Breed Report: Alter-Real

The Alter-Real was bred in Portugal to provide horses for High School (dressage) work and for carriage work.  They are a strain of Lustanio, and were fortunate to survive the devastation of the Peninsula War (1808-1814).  Successful efforts were made in the 1940s to resurrect the Alter-Real which retains much of its “noble” character.

ORIGIN: Portugal

ENVIRONMENT: Open habitat including grassland, moor, and heath

USES: Sports and carriage work

HEIGHT: 15 to 16 hh (60 to 64 in)

COLOR: Black, brown or bay


The Alter-Real takes its name from the place where it was originally bred: the royal Vila de Portel Stud in Alter do Chão, in Portugal.  Real is Portuguese for “royal”.  The purpose of the stud was to breed an impressive horse suitable for both classical equitation and carriage driving.  Starting in 1784, the horses were bred from the existing Lustanio breed but by selectively breeding for a particular stamp of horse, the Alter-Real became recognizably distinct and much in demand across the region.  The stud was devastated during the Peninsular War and its aftermath, and the Alter-Real line suffered further blows with the fall of the Portuguese monarchy in the early 20th century, which was swiftly followed by the outbreak of the two World Wars.


Now bred by the state at the original Alter stud, this horse is renowned for its courage and versatility.  Its elevated, extravagant paces make it well suited to High School work.  It has a small, “noble” head and a luxuriant mane and tail that add to the “star” quality.



The paces of the Alter-Real are typically showy with a relatively short stride but high knee action. They have a naturally high, arched neck.

The efforts of the d’Andre family saved the breed from extinction– in the 1940s they began a breeding program based on a few mares and stallions they had rescued.

Debby Sly: Encyclopedia of Horses.  Bath, UK 2008, p.176\77



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