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Friesian Horse

History: Friesian horse history goes back a long way, back to the Early Middle Ages.

Friesian horses get their name because they were first bred in northern Netherlands, in the province of Friesland. They are descended from the breed of primitive Forest Horse. Considered suitable for warfare because of their heavy sturdy build, in the 12th and 13th centuries, they carried the knights (who wore heavy iron armor) to battle.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, as the techniques and weaponry of warfare changed, the demand was for lighter horses, and for this purpose they were bred with Andalusian horses. This lightened their weight and had the added benefit that they required less food and created less waste output. In later years, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, they became popular as an urban carriage horse.

They were also used for agricultural work as harness horse, while some kept them for trotting races.

According to Friesian horse information, the race became almost extinct many times in its long history, but Friesian horse breeders always managed to keep the breed alive, by breeding them with other breeds such as the Morgan, Norfolk Trotter and Dole Gudbrandsdal.

Description: Friesian horses usually have a coat of inky black, although one might find the occasional chestnut. Their mane is thick and long, while the tail is wavy. Another characteristic of Friesian horses is that they have long silky hair on their lower legs, which is deliberately left untrimmed. They rarely have any white markings, except for an occasional tiny star on their forehead.    

Friesian horses have two distinct types of conformation. The Classical Friesian, which is often used in the show ring, has a more robust and heavier built called the ‘Baroque’ type, while the modern one, which is used as a sport horse, is finer boned. Both types have a powerful conformation with a good bone structure. They have short-eared, well-chiseled heads (referred to as ‘Spanish types’) and long arched necks. Their shoulders are powerful, their bodies compact and muscular, while their strong sloping hindquarters have a low set tail. Their limbs are strong, but comparatively short, giving them their distinctive high-stepping and brisk trot. The average height of Friesian horses is about 1.60 meters or 63 inches (referred to in equine language as 15.3 hands). Mares and geldings are marginally smaller.  

Uses: Friesians today are generally used for general riding and as circus horses. Because of their dramatic black coloring and strong looks they are popular in the film industry. They have enacted the role of Pegasus the winged horse, and have also played major roles in films such as ‘Zorro’ and ‘Alexander’. 

  Submitted on August 12, 2010