordinary beauty and grace, called "Esclavo". 

Esclavo was said to have had warts under his tail and he passed this characteristic onto his offspring. A horse without warts was questioned as to whether he was of the Esclavo bloodline. Another characteristic seen in the Cartujano horse was the presence of “horns” - a small horny wart of calcium deposit located on the forehead. 

The descendants of this stud farm, which enjoyed great prestige, were called "zamoranos".” (Hierro de Bocado 2002). The monastery stud was called "Hierro del Bocado" and the horses were raised on the beautiful grounds of the Guadalete's valley next to the Carthusian Monastery. Through the years the Carthusian monks guarded their bloodlines with fervor, even denying a royal order to introduce Neapolitan and central European horses into their stock.

The French invasion and the subsequent War of Independence nearly devastated the breed as the monks were expelled more than once from their monastary. In 1810 the horses were saved when “Zapata, founder of the Hospital de Arcos de la Frontera, bought 60 mares and 3 stallions of the best calibre and hid them in "Breña del Agua", sending the Carthusian monks in Cluny the amount for the established price. From these horses was formed what is at present known as the Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado.”

Don Pedro and Juan Jose Zapata both bought mares from the Carthusians and in 1854 Don Vincent Romero y Garcia from Jerez bought what he could and maintained the purity of the breed. 

Today Carthusian horses are raised around Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, and Badajoz on state-owned farms. Nearly all of the modern Carthusian horses are descendants of Esclavo. In 1990 the company EXPASA del Patromonio del Estato established the Fuente del Suero in Jerez de la Frontera to improve and conserve the ancestry of the Carthusian horse. The first step was to locate mares that had moved away since 1810 and bring them back together again in 1991. 

For a horse to be considered “pure Cartujano” he must be validated by the Association of Cartujano Breeders in cooperation with the University of Cordoba. Horses receive a certificate such as the one pictures here which acknowledges their genetic purity. 

bilbaino iii

Bilbaino III

The pure Cartujano stallions Furioso, Capitán III, Destinado II, Juglar, Bilbaíno III, Nevado III, and Descarado II have some 80 direct descendants and 15,000 great great great great grandsons and granddaughters. In addition, the stallions Nevado III and Descarado II, as well as Hosco III, Hacendoso IX, , were all considered the property of Viuda de Terry (many years the proud steward of the Bocado brand). 

Bilbaino III


Usada 1956 (left) and Estepeno (right)

nevado iii descarado ii

Nevado III (left) and Descarado II (right)

Keberes D “Leia” is a descendent of the famous military stallion Leviton. Usada 1956, the mother of Leviton, was a daughter of the Terry-bred stallion Estepeno and a granddaughter of the famous Cartujano stallion Bilbaino III.

Sources: Prof. Jose Sanz Parejo– Veterinary Faculty, Cordoba University, Spain; and, Hendricks, Bonnie L., International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds, Univ of Oklahoma Press, 1995. 

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