Alter-Real Horse

The Alter-Real horse breed oriiginated in Portugal. The breed was founded in 1748 in Portugal's Alentejo province by the Braganza royal family to supply suitable high school and carriage horses in Lisbon. It was moved later to Alter, hence the first part of its name. Real is the Portuguese word for "royal." The stud farm started with the finest Andalusian mares brought from Spain and flourished until the Napoleon's invasion. In the late 19th century, other breeds were introduced into the breeding programs, including Arabian, Hanoverian, Norman and English. These experiments were unsuccessful and the original breed was re-established in the 20th century.2

The Alter-Real is still much in demand as a classical riding horse and many are still bred all over Portugal. The breed has all the distinctive Iberian qualities of the Lusitano and Andalusian, having a fine head with a slightly dished nose, medium-sized ears, and a lively, intelligent eye. The neck is short but well-positioned with a pronounced arched crest. The shoulders are sloping and the chest is well-developed. The back is short and strong with large quarters. The legs are hard and very tough.

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The Alter-Real stands 15.1 to 16.1 hands, and has a bay, brown, chestnut and sometimes gray coat.

This breed is quick to learn and very athletic. However, the Alter-Real is not suitable for beginners as it has inherited a fiery and lively temperament from its from non-Iberian blood added in the early 19th century.

[Photo of Alter-Real horse]
Alter-Real Photo courtesy of

An Alter-Real stallion named Sublime, taken to Brazil prior to Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, was directly responsible for formation of Mangalarga Marchador, the most popular and widespread breed in Brazil.

[Photo of Alter-Real horse]

When visiting Portugal, you might want to see Coudelaria de Alter (Alter stud Farm) which is about 14 mi southwest of Portalegre. There you can watch these superb horses being trained and exercised on the farm. There are also three interesting museums here: one documents the history of the farm, one has a collection of horse-drawn carriages, and one has displays on the art of falconry.


  1. Horses. Andrea Fitzgerald
  2. International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. Bonnie L. Hendricks, Anthony A. Dent
  3. Fodor's Portugal. Fodor's

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