Friesian Horse History

When the Romans came to The Netherlands at the beginning of the First Millennium they found, with the Germans who lived there, heavy built working horses, generally lacking any form of elegance.

Nowadays, along the whole North Sea coast of Western Europe and England you can still find horse breeds that are quite heavily built and whom fit the category ‘cold bloods’ perfectly. Draft-horses from Belgium and Zeeland (The Netherlands) are the most striking examples that spring to mind but also smaller horses, like a number of native Scandinavian breeds are real ‘cold bloods’.

We recall: the Finnish draft-horse, the North Swedish horse, the Jutlander, the Norwegian Dole-Gudbrandsdal, the English Fell- and Merens-pony of the Pyrenees.

Some of these horse breeds bear a strong resemblance with the Friesian horse, not only because they are deep black, but also in terms of their composition, forelock and crest. Generally the Friesian horse is a bigger build, with a distinctive craning neck, smart appearance and an eager, honest temperament. Up to the 16th Century the Friesian horse has been frequently used as the horse of Knights. Reportedly horsemen were riding stallions; horses with a big posture, able to carry the Knights and their shining armor over long distances and heavy terrain.

In those days, the weight of such a rider in full armor is estimated at 250 kilogram, which would obviously require a strong horse to carry around.

There are still some beautiful drawings of horses on hand, some of them dating back to the Middle Ages, which prove the Friesian horse – as we know it today in Western Europe – is basically the only horse breed still around in its pure composition.

After the “80 Year War” the native horse in The Netherlands had been crossbred with North German and English stallions without any sensible breeding plan. Before this happened the Friesian horse was a sought-after commodity because of his big posture, deep black color and nice, elegant movements; the main reasons why Friesians were particularly popular in Italy and Spain as driving horse.

In those days the breeding grounds of the Friesian horse was more or less restricted to Friesland, (the upper Northern part of The Netherlands) and Germany. Nowadays, although its roots are still firmly planted in The Netherlands, Friesian horses can be found all over the world.

The Friesian Studbook (FPS) was established in 1879, at a time when horse breeding hit hard times in The Netherlands. Over time the registration of horses has proven to be very effective for the development of the Friesian breed, which more or less successfully took off since 1915.