Friesians as Performance and Show Horses

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Breed History & Standard

Friesians are one of the oldest domesticated breeds, dating back to the Middle Ages and found in artwork of that period. They are native to Friesland in the northern Netherlands.

One of the many outstanding characteristics of the Friesian is their glorious mane and tail, as well as the feathering on their legs. Their color is always black, with only a white star on the forehead permitted. The head  of the Friesian is carried quite high and the face is expressive. The neck is low-set and carried rather vertically. The legs and quarters are muscular yet smooth. The Friesian is known for their excellent, gentle disposition.

Due to their splendid action at the trot, the Friesian was bred to be lighter in weight. Unfortunately, this limited its use in agriculture and brought about a serious decline in numbers. Prior to WW I, the breed was dangerously close to disappearing altogether. It was revived as a fine carriage horse, and in recent years the Friesians popularity has surged, as it has shown great potential in dressage, saddleseat and on the trail.

Friesians have become a favorite for pleasure and competitive driving as well as under saddle. To protect the integrity of the breed, the Dutch and German registry regulates and monitors breeding practices throughout the world.

Visit our stallion pages at Milan and Dante of Carisbrooke or other fine performance and breeding stock and foals for sale on our available for sale page


For additional information on the Friesian Horse, check the following links:

Friesian Horse Association of North America


A Compilation of Relevant Information (From FHANA)

Following is a time-line of many interesting historical events related to the history of the Friesian horse, the places involved in their breeding, and the people important to their survival. It is by no means a complete work. More information and interesting stories may be found by studying the references cited at the end of this article. The accuracy of this time-line is based on the works cited.

1500- 1600

Arabian blood introduced to the horse that descended from Equus robustus, through Andalusian horses of Spain.


Hungarian King Louis II used heavy Friesian horses in battle against the Turks.


Etches by Stradanus, showing a Friesian stallion in the stables of Don Juan of Austria.


Electoral Prince George William of Prussia imported Friesian horses.


Friesian horses were being exported to New Amsterdam (the future New York City).


The Dutch were forced to leave New Amsterdam to the English. The purebred Friesian horse was quickly lost.


Friesian sjees came into use. Built in the Rococo style.


The stud at Kladrub imported Friesian horses.

1795 -1796

Ads in New York City newspapers speak of trotters of 'Dutch' descent.


Friesians horses were popular as a trotting horse for short distances.


King William I started horse races in Leeuwarden, to be held every successive year. This became known as the "King's-Golden-Whip-Day" due to the prize.


T Hasje born (Little Hare). She was a brown racing mare, later registered under #31.


The studbook for the Friesian horse was started in Roordahuizen. It was called "The Horse Studbook." At this time, the question of crossbreeds was answered with two registration books - Book A for Friesians (purebred horses from Friesland); Book B for crossbreeds. Jhr. Mr. C. van Eysinga became one of the sponsors of the association, and served as Chairman of the Board of the FPS from 1879 until 1906. Thirteen stallions were judged, 10 mares were entered in Book A, and 1 mare was entered in Book B.


T. Cribb & Sons founded their London based funeral business with a Friesian stallions. During the Victorian days, more than 700 Friesian horses were employed in the funeral business in the area of London alone. They were known as 'Belgium Blacks' since they came to London through Antwerp in Belgium.


Jeanne B registered in Book-B. She was the ancestor of the oldest Friesian mare pedigree- #1.


The stallion, Graaf Adolf 21, was approved. His owner was H. J. Seekles.


The mare Keesje was registered in the studbook with #101. She was owned by Jan Piers van der Sluis in Hemrik. Jan bred 4 studbook stallions: Friso 48, Gambetta 52, Leo 86, and Frits 95. Frits 95 went on to breed 100's of mares, mostly after 1906.

1883 - 1896

The studbook opened to the registration of horses from the provinces of Groningen & Drenthe. Due to this, the studbook name was temporarily changed to "Inland Horse" instead of Friesian Horse.


