History of the magnificent Frisian
"The Friesian originates in the province of Friesland in the northern Netherlands, where there is evidence of thousands of years of horse populations.
As far back in history as the 4th century there are mentions of Friesian troops who rode their own horses. One of the most well-known sources of this was by an English writer named Anthony Dent who wrote about the Friesian mounted troops in Carlisle. Dent, amongst others, wrote that the Friesian horse was the ancestor of both the British Shire and the Fell pony. However, this is just speculation. It wasn't until the 11th century, that there were illustrations of what appeared to be Friesans. Many of the illustrations found depict knights riding horses that resembled the breed, with one of the most famous examples being William the Conqueror.
These ancestors of the modern Friesians were used in medieval times to carry knights to battle. In the 12th and 13th centuries, some eastern horses of crusaders were mated with Friesian stock. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Netherlands were briefly linked with Spain, there was less demand for heavy warhorses, as battle arms changed and became lighter. Andalusian horses were crossbred with Friesians, producing a lighter horse more suitable (in terms of less food intake and waste output) for work as urban carriage horses.
Historian Ann Hyland wrote of the Friesian breed:
Emperor Charles (reigned 1516 -56) continued Spanish expansion into the Netherlands, which had its Frisian warhorse, noted by Vegetius and used on the continent and in Britain in Roman times. Like the Andalusian, the Frisian bred true to type. Even with infusions of Spanish blood during the sixteenth century, it retained its indigenous characteristics, taking the best from both breeds. The Frisian is mentioned in 16th and 17th century works as a courageous horse eminently suitable for war, lacking the volatility of some breeds or the phlegm of very heavy ones. Generally black, the Frisian was around 15hh with strong, cobby confirmation, but with a deal more elegance and quality. The noted gait was a smooth trot coming from powerful quarters. Nowadays, though breed definition is retained, the size has markedly increased, as has that of most breeds due to improved rearing and dietary methods.
The breed was especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were in demand not only as harness horses and for agricultural work, but also for the trotting races so popular then. The Friesian may have been used as foundation stock for such breeds as the Dole Gudbrandsdal, the Norfolk Trotter (ancestor of the Hackney), and the Morgan. In the 1800s, the Friesian was bred to be lighter and faster for trotting, but this led to what some owners and breeders regarded as inferior stock, so a movement to return to pureblood stock took place at the end of the 19th century.
Friesian horses are sometimes referred to as "Belgian Blacks"
A studbook society was founded in 1879 by Frisian farmers and landowners who had gathered to found the Fries Rundvee Stamboek (FRS)] The Paardenstamboek ("horse studbook") was published in 1880 and initially registered both Friesian horses and a group of heavy warmblood breeds, including Ostfriesen and Alt-Oldenburgers, collectively known as "Bovenlanders". At the time, the Friesian horse was declining in numbers and was being replaced by the more fashionable Bovenlanders, both directly, and by crossbreeding Bovenlander stallions on Friesian mares. This had already virtually exterminated the pure Friesian in significant parts of the province in 1879, which made the inclusion of Bovenlanders necessary. While the work of the society led to a revival of the breed in the late 19th century, it also resulted in the sale and disappearance of many of the best stallions from the breeding area, and Friesian horse populations dwindled. By the early 20th century, the number of available breeding stallions was down to three. Therefore, in 1906, the two parts of the registry were joined, and the studbook was renamed the Friesch Paarden Stamboek (FPS) in 1907."
In 1913 a society, Het Friesch Paard, was founded to protect and promote the breed. By 1915 it had convinced FPS to split registration into two groups. By 1943, the breeders of non-Friesian horses left the FPS completely to form a separate association, which later became the Koninklijk Warmblood Paardenstamboek Nederland (Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN).
Displacement by petroleum-powered farm equipment on dairy farms also was a threat to the survival of Friesian horses. The last draught function performed by Friesians on a significant scale was on farms that raised dairy cattle. World War II slowed the process of displacement, allowing the population and popularity of the breed to rebound. Important in the initial stage of the recovery of the breed was due to the family owned Circus Strassburger, who, having fled Nazi Germany for the Low Countries, discovered the show qualities of the breed and demonstrated its abilities outside of its local breeding area during and after the Nazi occupation." wikipedia
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