From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
a chestnut horse with four white socks at the trot
Conservation status
  • FAO (2007): not at risk[1]: 139 
  • DAD-IS (2023): at risk/endangered-maintained[2]
Other names
  • Franches-Montagnes
  • Franc-Montagnard
  • Cheval du Jura
  • Jura
Country of originSwitzerland
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium[3]
  • France[4]
  • Male:
    650 kg[2]
  • Female:
    550 kg[2]
  • Male:
    155 cm[2]
  • Female:
    147 cm[2]
Colourusually bay, less often chestnut; rarely other colours[5]: 202 

The Freiberger or Franches-Montagnes is a Swiss breed of horse of light draught type. It originates in the Canton of Jura in north-western Switzerland, and is named for the Freiberge or Franches-Montagnes District in the south of that canton. It is widely distributed in Switzerland, and is also present in France and Belgium.

It was formerly used principally as a farm horse or by the Swiss army; it is now used mainly for driving and riding. The Marché Concours is an annual fair for the breed held in Saignelégier, capital of the Franches-Montagnes District.


Farand, a stallion at the Marché-Concours des Chevaux in Saignelégier (1910s photograph)
In harness
Stallions at the Marché-Concours des Chevaux of Saignelégier, 2004

The Freiberger originates in the historic Jura region of Switzerland; use of horses in agricultural work and as post-horses is documented there from about 1620.[6]: 23 [7]

By the early nineteenth century, there were active breeders in the district of Franches-Montagnes. In 1817, there were 4000 breeding mares on record. The horses were bred for use in agriculture and by the army as pack animals and artillery draft horses. There are records of imports of Anglo-Norman horses for the year 1821, and of other horses from England, France, Hanover and Oldenburg for the year 1830, with the goal to overcome the faults of the landrace breed, which was viewed as inferior, due to its heavy and thick head, short neck and sloping rump, though its overall build was considered excellent.[8]: 25 [9]: 64 

The name Freiberger appeared in the late nineteenth century, used for the three types of horse previously named after the districts of Franches-Montagnes, Porrentruy, and Delémont. These types were called cheval de Jura and later Franches-Montagnes regardless of the district from which they originated. They also had been called race welsche.[10]: 30 

Until the early twentieth century, it was also common to employ names for the sub-types, such as Anglo-Jura for animals with Thoroughbred admixture, or Normand-Jura for those with Anglo-Norman ancestry. It was only in the late 20th century that the name (Cheval des) Franches-Montagnes became official.[10]: 33 

The Marché-Concours des Chevaux in Saignelégier, a combined show, race and market dedicated to the breed, has been held annually since 1897.[11]

The breed was crossed with Swedish Warmblood in the 1970s, especially in Alsatian studs. By 1985, about half of the breeding population were descended from these Alsatian types, with the more traditional types becoming increasingly scarce. The last admixtures to date took place in the early 1990s, with Swiss Warmblood, with the intention of increasing the breed's suitability as a riding horse.[citation needed]

A stud-book was established in 1960.[12]: 15  It was closed to any external admixture in 1997.[13] In the same year a breed association, the Schweizerischer Freibergerverband or Fédération suisse d’élevage du cheval de la race des Franches-Montagnes, was established.[14]

Although the Freiberger breed is not at risk, with an estimated total population in 2017 of about 30000, of which approximately 25000 were in Switzerland, the original type – those with 2% or less of foreign blood – is endangered.[5]: 202 [15]: 299  An interest group for the preservation of this stock was formed in 1996 as the Interessengemeinschaft zur Erhaltung des Original Freiberger Pferdes or Communauté d’intérêt pour le maintien du cheval originel des Franches-Montagnes.[16] In 1999 the total number of such horses was decreasing rapidly, with a remaining stock of about 300 mares and 30 stallions.[15]: 299  In 2003 a conservation programme for the original type was established by the interest group, in collaboration with ProSpecieRara and with the Haras National Suisse [fr] at Avenches.[17]: 467 [13][16]




  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, Dafydd Pilling (editors) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Archived 23 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Breed data sheet: Franches-Montagnes / Switzerland (Horse). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed March 2023.
  3. ^ Breed data sheet: Franches-Montagnes / Belgium (Horse). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed March 2023.
  4. ^ Breed data sheet: Franches-Montagnes / France (Horse). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed March 2023.
  5. ^ a b Élise Rousseau, Yann Le Bris, Teresa Lavender Fagan (2017). Horses of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691167206.
  6. ^ Isabelle Reviriaud (2002). Le cheval Franches-Montagnes: Thèse pour obtenir le grade de docteur vétérinaire, École Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse (doctoral thesis, in French).
  7. ^ Historique (in French). Avenches: Fédération Suisse du Franches-Montagnes. Archived 29 January 2022.
  8. ^ Louis Jobin (1925). Le Cheval du Jura (dissertation, in French). La Chaux-de-Fonds: W. Graden.
  9. ^ Johan Ulrich Duerst (1924). Kulturhistorische Studien Zur schweizerischen Pferdezucht (in German). Bern: Verlag der Schweizerischen Landwirtschaftlichen Monatshefte, Benteli AG.
  10. ^ a b Pierre-André Poncet, Vincent Wermeille (2009). Le Cheval des Franches-Montagnes à travers l'histoire (in French). Porrentruy: Société jurassienne d'émulation. ISBN 9782940043408.
  11. ^ Histoire (in French). Saignelégier: Marché-Concours National de Chevaux. Archived 31 March 2022.
  12. ^ Tiergenetische Ressourcen der Schweizer Landwirtschaft (in German). Bern: Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft. Accessed February 2022.
  13. ^ a b Cheval originel des Franches-Montagnes (in French). ProSpecieRara Suisse Romande. Accessed March 2023.
  14. ^ Fédération (in French). Avenches: Fédération Suisse du Franches-Montagnes. Accessed April 2023.
  15. ^ a b [Monitoring Institute for Rare Breeds and Seeds in Europe] (2003). Agricultural Genetic Resources in the Alps; Landwirtschaftliche Genressourcen der Alpen; Ressources génétiques agricoles des Alpes; Risorse genetiche agricole delle Alpi; Kmetijski genetski viri v Alpha. Zürich: Bristol-Stiftung; Bern, Stuttgart, Wien: Haupt. ISBN 3258066698. Archived 24 May 2022.
  16. ^ a b Das Original Freiberger Pferd (in German). Interessengemeinschaft zur Erhaltung des Original Freiberger Pferdes. Archived 12 August 2022.
  17. ^ Valerie Porter, Lawrence Alderson, Stephen J.G. Hall, D. Phillip Sponenberg (2016). Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding (sixth edition). Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 9781780647944.