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FRIESIAN BREED INFORMATION

    The following is an extract from the Summary in English which is part of the Dutch book titled “Het Friese Paard” by G. J. A. Bouma, 1979, and printed by Friese Pers Boekerij, b. v., in Drachten and Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. It is reproduced on the website of Friesian Horse Association of North America Only parts of that reproduction is written here. This book was written at the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Royal Society “The Friesian Studbook”. This studbook is the oldest in the Netherlands. It was founded May 1, 1879. The book deals with the Friesian horse which resembles the ancient western European horse and the knights' horse called destrier.


    The Friesian horse descends from the Equus robustus. During the 16th and 17th centuries, but probably also earlier, Arabian blood was introduced, especially through Andalusian horses from Spain. This has given them the high knee-action, the small head and the craning neck. Because of his temperament the Friesian horse is considered warm blooded. The Friesian horse has been kept free from influence of the English Thoroughbred. During the last two centuries it has been bred pure. Breeding horses and dealing in them was very important for the Frisians. The monks in the many monasteries in Friesland before the reformation did a lot of horsebreeding. Through the centuries the Friesian Government has made many regulations in order to safeguard good breeding. Now the Dutch Horselaw of 1939 (modified) gives rules for studbook and breeding.


    As early as 1625 Friesian horses were being imported into what later would become the United States of America. The Dutch founded New Amsterdam in the region they discovered in 1609, but they had to abandon it to the English in 1664, when the name was changed to New York. Advertisements in the papers (e.g. on May 20, 1795 and June 11, 1796) offer trotters of “Dutch” descent. These must have been Friesian horses. The able writer Jeanne Mellin proposes in her books “The Morgan Horse” (1961) and “The Morgan Horse Handbook” (1973)the possibility that this well-known American horse is of Friesian descent. The ability to trot fast, the heavy manes, the long rich tail and the fetlocks at the feet of the original forefather of this race may be an indication. Again in 1974, 1975 and 1977 nine Friesian horses in all were imported into the United States by Thomas Hannon, Friesian Farms, Louisville near Canton, Ohio.


    Apart from its high knee action and elegant performance, the Friesian horse was sought as a trotting horse for the short distance of 80 rods (325 m). In the 18th and 19th centuries, and probably earlier as well, these horseraces were very popular festivities in Friesland. For important races the prize was a silver or even a golden whip. The Friesian Museum at Leeuwarden has a fine collection of them. In many villages and towns these races were held annually. Between 1800 and 1850 there were 2847 advertisements of these races in the papers. At first the races were on horseback, but later on they also included the Friesian “sjees”. May 1st, 1823 King William I started a horserace at Leeuwarden that was to be held each successive year in the beginning of August. It became known as “the Kings-Golden-whip-day” because the King awarded a golden whip each year as prize. The race was to be held in remembrance of the battle of Waterloo in Belgium, June 18th, in which the French Emperor Napoleon was beaten and Europe regained its freedom. The races at Leeuwarden always attracted many visitors. They ended in 1891 when H.M. Queen Regent Emma awarded the golden whip for the last time. Russian and American horses, bred and used for racing only, were faster and this brought Friesian horseracing to an end. The Friesian horse influenced the breeding of the Russian Orloff and of English and American race horses.


    By the middle or the end of the 18th century crossing in horsebreeding became a fashion. At the very start of the Studbook, on May 1st 1879, (the first studbook in the Netherlands) opinions differed whether only horses of the Friesian Race should be registered, or crossbreds as well. The problem was solved by opening two registration books: Book A for Friesian horses, and Book B for crossbreds, From 1884 till 1896 the Studbook was also open for the registration of horses from the adjacent provinces Groningen and Drente. For this reason the name “Friesian horse” was temporarily changed into “Inland horse”. By 1896, however, Friesian horses had nearly disappeared in those provinces: in Groningen altogether, in Drente a few years later.     The fashion of crossing grew to such an extent that the decision was taken in 1907 to close the separate books A and B and to register all the horses in one book in future. This could have been the end of the Friesian horse. However, in 1913 a tiny group of true lovers of the Friesian horse started the society “The Friesian Horse” (“Het Friesche Paard”). This society worked in close cooperation with the studbook and succeeded in keeping and improving the Friesian horse. They bought good Friesian colts and they gave awards for good types of horses. In 1914 the Studbook decided, at the request of the Society, to open two registration books again in 1915: Book A for Friesian horses and Book B now for “Upland horses” (“Bovenlandse paarden”). In 1939, when the number of Friesian horses had increased considerably, the Frisians got a board of their own within the Studbook. Finally, in 1943, the breeders of non-Friesian horses left the Studbook. Since that year the “Royal Society The Friesian Studbook” (the designation “Royal” was added in 1954) registers only purebred Friesian horses. H.M. Queen Juliana honored the Studbook by becoming its Patroness in 1949.


    The Friesian horse nowadays is bred exclusively black. The only white allowed is a small white spot between the eyes. In bygone days Friesian horses could have different colors.
The Friesian horse is gentle, honest, sober, high-mettled and clever. It is descended from the western European horse that has been in general use from the earliest days on and that attained high perfection in the Knight's horse, the destrier. So far, it has been preserved in Friesland only. There is an increase of numbers outside the province. That it is able to achieve great performances is shown by the fact that during the demanding marathon championships for four-in-hand teams in 1977 as many as five teams of Friesian horses participated. Tjeerd Velstra from Deurne (North Brabant) became Dutch Champion and in the same year Reserve European Champion at Donaueschingen (Baden-Wurttemberg in Western Germany). The maintenance and improvement of the Friesian horse is supervised by the “Het Friesch Paarden Stamboek.”
The Friesian Horse Association of North America is the sisier registry to the FPS.




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