Sorraias take their name from a river in Portugal, close to Lisbon. It was there that, in 1920, the zoologist, hippologist, Lusitano and Andalusian breeder, Dr. Ruy d’Andrade, saw a small herd of these horses for the first time while on a hunting trip. He was sure that they were primitive equids. A few years later, to establish whether these horses were the ancestors of the Andalusians, he started a conservation programme with 11 breeding animals.
Dr d’Andrade was worried about the fate of his herd during the so called “Carnation Revolution” (the military coup that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974), so he split the Sorraias up. Some of them went to Germany, into the care of Dr. Schaefer, a well known vet and author, and most Sorraias in Germany today originate from this group.
Dr. d’Andrade’s conservation programme continues today, and is now run by his four grandchildren.
Most Sorraias are kept and bred by private individuals, either as semi-wild or domestic horses. This means that there is a danger that their typical wild horse behaviour and defining characteristics may be lost for ever.
One Sorraia herd belongs to Hardy Oelke, a renowned as a horseman, researcher, breeder and author, as well as one of the first pioneers of western riding and western horses in Europe. Since 2003 his Sorraia herd has been living wild in the nature reserve in the „Vale de Zebro Refugio“, in Portugal, where they are left entirely to themselves.