The black Friesian horse holds an important place in the equine hierarchy of Europe. A descendant of the primitive Forest Horse, this cold blood breed is well known for its endurance, thriftiness, docility and strength. The only horse breed native to the Netherlands, the Friesian’s antiquity and value as a powerful, all-around utility animal was recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus (AD 55-120).
A thousand years after Tacitus’ death, Friesian knights and their German neighbors rode this horse to battle in the Crusades. During these campaigns the Friesian horse was crossed with Arabian and Andalusian breeds. For centuries Friesians were the most practical and affordable warhorse of Europe.
Despite its popularity, the Friesian nearly became extinct during the early part of the 20th century. Because the Friesian excelled in trotting races it was crossed with breeds that increased speed at the expense of the essential type. By 1913, only three Friesian stallions remained in Friesland. The breed was saved during World War II when fuel shortages forced Dutch farmers to return to horse power.
In the past, the funeral business made use of the always black Friesians, and for many years a pair was used to draw delivery carriages for Harrods, the prestigious London department store. Today, Friesians are used for working the land, are driven in harness, and prized as dressage horses due to their agility and temperament.
See this beautiful, centuries-old breed in motion in this wonderful video courtesy of the oldest studbook in the Netherlands, Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek, (KFPS).