Monday, May 12, 2014


There's a place in the north part of the Netherlands, and it's called Friesland, and that's where Friesian horses come from.  A long time ago, like in the Middle Ages, the Friesian ancestors were used by knights in armor as war horses.  The reason they were used for this was because all that armor was incredibly heavy.  And Friesian horses were strong enough to carry it.  But they were also agile enough to be able to maneuver while carrying the load.

Later on, in the 16th and 17th centuries, battle armor started being lighter, so Friesian horses were crossed with Andalusian horses from Spain.  This made a breed that ate less, pooped less, and was a better city carriage horse.  Friesians were really popular in the 18th and 19th centuries because people wanted them to use as harness horses, for farm work, and in trotting races.

    Photo: © Cally Matherly

At the end of the 1800s, a lot of cross-breeding went on with some other breeds, and by the time World War I came along, there weren't many true Friesians left.  When people started trying to revive the breed, they could only find three stallions to breed from.  So modern purebred Friesians can trace their ancestry back through one of these three bloodlines.

Photo: © Nadeen

One problem with having such a small gene pool, like the one the Friesians have, is that a lot of inbreeding goes on to keep the bloodlines pure. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to genetic health issues.  Friesians can suffer from conditions such as dwarfism, hydrocephalus, megaesophagus (chronic dilation of the esophagus), a weakened immune system, and aortic rupture.

Photo:  BOrder
Wikimedia Commons
Friesians are most generally black, although there are some that are chestnut.  Registries of breeding stock will only accept black, though, and the only white marking can be a small star on the forehead.  The average height is about 15.3 hands, which is 63 inches.  The Friesian has a powerful conformation and good bone structure.  The neck is long and arched; the head is well-chiseled, with short ears.  One thing that is unique about the breed is its long, thick mane and tail, which are often wavy.  On the legs, there is silky hair called "feather."  None of the Friesian's hair is ever trimmed.  The breed's temperament is willing, active, energetic, but also gentle and docile.

The Friesian breed is becoming more popular nowadays in a lot of different countries.  Cross-breeding with lighter-weight breeds has produced horses that are used for pleasure riding, dressage competition, driving, and as circus horses.  Friesians have a high-stepping action that makes them look really flashy when they are pulling carriages.  The breed has also become a popular choice for  use in movies, like for example, Ladyhawke, Eragon, The Mask of Zorro, Alexander, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Clash of the Titans, and Conan the Barbarian.

So anyway, if you like this breed, but you don't have room for a Friesian in your back yard, you can just watch one of these movies instead.  At least, that's what I would recommend.

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