The Pride and Beauty of Friesland

“He is not proud. I was wrong, I was entirely wrong about him. You don’t know him, Papa. If I told you what he’s really like, what he’s done.” This quote from Pride and Prejudice should lead you through this article about the Friesian horse. Further, this quote shows you exactly what we see when looking at the Friesian horse.

By: Rica Kenning – photo: Luitzen Walstra

The Friesian citizens are proud to call one of the oldest horse breed of Europe theirs. The first mentions of the Friesian horse could be found at the Roman Era, where the Romans exported horses to England. Means the Friesian horse has influenced breeds all over England. Throughout the Middle Ages the Friesian horse was famous for being a knight horse, with his pride, beauty and the strength to carry heavy equipment. Throughout the occupation of the Netherlands by Spain the Friesian got some blood from the Andalusian horse in the line, which brought the baroque look to the Friesian breed.

Wealthy families
Following this, the 16th. And 17th century the Friesian became more a horse to represent the wealth of a family, mostly as carriage horse for splendors of carriages. But since the wealthy families did stop riding, the Dutch farmers used the Friesian as a carriage horse for their Sunday carriages and for trotting races. But as time goes, the Friesian was quickly replaced by faster thoroughbred horses. Consequently, the Friesian horse became more and more a horse to do farm work with.

Close to extinction
The breed reduced immensely and was close to extinction in the late 18th and early 19th century. However, few farmers gave everything to rebreed the Friesian, which luckily worked through incest. Nowadays, it means for the Friesian horses to go through a tough performance test. You can call it the toughest performance test worldwide. Mainly because an incest factor must be computed, to make sure no foreign blood crosses the breed line. This means that all existing Friesian horses have the same roots.

Today the Friesian is a popular leisure horse because of their gently and good-tempered manner. In Friesland’s capital Leeuwarden, the statue of a Friesian horse adorns the city. This statue was a gift from Koopmans Meelfabrieken and their 100-years-existence anniversary to the city. The statue represents the Friesian horse ‘Dagho’ and was created by Leeuwarden born artist Auke Hettema in 1981.

Coming back to the quote that started the article, it shows that we should not believe what we see and instead look under the surface to understand the whole story. This story showed you why the Friesian citizens can be rightly proud of their breed, as it is a special one and if people would not have had the faith in this breed it would not exist anymore.