Jump to content

Friesian horse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Friesian cross)

Friesian horse
Friesian horse
Other namesBelgian Black (UK)
Country of originNetherlands
  • 15 to 17 hands (60 to 68 inches, 152 to 173 cm)
Distinguishing featuresBlack, powerfully muscled, agile with elegant action, thick mane and tail, feather on lower legs.
Breed standards

The Friesian (Fries paard in Dutch; Frysk hynder in West Frisian) is a horse breed originating in Friesland in north Netherlands. The breed nearly became extinct on more than one occasion. It is classified as a light draught horse, and the modern day Friesian horse is used for riding and driving. The Friesian horse is most known for its all-black coat colour, its long flowing mane and tail, feathering on its legs, a high head carriage, and high stepping action.

Breed characteristics[edit]

A Friesian being shown in-hand
Closeup of the head

The breed has powerful overall conformation and good bone structure, with what is sometimes called a Baroque body type. Friesians have long arched necks, well-chiseled short-ears, and Spanish-type heads. They have sloping shoulders, compact muscular bodies with sloping hindquarters and a low-set tail. Limbs are short and strong, with feathering—long hair on the lower legs. A Friesian horse also has a long, thick mane and tail, often wavy. The breed is known for a brisk, high-stepping trot.

The Friesian is considered willing, active, and energetic, but also gentle and docile. A Friesian tends to have great presence and to carry itself with elegance.[1]

Today, there are two distinct conformation types—the "baroque" type, which has the more robust build of the classical Friesian, and the modern, "sport horse" type, which is finer-boned. Both types are common, though the modern type is currently more popular in the show ring than is the baroque Friesian. However, conformation type is considered less important than correct movement.[2]


The Friesian stands on average about 15.3 hands (63 inches, 160 cm), although it may vary from 14.2 to 17 hands (58 to 68 inches, 147 to 173 cm) at the withers, and mares or geldings must be at least 15.2 hands (62 inches, 157 cm) to qualify for a "star-designation" pedigree.[3][better source needed]


Friesians rarely have white markings of any kind; most registries allow only a small star on the forehead for purebred registration.

Though Friesian horses are characteristically black, occasionally chestnut colouring appears, as some bloodlines do carry the "red" ("e") gene.[4] In the 1930s, chestnuts and bays were seen.[5] The chestnut colour is generally not acceptable for stallions, though it is sometimes allowed for mares and geldings.[4][6] A chestnut-coloured Friesian that competes is penalised. Discoloration from old injuries or a black coat fading from the sun is not penalised.[4]

In 1990, the Friesch Paarden Stamboek began to attempt breeding out the chestnut colour, and today stallions undergo genetic testing. If testing indicates the presence of the chestnut or "red" gene, even if heterozygous and masked by black colour, the horse is not accepted for registration with the FPS.[7] In 2014 there were eight stallion lines known to still carry the chestnut gene.[7]

The American Friesian Association, which is not affiliated with the FPS, allows horses with white markings and/or chestnut colour to be registered if purebred parentage can be proven.[8]

Genetic disorders[edit]

There are four genetic disorders acknowledged by the industry that may affect horses of Friesian breeding: dwarfism, hydrocephalus, a tendency for aortic rupture, and megaesophagus. There are genetic tests for the first two conditions. The Friesian is also among several breeds that may develop equine polysaccharide storage myopathy.[9] Approximately 0.25% of Friesians are affected by dwarfism, which results in horses with a normal-sized head, a broader chest than normal, an abnormally long back and very short limbs. It is a recessive condition.[10][failed verification] Additionally, the breed has a higher-than-usual rate of digestive system disorders, and a greater tendency to have insect bite hypersensitivity.[11] Like other feathered draught breeds, they are prone to a skin condition called verrucous pastern dermatopathy and may be generally prone to having a compromised immune system.[12] Friesian mares have a very high 54% rate of retained placenta after foaling. Some normal-sized Friesians also have a propensity toward tendon and ligament laxity which may or may not be associated with dwarfism. The relatively small gene pool and inbreeding are thought to be factors behind most of these disorders.[11]


17th century portrait of Dutchman Pieter Schout riding a Friesian style horse

The Friesian originates in the province of Friesland in the northern Netherlands, where there is evidence of thousands of years of horse populations.

As far back in history as the 4th century there are mentions of Friesian troops which rode their own horses. One of the most well-known sources of this was by an English writer named Anthony Dent[13] who wrote about the Friesian mounted troops in Carlisle. Dent, amongst others, wrote that the Friesian horse was the ancestor of both the British Shire horse and Fell pony, however, this is speculation.