The Internal Agricultural Exchange in Amsterdam showed some unintentional shortcomings in the Friesian breeding. According to their research, the Friesian horse was not the best breed for producing work or army horses. Only 21 Friesians were acquired by the army that year. Most farm or army horses were chosen from Oldenburg stock.


Jhr. Mr. C. van Eysinga established his studfarm in Huisterheide. He and a partner stood the Friesian stallion Graaf Adolf 21. The studfarm became known es 'se Oorsprong,' (The Origin).


De Regent 32, 3 years old, was approved in Groningen. The owner, Scholten, set a record of 3 min. 6.4 sec per mile in trotting races. But the trends in Groningen were for a heavier Oldenburg breed and thus crossbreeding took place.


Radboud 67 became the last of only 5 brown Friesian stallions approved for the registry. The other four were David 11, Keizer 18, Minister Thorbecke 34 [one source includes Membrino] and Bruno 38.

1889 - 1909

Public interest in the Friesian horse waned along with the sudden rise in popularity of the 'Bovenlandse Paard' (the Oldenburg-East Friesian horse). There were 19 available Friesian stallions in Friesland in 1889, 6 in 1899, and 6 in 1909.


De Oorsprong reached a total of 60 horses.


The last golden whip was awarded by H.M. Queen Regent Emma.


Davidji 1080, a brown studbook mare, was born. She was the daughter of DePaauw 1 and the originator of the mare stammer 50 & 53.


De Regent 32 was sold to De Oorsprong. The period between 1894 and 1905 became known as the "glory days" at De Oorsprong.


A number of Friesian stallions were sold to England after only 1-2 years of breeding in the Netherlands.


More than 8,000 horses were imported into the Netherlands, mainly from North America and Canada. Mechanization in the New World made these horses surplus. The result in the Netherlands, and elsewhere, was much crossbreeding.


Groningen & Drenthe broke off from the studbook. Friesland's studbook became the 'Friesian Horse Studbook' with two registries, the 'Inlands Ras' and the 'Buitenlands of Gekruistras.' The latter registry became the 'Bovenlands Ras' (breed of the Northern Provinces).


Alva 113 was born at De Oorsprong. He lived 16 years, dying in 1915.


Jan Piers van der Sluis's brother, Engbert, built a villa called 'Het Koetskuis' (the Coach House) in Hemrik and established a breeding station with 25 horses, including Ulbe 100, Pier 106 and Prins 109.


Only 15 Approved Friesian stallions left standing in Friesland, 5 of them at De Oorsprong. This was Regent 32's last year at de Oorsprong. Also standing there were: Drenthe I 91, Sultan 105, Pluto 108 and Alva 113. Crossbreeding experiments produced disappointing results time and again; the matches only resulted in average market horses of the time.


The Stallion Association in Kimswerd was founded in order to buy Prins 109.


Jippe Bouma in Terwispel bought the 12 year old Frits 95 from Jan Piers van der Sluis. He stood for station Bouma until his death in 1912.


The studbook lost the distinction between the 'Inlands Ras' and 'Bovenlands Ras.' The decision was made to register both the Friesian horse and the Bovenlandse Paard in one studbook. This has been attributed to the prevalent fashion of crossbreeding. In order to counter this, Jan Timmer of Kimswerd proclaimed a "wake-up call" to preserve the Friesian horse.


Jan Wilke Hoogterp in Deersum bought the 4 year old registered mare, Irma 2708, daughter of Aaron 114. She had a colt in 1918 (sire Paulus 121) named Vredestichter (Peacemaker). Irma was also the mother of Arend 131 and the model mare Clasina 1409.


Jan Jentjes de Vries from Ypecolsga bought the 4 year old mare, Prinses. Her dam was unregistered and her sire was Prins 109. She became the patriarch of Line 19 in the Merriestammen, the line known as the "de Vries Line." Her colt became the studbook stallion Theunis 125. Her daughter, Simontje (sire Danillo) became model-preferent. Simontje 1328 was the dam of approved stallion Obscurant 150.


