Friesian Horses

All horses are noble and majestic; however, Friesian horses are the quintessential breed, exemplifying these desirable qualities. Let’s look at their past and present, as well as the characteristics of these stunning and versatile horses!

 

This coveted, much-discussed breed of horse, gets its name from the place it originated - in Friesland, the Netherlands. In fact, Friesians are the only horse breed known to be native to the Netherlands! Their population has ebbed and flowed, even nearing extinction at times, but Friesians held on, and today are experiencing a growth in popularity.

These horses have a dignified past. Ancestors of today's Friesians were in high demand during medieval times, when they carried knights into battle. Another common task performed by Friesians was farming fields before the Industrial Revolution; though now they are no longer used for this. Later, when the demand for war horses faded and, the Netherlands was briefly linked politically to Spain, Andalusian horses were bred with Friesian ancestors. This produced a lighter breed which was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. As modern day approached,  the demand for pure-breds outweighed the desire for these hybrid breeds.

One interesting fact about Friesians is that, up until recently, they were  primarily a European breed. Friesians were introduced to North America some time ago, but the breed was lost, due to mixing with a plethora of other North American breeds. It wasn't until 1974 that pure-bred Friesians were re-introduced to this continent.

Friesians are known for their good temperament, with an elegant balance of energy and docility. They are strong and imposing, but surprisingly nimble considering their grand stature. It is these characteristics that make them ideal for competition, as well as riding for pleasure. Horse enthusiasts are slowly beginning to realize this. One activity they haven't been bred for is jumping, however, because of other attractive characteristics, demand has been on the rise for these refined animals. Friesians have gained popularity, both in the movie industry and as carriage horses. This is due to their well-chiselled bodies, as well as markedly powerful and precise high-stepping abilities.

Friesians are recognizable by their pure black coats, an all-enveloping midnight that rarely involves white markings, aside from a small star on their foreheads, which indicates that they are pure-bred. However, there are Friesian bloodlines that carry a red gene, meaning that a few Friesians boast a rich, chestnut-coloured coat. Other recognizable Friesian features include their thick, often wavy, manes and tails.

However, not all is majestic in the land of these elegant animals. There are currently only 3 pure Friesian bloodlines left, which means that there is a lot of inbreeding going on. This often results in genetic disorders such as dwarfism, hydrocephalus and megaesophaus - a compromised immune system including a hypersensitivity to insect bites, as well as  a tendency for aortic rupture. The higher-than-normal instances of these problems in Friesians have veterinarians across the globe worried, and it also presents a challenge for owners. Nonetheless, these captivating beauties have survived through the ages, and there is no doubt that Friesians will continue to endure.

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