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The Friesian Horse Breed -- One of the Oldest Breeds in the World

Friesian Pair by Michele Neuland

Photo by Michele Neuland

The Friesian Horse Breed is considered to be one of the oldest in the world. It is thought that amongst its ancestors is the massive, tall Western Diluvial Horse (Equus robustus Steg), the wild forefather of the Western Cold Blooded horses. There are still cave drawings from the Ice Age in Spain today that outline its characteristics and appearance.

The Romans realized soon the advantages of this strong, draft type horse.In the middle age it served knights and crusaders in full armor.Monks crossed this heavy horse with lighter horse breeds and formed the Friesian Horse breed, one of the first purebred horse breeds in Europe and the first warmblood in the world.Eastern horse bloodlines as well as Andalusian lines during the Eighty-Year-War in the Netherlands conributed to a better "look" of the Friesian horse breed.The still heavier type of horse was used as a saddle horse.The Friesian horse breed influenced a lot of other breeds, like the Oldenburg, Dale and Fell pony, New Forest Pony, the Morgan, the Standardbred, Orlov Trotter Kladruber, the Norwegian Gudbrandsdal, the Swedish Warmblood and the Shire horse.

Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek (FPS) is The Netherland's oldest studbook. It was founded in 1879 and every Friesian horse is registered in there. Today are approx. 5000 horses registered. There are separate registers for colts and fillies, for mares, for stallions and geldings.

Horses have been tattooed on the underside of the tongue from 1986 on, since 1997colts and fillies are microchipped. At the age of three years, they can be entered in the FPS, if they qualify for it. Registered horses are receiving the FPS brand.Only horses with papers issued by the FPS are recognized as Friesians.

The FPS promotes the Friesian Horse and wants to breed a horse with a fine exterior, but maintaining the characteristics of a highly capable and performing modern horse for sport and recreation.

The popularity of Friesians worldwide is increasing more and more, because it is not only a perfect horse for driving, showing, dressage and circus, but also for leisure sports. The FPS is showing continuosly increasing numbers, although only three lines form the base of the breed: the Age-, Ritske- and Tetman line.

Friesian horses are quite expensive, because of the increasing popularity. Prices depend very much on gender, age, breeding, training and vendor. In The Netherlands colts are sold for about $4000, fillies for $6000, a gelding costs about $8000, a studbook mare $ 10000, a star-stallion $12000 and a star-mare sells at about $20000 and more. But remember,these are just rough guideprices!

Breed characteristics :

This horse is easy to recognize due to its black colour, the long and thick mane and tail and the lower legs that are feathered with long hair and left untrimmed. A white star is accepted, but no white markings on the body or the legs.

Some examples show a chestnut hair coat, but these horses are not accepted for registration with FPS.

They have got a powerful conformation and a good bone structure. The Hispanic type head sits on a long, arched, very muscular neck.

The body is compact and very muscular with powerful, sloping shoulders and hindquarters. This enables it to perform a fast, high-stepping trot. The tail is low in onset. Their average size is ~15.3 hh and the range is between 14.2 and 17 hh.


The Friesian horse breed is a very versatile breed that is used for riding, dressage and pleasure riding and is favourite in circus arenas.

Due to its conformation of a light draft horse, it is a very popular carriage horse. Its powerful movements and high-stepping action make it look really impressive. Furthermore it is easy to match pairs or teams.

It is very popular for wedding carriages due to its presence and temperament.

The famous "Harrods" in London used to deliver goods to palaces and local hotels in a radius of up to 4 miles of the store. There have been 4 horses at a time kept and stabled in London in a weekly rota. Every other week they returned to Mr Al Fayeds' estate in Surrey. 8 horses were kept altogether.

These horses are also used for horse drawn funerals, -I think I don't have to mention it- due to the black hair coat.

They have been discovered for the film industry in the last 15 - 20 years, because of their mild temperament and their appearance, their willingness to learn and ease to handle.

They performed in films like Lady Hawke, The Mask of Zorro, Alexander, Eragon and other phantasy films. They are also seen on TV commercials

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