This year saw an alarming statistic - only 3 Approved Friesian stallions remained: Prins 109, Alva 113 and Friso 117. No young stallions had been registered since 1907. Jhr. Mr. C. Van Eysinga became one of the initiators of the association Het Friesche Paard, "The Friesian Horse" association. Concerned breeders and admirers gathered to decide on what action to take to preserve the breeding. The association worked with the studbook and encouraged breeding by buying promising young stallions and awarding the best with premies.. The association soon bought the stallion Paulus. Paulus 121 went on to become the patriarch of all current Friesian stallions. He was the father of Vredestichter 127 and Arend 131.


At the request of Het Friesche Paard, the studbook reopened two registration books - Book A for the Friesian horse and Book B for the Bovenlandse Paarden.
  Not one Friesian stallion had been approved since the year 1907, when the books combined. The Friesian horse had obtained separate books in the studbook and a period of prosperity for the horses lasted approximately 50 years.


This year marked the first time in 10 years that a Friesian stallion was again approved for the studbook. Kornelis Wobbe van der Sluis in Lippenhuizen bought the 3 year old Oom (sire Alva 113). Oom became known as the stallion with "two numbers." Oom became the first stallion in 10 years to be approved and registered in the studbook. His number was 373, but the Northern horses began to be registered separately again, so Oom took on a new number - #119.


The Friesian Horse Association bought the 3 year old Paulus 121 (sire Friso 117). He played an important role in transforming the carriage horse to a lighter farm horse. Approximately 34 registered mares remained in the studbook.


The studbook ended registration of brown Friesian mares.


The number of registered Friesian mares increases to 166.

1918 - 1920

De Oorsprong and the Eysinga family cooperated with the director of the Univ. Of Agriculture in Wageningen, Prof. L. Broekema, on crossbreeding experiments. The research conclusion was that only crosses with breeds very close to the Friesian horse were advisable.


Prins 109 sold to Jippe Bouma. At this time Prins was one of the "big four," including Frits 95, Alva 113 and Friso 117.


Station Bouma stood the 3 year old Danillo 137 (sire Vredestichter 127). Breeding fees were about 5-6 guilders per mare. Jippe Bouma almost went bankrupt in the depression years, but managed to move his station to Oudeschoot.


Jhr. Mr. C. Van Eysinga passed away at De Oorsprong.


The studbook had regained in strength. Eight registered stallions bred 358 mares.


The stallion Held 140 Pref. was out of an inbreeding between Arend 131 to his full sister, Clasina.


The last brown Friesian mare was registered in the By-Book, Nelly 90H.


The first pamphlet was published on the Friesian horse by Het Friesche Paard.


De Oorsprong went out of business. The oldest mare stem, Jeanne 6B, started here.


Obscurant was born to the mare Simontje (sire Danillo) at Station de Vries. He became the studbook stallion #150.


The approved stallion Cremer was rejected for the studbook. Some maintained it was due to his large numbers of midget foals, or that his offspring had a high percentage of roan. Cremer continued to breed to unregistered mares and his offspring were known for having white hairs all over their bodies.


Klass F. Jansma owned the stallion Mengelberg 145. He also, later, owned Geert 184 who was sold to South Africa when he was 11 years old.


A split within the studbook occurred. The Friesian horse got a board of their own within the studbook. This was another step toward the Friesian horse obtaining its very own studbook specifically for Friesians (in 1943).


Station Bouma adds the stallion Okke 151, but he later was rejected by the studbook in 1940. They lost the stallion Yntel30 in 1940. Consequently they purchased Plutus 156, but his prominence in breeding was past, apparently due to the popularity of Obscurant 150.

1939 - 1949

Membership triples in the FPS. The use of the horse on the farm helped the studbook registrations.


The Circus Strassburger was founded. Friesian horses were used for various performances.


The stallion Mengelberg 145 came close to death at the judging; he was fed 12 eggs, twice daily, prior to the judging. The trend of the time was to show the horses very heavy.


