Carthusian or Cartujanos

At least according to a legend, approximately at the same timealso the history of the Carthusian horses, long time considered as purebred strain, took its course. In 1476 a Don Alvaro Obertus de la Valeto bequeathed the monks of the Carthusian order 40-odd square kilometers of land outside the city Jerez de la Frontera. Many authors believe that the breeding of the Carthusian horses began at about the same time when the monks took over this piece of land. However, Juan Altamirano cited in his book “Historia y Origen del Caballo Espanyol” (history and origin of the Spanish horse) old documents, indicating that in 1588 the livestock of the monastery at a yearly cattle count is specified with four horses. If there would have been, as the legend claims, already a thriving breeding of Carthusians, Philip II., on his concrete search of particularly qualitative horses, would have bought certainly horses from the monastery, which later has become so famous for his breeding: this is however not mentioned in any document.

It is however likely, that the breeding of the Carthusian monks began around 1730, when they impounded the horses of a debtor: those from Pedro Picasso namely, who in turn in 1682 had taken over the breeding of the Zamora brothers. The Zamoranos, how were called the horses of this breed, were considered of particular type and quality. It is however not known from where do they come from. Accordingly, it is actually not possible to talk in good conscience about the five-hundred purebreds of the Carthusian horse. In the best case, if pure breeding can be considered, thies would be considerably younger.

After the French invasion in 1808 in Spain, Napoleon commandeered everywhere valuable breeding material, to use it as new blood for the breeds at home. However, due to breeding stubbornness or fanaticism, the Carthusian monks successfully secured a large amount of their horses to spare them this fate and to save their valuable horse stock. In 1834 all church properties were nationalized, and thus the Carthusian monks from Jerez were finally yet again forced to give up their breeding “Carthusian horse” or “Cartujanos”. The monks gave parts of their stud to various breeders from larger Jerez de la Frontera area.

An essential part of the Carthusian Stud has apparently been sold in 1835 to Fr. D. Pedro José Zapata y Caro, the founder of the Hospital of Areos de la Frontera. This Stud held the famous Bocado brand in the shape of a curb bit, which exists until today. It is not clear however to which extent the purity of the Carthusian breed have been continued by Zapata. The Zapatas covered the Carthusian mares with stallions which they already possessed himself and not originating from the breeding of the monks. In 1854 Vicente Romero Garcia took over the breeding of Zapatas, who in a letter to his friend and Portuguese Hippologist Ruy d Andrade tells that he had again crossed the Zapateros with horses of pure Spanish breed from his father’s, after all very fine original breeding. Vicente Romero added a “C” brand to his stock next to the plain curb bit: since then, there are two old curb bit brands. For a long time, especially these two brands played a role for the naming of “Cartujanos”, for which the expression “Andalusians” were no longer used for this bloodline. The curb bit brand – with or without a C – was and is, due to the reputed legendary quality of these horses, outstandingly requested. Younger breedings using this fire were Osborne Fernando de Terry, Isabel Merello Viuda de Terry, as well as the Rumasa S.A. and today the State-owned company Expasa.

Fernando de Terry 1949 came into the possession of the coveted brand, died however a few years later in 1952. His widow kept the brand until 1981. Then, the Rumasa holding S.A. took over the stud, which was after its bankruptcy for many years on sale. Not before 1990 it has been decided to keep the Carthusian breed officially as a cultural heritage and founded the State-owned company Expasa, which took over the stud and the brand. After years of decline, they tried today to give new brightness to the stud under scientific management.

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Horse breeding Philip II The Carthusian or Cartujanos Cartujano – a living legend


Excerpt from the book by
Catherine of Leyen, 
Thomas Kilper
Publisher BLV