The modern Friesian
traces to the oldest European warmblood stock. It escaped
extinction barely more than one hundred years ago and only
survived due to the efforts of several dedicated supporters.
The Friesian is now a popular and respected breed in Europe,
and it is gaining recognition in North America and Australia.
The breed originated
in the Netherlands in the early 1500's, taking its name from
the province of Friesland on the North Sea. Friesland is well
known for its broad meadows and sandy soil which contribute
to high quality horse production. During the wars of that era
the Spanish Andalusion horse was used in Friesian breeding.
Later, in the 1600's, the Spanish influence was reinforced,
and this laid the foundations for the modern Friesian. This
ancestry can also be found in the Lippizan breed. In the
1700's the Friesian was used increasingly less as a war
horse, finding favour instead as a carriage horse. The
arrival of the railroads in the 1800's allowed Friesland to
expand its dairy and beef industry which decreased the
interest in horse breeding and the Friesian hovered on the
edge of extinction. A few supporters formed the Friesian
Studbook Society in 1878 and published the first studbook in
1880. Despite these efforts, the later destruction wrought by
the first world war left little purebred stock. Since then,
intense effort has reestablished the Friesian; still, all
modern Friesians descend from only three bloodlines.
The three foundation
sires are Tetman 205, Age 168, and Ritske 202. Each of these
trace to a single 19th century stallion, Nemo 51, born in
1885. Every registered Friesian today descends from these
Over the centuries,
several different types of Friesians have developed. However,
the modern Friesian used in sport disciplines has a lighter
frame than its agricultural cousins, and will be slightly
taller; around 16 hands is preferred. This type is also
lighter on its feet than its coaching forebears.
A finely chiselled
head with small ears is carried on a shapely neck with a
luxuriant mane, which has been known to reach the ground. The
neck is set on on long, sloping shoulders with a moderate
width of chest. The withers are well developed and gradually
join a strong, well muscled and not overly long back. The
ribs are deep and well sprung with depth through the flank.
The strong loin blends smoothly into a lengthy croup which
slopes slightly with a flowing tail set low. The legs are
strong and stand true on wide, sound hooves. The legs are
feathered, with hair sometimes reaching the knee joint.
The color is always
black, although it should be noted that at large gatherings
of Friesians it is apparent that there are different shades
of black. No white is allowed on the legs or body, though a
small star or snip is permitted.
Friesian beauty is
more than skin-deep. The Friesian's admirable character is
based on a docile and gentle disposition, and his willing and
cheerful temperment make him a joy to be around. His keen
intelligence allows him to learn quickly. In general however
the breed is a slow maturing one and horses cannot be
expected to work hard when very young. Because of its
temperment the Friesian is considered warm blooded. He is a
companion suitable for all ages and levels of competence.
The movement of the
Friesian is doubtlessly unique. Incredible suspension
complements the fast high action. The power and elasticity of
the gaits truly exemplify poetry in motion.
The Friesian has the
stamina and ground covering capability to excel at combined
driving. Yet his gentle nature allows him to be a pleasure
driving companion as well. His impulsive, elastic gaits
coupled with forward movement make him a suitable dressage
prospect for many levels, including grand prix. And again,
his genuine, honest personality will make him a superb riding