The Association of Stallion-Keepers in Friesland was founded. The Stallion Keepers applied annually to the studbook and no Stallion-Keeper could stand a stallion within a 15km area of another.


Lammert E. Huijing began 40 years of service to the studbook, first as a clerk, and then in 1958, as the secretary/treasurer.


Breeders of non-Friesian horses left the studbook to join the NWP (Warmblood Studbook of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe).


Jippe Bouma of Station Bouma passed away. His son, Anne Bouma, had already taken over. The stallion Danilo 137 (age 20) drove Jippe to his last resting place.


Obscurant 150 died of a blood disease. The Station de Vries acquired the colt Aize (Aize 170), whose sire was Obscurant.


The 3 year old Age 168 was approved and stood for Jan Pasma in Akkrum. Age 168 gave 200 daughters and almost went preferent, except for a pre-potency to a weak hind leg. It wasn't long before members talked of the 'Age-Line.' Both the 'Age-Line' end the 'Tetman-Line' originated with Jan Pasma.


Queen Juliana became Patroness of the FPS. Following WWII, German horses no longer crossed the border to become field horses. This caused the breeding of the Friesian horse to lean toward heavier individuals for use in the grass fields. These horses were often smaller in height. Approved stallions undertook an obligatory performance test, mainly for the benefit of mare owners.


Examinations of a stallion's offspring and performance was conducted on a regular basis. The Friesian horse began to loss ground in its primary role - that of a farm horse. Mechanization increased. The numbers of Friesian horses dropped along with the numbers of members.


The association, The Friesian Horse, lasted to this point. It has been credited with saving the Friesian horse from extinction.


Station Bouma tried to regain ground with the Obscurant son, Bouke 174, Noldus 198 and Ritske 202.


Breeding Associations were founded in Friesland and they held their own regional judgings. The Committee of Recommendation included the FPS secretary, Huijing, Arnoldus de Groot, Jeen Jansma, Jan Jansma and Geert Geerligs. These breeding clubs included: 'It Fryske Hynder,' 'It Fryske Greidhynder,' 'Het Friese Paard' and 'Ta it Bihald.'


The Studbook celebrated its 75th anniversary in Joure and it received the 'Royal' title in the presence of H.R.H. Princess Beatrix.


The club 'Het Friese Tuigpaard' (the Friesian Driving Horse) was founded. Riding and driving competitions were more popular and the regional clubs gradually took over their running from the FPS. One popular such event was the Tilting-at-the-Rings events.


The Model Pref. Mare, Truus 4316, was born. She was the mother of Dagho 247 and Naen 264.


Nuttert 200 was approved. He was from the de Vries Line, line 19.


"The Phryso" reported that Rouke de Hoop in Huisterheide, and Klass F. Jansma in Heeg were appointed trader/exporters for the FPS in connection with exports to Germany and South Africa. Friesian horses were exported to South Africa to improve the 'Flemish horse' (het Vlaamse Paard).


Lammert E. Huijing was appointed secretary/treasurer of the FPS.


Noldus 198 exported to South Africa. Ritske 202 became a dominant FPS stallion.


The Friesian sjezen obtained their own registry with the founding of the 'Frysk Seaze Stamboek.'


Books on the Friesian horse begin to be published, for example, Het Friesche Paard.


Lutsen 192 exported to South Africa.


The quadrille was driven for the first time. This was a performance of eight Friesian 'sjezen' driven to complex choreography.


Tetman 205 and Nuttert 200 rejected for the Studbook. They were lunged on three legs for their test.


R. Geurts published The Friesian Horse - The Most Important Mare-Stammen [title in English].


A board member stripped his Friesian mare of her breed characteristics (mane and feathering). The jury of the day made the mare a "ster." Fans of the Friesian horse felt this was a crime and before the end of the year, the board promised never to do so again, as it might open the door to crossbreeding.


