Danish Horse Breeds: From Danish Sport Pony To Schleswig

We’ve talked about a few smaller countries with wonderful horses (Czech and Slovak breeds, Belgian breeds, etc) and Denmark is one of them. Denmark is known for being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, as well as being the country where Lego originated! Then there is the food, the culture, the historical landmarks – and the horses, of course. Denmark has seven native horse breeds, all of which are alive and kicking today. If you want to learn more about Danish horse breeds, you’ve come to the right place!

Danish Sport Pony

This little riding pony came about because of the growing popularity of Icelandic and Norwegian ponies as mounts, and the Danish breeders came up trumps by creating this popular all rounder. The Danish Sport Pony is made up of Connemaras, New Forests, Welsh ponies and Arabians. The Breeding Association was first formed in 1976, and these ponies have thrived ever since.

They are never taller than 14.21/2 hands, and are separated into three categories – ponies up to 14.2, those up to 13.2 and those up to 12.2. Whichever category they fall into these are muscular little ponies, bred for agility and speed. Traditionally they were gray, but crossbreeding has brought bay, chestnut and black to the breed. They are bred predominantly as ponies for children, so they have calm, obedient temperaments and are ideal for children’s hacking or showing.

Danish Warmblood

Danish Warmblood
Source: Wikimedia.org

The Danish warmblood was established in the mid 20th century, by crossing native Danish Fredriksborg mares with elite stallions from Europe – the Thoroughbred, Anglo Normans and Trakehners. They can stand anywhere between 15.3 and 17 hands, and generally have a Thoroughbred outline with more strength and substance, and notably good legs.

This breed can come in any solid color, and they have excellent temperaments due to the strict selection of stallions permitted to breed. They are spirited and courageous, and although it is still a young breed, this warmblood is making a name for itself in showjumping and dressage. They also excel at cross country, and some are also used as show jumpers.

Faroe Ponies

This small breed, although it is definitely of pony stature, is called a horse in its native land, because of its great strength. They have been around for centuries, and were used since the 1600s to carry or pull heavy loads on farms, and between 1850 and 1920 it was used as a pit pony in the UK. The breed has diminished dramatically since those times, and nowadays only 73 ponies still live on the Faroe Islands – though huge efforts are being made to maintain and increase the numbers.

It stands between 11.1 and 12.1 hands, and most are chestnut, brown, black or speckled. It is an incredibly strong pony, with an unusual ambling gait called the tolt, which it shares with the Icelandic pony. They have a friendly nature and are mainly used as ponies for children, though they are of course popular with hobby breeders.

Frederiksborg Horse

This is Denmark’s oldest breed, and while it is rare these days it has a dedicated following. Made up of Neapolitan and Iberian horses, as well as the Norfolk Roadster and Arabians, the Frederiksborg was so popular that it was exported in great numbers and was used to improve other breeds, from the heavy warmbloods to the Lipizzaner. Numbers declined in the 20th century and by 1939 efforts had to be made to re-establish the breed, adding Friesian, Oldenburg, Thoroughbreds and Arabians to the mix.

The Frederiksborg was ahead of its time in terms of quality and has remained relatively unchanged throughout the years, with a powerful, strong body and broad quarters. They are most often flaxen-haired chestnuts, with distinctive markings. Bays, buckskin, palominos and grays also appear in the breed, and many have sabino or rabicano markings. They are calm and steady in nature, and are best suited to harness work, though some compete in dressage and show jumping.

Jutland

Jutland heavy draft horse
Source: Wikimedia.org

The Jutland is a heavy draft horse, which was created for working in agriculture. They were also used as war horses, and it is even thought that the Viking raiders used a horse similar to the Jutland for in their invasions of the UK. The modern Jutland began around 1850, with the addition of blood from several other draft horses. They are big, chunky horses that are compact and muscular, incredibly strong, and stand anywhere between 15 and 16.1 hands.

They are typically chestnut but bay, gray, black and roan also exist, and there may be white markings. Like the majority of the heavy horses, Jutlands have a calm nature, yet they are also energetic and willing workers. Most of the Jutland’s uses these days are for show, though some are still used on farms, and the Carlsberg brewery has been using this breed to pull its drays since 1928. They are often used at shows for demonstrations, to promote both the breed and the beer.

Knabstrupper

knabstrupper horse
Source: Globetrotting

This popular, eye catching breed was established in 1812, when a mare with blanket leopard markings was bred to a solid colored stallion. The result was dramatic spotting, and the mare and her offspring were bred to many other horses to produce similar spotted results. They usually stand between 15.2 and 16 hands, but pony sized Kanbstrups also exist.

They generally have either warmblood or Baroque conformation, depending on their breeding, and both types tends to be elegant and refined. The coat patterns vary from individual to individual; most are spotted but some are solid colored. They are used for general riding, as well as dressage and showjumping, and some are used as carriage or circus horses, due to their eye catching colors.

Schleswig

This medium sized draft horse breed was begun in around 1860, when an imported English Suffolk Punch stallion was introduced to mares native to the Jutland peninsula. Like many of the draft horses the Schleswig was initially used for agricultural work, and for pulling coaches and wagons. Although at its peak in 1910 there were 12,000 recorded breeding Schleswigs, it is now recognised as an endangered breed, numbering between 200 and 250.

It is usually between 15.1 and 16 hands, and has a long, powerful body with stocky, feathered limbs. They are usually flaxen chestnut, though gray and dark colors can also occur, and their temperament is kind and docile. These days the Schleswig is still used in forestry and agriculture, and for pulling wagons.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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