It was not until the 11th century, that there were illustrations of what appeared to be Friesians. Many of the illustrations found depict knights riding horses which resemble the breed, with one of the most famous examples being William the Conqueror.[14][15]

These ancestors of the modern Friesians were used in medieval times to carry knights to battle. In the 12th and 13th centuries, some eastern horses of crusaders were mated with Friesian stock. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Netherlands were briefly linked with Spain, there was less demand for heavy war horses, as battle arms changed and became lighter. Andalusian horses were bred with Friesians, producing a lighter horse more suitable for work as an urban carriage horse.

Historian Ann Hyland wrote of the Friesian breed:

The Emperor Charles (reigned 1516–56) continued Spanish expansion into the Netherlands, which had its Frisian warhorse, noted by Vegetius and used on the continent and in Britain in Roman times. Like the Andalusian, the Frisian bred true to type. Even with infusions of Spanish blood during the sixteenth century, it retained its indigenous characteristics, taking the best from both breeds. The Frisian is mentioned in 16th and 17th century works as a courageous horse eminently suitable for war, lacking the volatility of some breeds or the phlegm of very heavy ones. Generally black, the Frisian was around 15hh with strong, cobby conformation, but with a deal more elegance and quality. The noted gait was a smooth trot coming from powerful quarters. Nowadays, though breed definition is retained, the size has markedly increased, as has that of most breeds due to improved rearing and dietary methods.[16]

The breed was especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were in demand not only as harness horses and for agricultural work, but also for the trotting races so popular then. In the 1800s, the Friesian was bred to be lighter and faster for trotting, but this led to what some owners and breeders regarded as inferior stock, so a movement to return to pureblood stock took place at the end of the 19th century.

Statue in Leeuwarden honouring the 100th anniversary of the modern Friesian studbook

A studbook society was founded in 1879 by Frisian farmers and landowners who had gathered to found the Fries Rundvee Stamboek (FRS)[13]: 25  The Paardenstamboek (horse stud book) was published in 1880 and initially registered both Friesian horses and a group of heavy warmblood breeds, including Ostfriesen and Alt-Oldenburgers, collectively known as "Bovenlanders".[17] At the time, the Friesian horse was declining in numbers, and was being replaced by the more fashionable Bovenlanders, both directly, and by crossbreeding Bovenlander stallions on Friesian mares. This had already virtually exterminated the pure Friesian in significant parts of the province in 1879, which made the inclusion of Bovenlanders necessary. While the work of the society led to a revival of the breed in the late 19th century, it also resulted in the sale and disappearance of many of the best stallions from the breeding area, and Friesian horse populations dwindled. By the early 20th century, the number of available breeding stallions was down to three.[18][better source needed] Therefore, in 1906, the two parts of the registry were joined, and the studbook was renamed the Friesch Paarden Stamboek (FPS) in 1907."[17]

In 1913 a society, Het Friesch Paard, was founded to protect and promote the breed. By 1915 it had convinced FPS to split registration into two groups. By 1943, the breeders of non-Friesian horses left the FPS completely to form a separate association, which later became the Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland (Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN).[17]

Displacement by mechanical farm equipment on dairy farms also was a threat to the survival of Friesian horse. The last draught function performed by Friesians on a significant scale was on farms that raised dairy cattle. World War II slowed the process of displacement, allowing the population and popularity of the breed to rebound. Important in the initial stage of the recovery of the breed was due to the family owned Circus Strassburger, who, having fled Nazi Germany for the Low Countries, discovered the show qualities of the breed and demonstrated its abilities outside of its local breeding area during and after the Nazi occupation[19]


As use in agricultural pursuits declined, the Friesian became popular for recreational uses.[20] Today, about seven percent of the horses in the Netherlands are Friesians.[12]

The Friesian horse today is used both in harness and under saddle, particularly in the discipline of dressage. In harness, they are used for competitive and recreational driving. A traditional carriage seen in some events designed for Friesian horses is a high-wheeled cart called a sjees.[21][22]: 82  Friesians are also used to pull vintage carriages at ceremonial events and parades.[23]

Because of their color and striking appearance, Friesian horses are a popular breed in movies and television, particularly in historic and fantasy dramas. They are viewed as calm in the face of the activity associated with filmmaking, but also elegant on-camera.[23]

Registration of breeding[edit]

A Friesian horse is defined as a horse that meets the breed description as described in the breeding goal and of which both parents are registered in one of the classes (of the main section) of the KFPS. —KFPS[24]

Koninklijke Vereniging 'Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek' (KFPS), which means "Royal Association, The Friesian Horse Studbook", is the original Friesian studbook founded in 1879 in the Netherlands and is the world-recognized official studbook for the Friesian horse breed.[25][26] KFPS has licensed about 30 organizations around the world as authorized representatives to uphold its breeding program standards, record registrations and arrange horse evaluations.[25] Most KFPS-registered horses are in the Netherlands, Germany and North America.[25]

KFPS studbook breeding is strictly controlled, and breeding a KFPS-registered and approved stallion to any non-KFPS mares or to any other breed of horse is strongly discouraged.[25][26] Other registries exist for Friesians and Friesian crossbreeds, but KFPS does not permit dual registration.[25]

