Wind in the Ponytail!

The tradition of breeding Lipizzan horses in Croatia

By Croatian National Tourist Board

Field in SlavoniaCroatian National Tourist Board

In Slavonia

Since the era when Croatia was part of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy, later the Austrian Empire, the tradition of breeding Lipizzan horses has formed part of the country’s history and identity, particularly in the eastern lowland region of Slavonia.

Herd of horsesCroatian National Tourist Board

Horses running

Lipizzan horses, also called Lipizzaners, are the sturdy, graceful horses most associated with the Spanish Riding School of the Austrian Court. Lipizzans are known for their tall muscular stature and elegant gait.

Often considered a white horse, Lipizzans are actually grey — born with dark skin and a dark-colored coat that lightens to a striking whitish-grey as they mature.

Horse and carriageCroatian National Tourist Board

The Habsburgs favored the breed for its apparent fearlessness in military combat, its sturdiness for pulling carriages, and its showiness in processions and other public appearances.

It is classified as a “Baroque horse,” both for its physical qualities and its historical association with the Baroque era in Europe.

Field full of horsesCroatian National Tourist Board

From the first stud farm in Lipica, the breed proliferated through the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, including parts of modern Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Romania, Italy and Slovakia.

The tradition of Lipizzans in Croatia dates back to at least 1700. Due to its large expanses of agricultural land, Slavonia was quick to adopt Lipizzans, originally used as workhorses.

Lipicaner horses runningCroatian National Tourist Board

Over time, these noble animals became a symbol of prestige and a mirror of the family farm they belonged to.

Man riding a horseCroatian National Tourist Board

Part of the allure of the Lipizzan breed has to do with the rigorous attention that breeders pay to bloodlines. Horses must be bred from descendants of one of eight Lipizzan studs and 35 mares that lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.

White lipicaner ridingCroatian National Tourist Board

The exclusivity of the breed has made it among the most valuable and coveted of horse breeds, and at various times, among the rarest.

Horse in the fieldCroatian National Tourist Board

Over the centuries, Lipizzans have survived wartime threats that could have caused the breed’s extinction.

Ergela from the airCroatian National Tourist Board

During the Napoleonic wars, both World Wars and the Homeland War, Lipizzans were considered plunder by rival armies, and heroic rescue efforts were undertaken to save the breed.

Horses in the field from the sideCroatian National Tourist Board

Today, by varying accounts, there are between 3,000 and 11,000 purebred Lipizzans in the world, most of them in Europe.

Ergela buidlingCroatian National Tourist Board

There are two stud farms in Croatia, both part of the Croatian Center for Horse Breeding, established in the mid-2000s.

Ergela fieldCroatian National Tourist Board

The stud farms at Lipik and at Đakovo, both in the lowland region of Slavonia, breed horses from studs and mares descended from the original Lipizzan bloodlines.

State Stud Farm in Đakovo

The State Stud Farm in Đakovo, established in 1506, counts among the oldest stud farms in Europe and is home to 160 Lippizaner horses today. The stud farm at Lipik was founded in 1843 by count Izidor Janković, who had the farm built on his estate.

Horses movingCroatian National Tourist Board

Among the seven bloodlines bred is Tulipan, who was bred around 1800 and is the only one of the original stud bloodlines to have originated in Croatia.

Horse riding a carriage in a showCroatian National Tourist Board

The Tulipan line first developed in Suhopolje in northern Slavonia.

Horses in DakovoCroatian National Tourist Board

In March 2020, the countries of Croatia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia submitted a request to have their collective Lipizzan Horse Breeding Traditions added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A decision is expected in December 2021.

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