Made famous world wide for its beer, sausages, composers, amazing architecture and centuries of history, Germany is noteworthy for another thing – its horses. There are 24 breeds which have their origins in this European country, and others which can trace their ancestry back to German horse breeds. We’re going to look at ten of the most fascinating.
What You'll Learn Today
This small pony is a cross between the Peruvian Paso and the Icelandic horse, and it combines the elegance of the Paso with the hardiness of the Icelandic. It was bred to create a horse that was bigger then the Icelandic but still small and hardy, and it shares a distinctive gait – the tolt – with its Icelandic ancestor.
The breed was first recognised in 1994, and there are very few of these rugged little ponies; in fact there have never been more than 100 members of the breed at any one time. They stand between 13 and 15 hands and can be any color.
Black Forest Horse
The Black Forest Horse is a light draft horse originally used for farm work and agriculture, and it is speculated that its origins are in a horse called the Walderpferd, which has been documented since the 15th century. The population declined massively after the mechanisation of agriculture and transport, and numbers fell below 160.
The breed has rallied, and these striking horses stand between 14.2 and 15.3 hands, and may only be chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. The shade of chestnut varies from light to dark, with some specimens being almost black – this type is called “Dunkelfuchs”, or “Dark Fox”. These days the Black Forest Horse is used in harness and as a riding horse.
It is believed that these ponies developed from primitive types, possibly ponies that roamed in the Merfelder Bruch area since the 14th century. The Dulmen stands around 12 to 13 hands, and has the look of primitive horses, with most having the usual dun coloring – though bay, black and chestnut also exist in the breed.
They roam 860 acres of the Meerfelder Bruch, and are rounded up once a year in May and the foals sold at public auction. They are rugged, tough ponies which adapt well to domestication, and are used as children’s ponies as well as driving in harness, and for agricultural uses.
One of the oldest and most successful of the warmbloods, the Hanoverian was originally a carriage horse, crossed with Thoroughbreds to make it more agile. The breed was well established by the end of the 18th century, and it was extensively used as a high-class coach horse.
Hanoverians are consistently seen in the medals at the Olympics, as well as other prestigious riding events. They generally stand around 16-16.2 hands, and are elegant and strong, with chestnut, bay, black and gray being the most common colors. They are used in showing, eventing, showjumping and dressage, and they tend to excel.
The amusing name comes from the brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, who created the breed in an attempt to bring back the Tarpan, which became extinct in 1879. The Heck was created by crossing Kinik, Icelandic and Gotland breeds with the Przewalski’s Horse, and is generally between 12.2 and 13.2 hands.
They are strong, rugged ponies, with a high stepping gait which is comfortable to ride as well as attractive in harness. They are always dun or grullo (a dun variant), and have primitive markings such as a dorsal strip and horizontal markings on the legs. They are ideal for driving or riding uses.
The Holsteiner is thought to be the oldest of the warmbloods. It originated in the Schleswig-Holstein area of Northern Germany, and has been bred for over 700 years. Originally, Holsteiners were bred for battle, then carriage work and pulling heavy loads, so it is big and athletic, standing around 16-17 hands.
They are balanced and elegant, and are known for their arched necks and powerful hindquarters, and are generally black bay or brown, though chestnut and gray is also permitted in the breed. Holsteins these days dominate the sport of showjumping, and also excel at dressage, eventing and combined driving.
Rhenish German Coldblood
This heavy draft horse comes from Rhineland, and was created in the 19th century. It was used initially for farm work – heavy horses were necessary because the local soil was particularly hard to plow. It was listed as endangered in 2007, but in 2013 over 1000 individuals were counted.
They stand 16-16.3 hands, and have a massive frame with strong, muscular limbs which are heavily feathered. The temperament, like most drafts, is docile and willing to work, and they are mainly used these days for forestry and agriculture, as well as sports and brewery purposes.
Believed to be Germany’s oldest breed of saddle horse, the Senner has been documented as far back as 1160. They are now critically endangered, and some even go as far as to say the breed is extinct, because to try to keep it going it was bred extensively with Arabians. There were only 25 individuals reported in 2015, but efforts are being made to allow them to roam wild in the Senne and to re-establish the breed.
They average 16-16.2 hands, and are generally bay and gray, though black and chestnut also occur, and some horses even display primitive markings such as a dorsal stripe and horizontal marks on the legs. It was bred as a riding horse, though it was also used as a carriage horse.
The Trakehner is a light warmblood, which was first established in 1731. Bred initially as a war horse, it was turned to farm duties after the Treaty of Versailles limited Germany’s army to 100,000 troops. The Trakehner stands between 15.2 and 17 hands, and has an athletic, Thoroughbred-like build, though it is somewhat more powerful.
It is known for its floating trot, and for being rather more spirited than some other warmbloods. They can be any color, though bay, gray, chestnut and black are the most common. The Trakehner is particularly famous as a dressage horse, but they compete in nearly all the disciplines and are frequently found on the medal tables at the Olympics.
Breeding warmblooded sports horses, the Zweibrucker state stud was founded in 1755. It was decreed that the horses bred there should be “good, handsome and useful”, and they were very much admired.
Because Zweibruckers are a mix of many breeds, it is impossible to judge them based on appearance alone, but most are heavy set middle weight horses, between 15.3 and 16.3 hands. All colors are permitted but the most common are bay, chestnut, gray and black. They are bred to be suitable for dressage, showjumping and eventing, though combined driving is also among their capabilities.