For a stallion to be approved as breeding stock it must pass a rigorous approval process. Horses are judged at an inspection, or keuring, by Dutch judges, who decide whether the horse is worthy of breeding.[27][28]

There are multiple registries within KFPS. The two main registries are the studbook for approved stallions, and the foalbook for horses from the mating of an approved stallion and a mare in the foalbook.[25] There are two auxiliary registries:[25]

  • B-Book I is for horses from a mating with a limited-approved stallion. In countries where approved-stallion stock is low, some stallions are given limited breeding rights, and their offspring can be registered in B-Book I with the possibility of upgrading to a higher studbook grade after three successive generations of breeding by KFPS approved studbook stallions.[24] North America is one of the regions outside Netherlands with a sufficient number of approved stallions available such that there has been no B-Book I registering since 1992.
  • B-Book II is for horses from the mating of two purebred Friesians, but the stallion is not approved. Such offspring must be registered directly with KFPS in Netherlands.

There are a few special status awards that can be obtained during evaluation events, such as a star predicate which is awarded to a mare, gelding, or unapproved stallion that meets minimum standards of conformation, movement, and minimum height; and a sport predicate is awarded to horses that have achieved certain performance goals in dressage or driving competitions.[29]

KFPS-registered horses born prior to 1997 had tongue tattoos; horses born after have a microchip implant in the upper left neck. The tattoo or chip numbers are recorded on the registration papers.[25] Names given to foals born in a certain year must begin with a fixed letter as determined by KFPS. Parentage is verified with DNA testing, and mares are DNA tested for hydrocephalus and dwarfism unless their sire and dam had both tested as non-carriers.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Breed description". The Australian & New Zealand Friesian Horse Society Inc. Archived from the original on March 9, 2018. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "The History of Friesians". Friesians Scotland. July 4, 2011. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "KFPS > Home". Fps-studbook.com. March 19, 2014. Archived from the original on January 28, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "Friesian Breed Standard". USEF. March 20, 2014. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  5. ^ Lesté-Lasserre, Christa (December 29, 2016). "What's Behind a Horse of a Different Color?". TheHorse.com. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  6. ^ "Friesian Encyclopedia". Friesiancrazy.com. July 12, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Chestnut Friesians or "Fox" Friesians". U.S. Friesian Referral Service. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  8. ^ "Registration Rules & Regulations". American Friesian Association. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  9. ^ "Horse Health". Friesian Horse Association of North America. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  10. ^ Back, Willem; Clayton, Hilary M. (2013). Equine Locomotion. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 718. ISBN 9780702052934. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Boerma, S.; Back, W.; Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, M. M. (February 2012). "The Friesian horse breed: A clinical challenge to the equine veterinarian?" (PDF). Equine Veterinary Education. 24 (2): 66–71. doi:10.1111/j.2042-3292.2011.00302.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 11, 2022. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Marcella, Kenneth (June 1, 2013). "The trouble with Friesians". DVM 360 Magazine. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Bouma, G.J.A.; Dijkstra, E; Osinga, A. (1988) [1979]. Het Friese Paard [The Friesian Horse] (in Dutch). Drachten: Friese Pers Boekerij [Friesian Press Library]. ISBN 9789033000010. OCLC 7794705.
  14. ^ Friese stamhengsten deel I, E. Dijkstra (citation from Dr. Geurts)
  15. ^ "The Friesian Horse, a time-honoured utility breed". KFPS - Royal Friesian. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Hyland, Ann (1998). The Warhorse 1250–1600. UK: Sutton Publishing. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0750907460. OL 483512M.
  17. ^ a b c "History of the Friesian Horse". The Friesian Horse Society. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008.
  18. ^ de Boer, P.; Minkema, S.; Teekens, A.M. Judging the Friesian Horse. Koninklijk Friese Paardenstamboek.
  19. ^ "Friesian History". Friesian Horse Association of North America. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  20. ^ "Friesian History". Friesian Horse Association of North America. Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  21. ^ "Overview". Friesian Horse Association of North America. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  22. ^ Smith, D.J.M. (1988). A Dictionary of Horse Drawn Vehicles. J. A. Allen & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0851314686. OL 11597864M.
  23. ^ a b Klimek, Kim Abbott (May 30, 2014). "Friesians in Film". Horsechannel.com. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  24. ^ a b c "Registratiereglement [Registration regulations]". KFPS. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Friesian Registry : Understanding the Different Elements of the KFPS Registry". Fhana. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  26. ^ a b "Rules and Regs". Fhana. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  27. ^ "Keuringsreglement [Inspection regulations]". KFPS. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  28. ^ "Inspection regulations (infographic)". KFPS. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  29. ^ "Predicates Explained". Fhana. Retrieved December 4, 2023.

External links[edit]