The Friesian horse has a long and romantic history. The breed developed many centuries ago in Friesland, in northwestern Europe, which is now a part of the Netherlands. By the early middles ages, the horse was already known by the name of the area in which it originated. Because of their strength and agility Friesians were coveted war horses and they carried knights in the crusades and into battle.
Originally descended from Equus robustus (big horse), Arab and Andalusian blood was introduced during the 16th and 17th centuries when stallions were left on the battlefields during Thirty Years War between the Dutch and Spanish. This gave the Friesian horse higher knee action, a relatively small head and an arching neck.
Throughout the ages breeding horses and dealing in them was very important to the Friesian people. Before the Reformation, monks in many Friesian monasteries were skilled horse breeders.
At various times in their long history the versatile Friesians were used in the classical riding schools of Europe, were bred as racing trotters, were included in royal stables as elegant coach horses, thrilled European crowds as circus horses and also had to perform as light draft and all-purpose horses.
The breed faced extinction on several occasions, but was saved in 1913 by a dedicated group of breeders in Friesland. At that time there were only three studbook stallions left in the world. Today there are over 80 FPS-approved stallions in the world.
After regaining some visibility in its native Friesland, the Friesian horse soon appeared on the international driving scene. That fueled a strong revival for the breed and in 1974 the first importations of modern times were made to North America.
Friesian horses now number in the thousands and are found on every inhabited continent. The greatest number of Friesians is still in its native Netherlands, but Germany has many Friesian horses and the Friesian population in North America is growing rapidly. We can expect that the breed will continue to grow steadily in popularity as more and more people discover the magnificent Friesian horse.
The breed standard is pure black with the possibility of a small white star on its forehead. Typically Friesian horses have a long heavy mane, tail and fetlocks. The Friesian horse is very strong and muscular and it stands between 15 and 16 hands. Friesians are known for their excellent disposition. They are extremely friendly and intelligent horses.
Phryso, Friesian stallion belonging to Don Jaun van Oostenrijk of Austria, at Naples in 1568