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Friesian Horse

Origin: HollandProvince of Friesland.

Height: About 15hh.

Color: Black – no other color is permitted, and even white markings are considered undesirable.

Character: Exceptionally pleasant temperament – sweet-natured, willing, and hardworking. Has excited comments such as “cheerful”, “loyal” and”very sensitive.”

Physique: Fine, rather long, alert head with small ears, carried high on the crested neck. The body is very strong and compact, with prominent shoulders, rounded barrels, and hindquarters. Rather short, sturdy legs with colossal bone and feather-on heels. Hard, open hooves. The exceptional growth of the mane and tail – mane is said sometimes to reach the ground. The action is active and somewhat flamboyant, and the horse bears itself with pride.

Keeping in mind that the horses of yesterday bear scant resemblance to today’s favored breeds, the Friesian is one of the oldest and most consistently popular horses in Europe. There is evidence in Friesland of prehistoric cold blood that was used as a domestic animal for as long as 3,000 years ago. Later descendants (presumably) of this heavy native animal were valued as saddle horses by the medieval nobility, and are portrayed by many of the Dutch Old Masters. By this time the Friesian had probably been strongly enriched with Andalusian blood, and Oriental influences are also likely.

The 19th-century craze for trotting seems to have influenced breeders of the Friesian towards a lighter, faster type of horse, have declined in ability as an agricultural worker, and it is possibly because of this that the breed came very close to extinction just before World War I. At that time, numbers were so much reduced that only three Friesian stallions were left, and it is only because a few Dutch farmers spotted the emergency in the nick of time and took prompt and clever action that the Friesian survives today. Oldenburg stallions were imported to help build up the depleted stock.

A strong revival of the Friesian occurred during World War II, when motorized vehicles fell into short supply and fuel was strictly rationed. The demand for horses in agriculture rose sharply; Friesians were particularly suited to adapt to any kind of work required of them, and so their numbers quickly increased. In 1954 Queen Juliana of the Netherlands honored the Friesian breed society with the title “Royal.”

Nowadays the Friesian is popular in harness (often in the show ring, where it sometimes causes a kind of patriotic nostalgia), in the circus(because of its striking carriage and willingness to adapt itself), and under the saddle; but its first function remains supreme – it is a “cheerful, loyal, and very sensitive” all-round working horse.

See more: Hackney Horse

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