Money problems plagued the Studbook. A study group, 'Werkgroep Instandhouding Friese Paard,' was founded to look at the preservation of the Friesian horse. C. Van Eysinga served as chairman. Press coverage was there for the "crusade to save the Friesian horse." The 3 year old stallion Mark led the week-long parade of horses from Workum through the province of Friesland. Cees Faber, of De Oorsprong, served as the leader of this effort. He was also an inspector for the FPS. He promoted the need to breed for versatility while keeping the breed characteristics.


Decreased public interest in Studbook judgings led to the decision to conduct foal judging on Breeding Days. The Breeding Day took on a festive tone. Registration of foals, judging for the studbook, and judging of 1-2 year olds took place at these Breeding Days.


Mrs. E. Kortenhagen-van Til of Breukelen, known as Tante Bets (Auntie Bets), drove her first Friesian four-in-hand. Others soon followed. The Anniversary Keuring held special classes for fans and owners of Friesian horses to highlight their use for other than farm work.


R. Geurts published his thesis: "Genetic Analysis and Structure of the Breeding of the Friesian Horse," while at the University of Utrecht Medical School. [Title in English].


Anne Bouma owned 8 of the 20 FPS Approved Stallions. His stallions, Wessel and Tsjalling, were used by the Veterinary Faculty in Utrecht to work on AI. Wessel 237 Preferent was the first Friesian stallion to breed AI.


The owner of Ygram (Ygram 240) received a request from the FPS to show his stallion at the keuring because there were not enough stallions attending. During this time, stallion keeping was a loosing proposition, so many potentially great breeding horses were lost to the studbook.


The breeding club, 'Het Friesche Paard-Midden Nederland,' was founded.


Thomas Hannon, Canton, Ohio, purchased Friesian horses to be transported via ship across the Atlantic. More Friesian horses were imported in 1975 and 1977.


Although purchased months prior to shipment, Frank Leyendekker had the airline, KLM, design and build crates for the horses to travel in. Laes (278) arrived in this first shipment.


Bouwe 242 was sold to Tom Hannon and was imported to the U.S.


The regional group 'Het Friesche Paard-Nord Holland' was formed.


The regional group 'De Groningen Drenthe Combinatie' was formed.


Herman Kiesrra took four Friesian mares and the Friesian stallion Bjinse 241 to Inverness Scotland.


The studbook closed to horses of partly unknown descent. From this year on, starting with the stallion Dagho 247, all Friesian stallions underwent testing on the quality of their offspring from their first 4 breeding seasons. This re-instituted an earlier practice that hadn't been maintained consistently for over 10 years.


The German association, "Friesenverband," was started.


The Studbook celebrated its 100th year anniversary in Leeuwarden on 'Kokedei' (Cow-Day).


Approved stallion, Hindrik 222, who was withdrawn from breeding in 1971, was exported to the United States.


The regional group 'Het Friesche Paard -Zuid Nederland' was formed.


The 15 km restriction in the working areas of stallion keepers comes to an end.


The young stallions Oepke 266, Oege 267, and Peke 268 were the first to graduate from the newly instituted 50 day stallion test held in Ermelo. This first year was a trial, and it was determined that this test was positive for the breeding. Prior to 1980, the approved stallions had to participate in tests that mainly consisted of pulling a sledge, a plow or a farm wagon with increased weights.


The FPS presented Queen Beatrix with two Friesian geldings and the Royal Stables purchased more. Since this year the Friesian horses were used in the parade on every 'Prinsjesdag,' the opening of the Dutch Parliament.


Cees Faber resigns as an inspector and passes away one year later.


The FPS gave Lammert E. Huijing a farewell party on his retirement.


Frank Leyendekker, Visalia, California, traveled to Friesland to discuss with the FPS secretary, L. E. Huijing, the possibility of having the FPS judge Friesian horses in North America.


The pivotal movie, Ladyhawke was filmed (copywrite: 1985 Warner Bro. & Twentieth Century Fox, USA). It starred Rutger Hauer of the Netherlands, Michelle Pfeiffer, and of course, the Friesian stallion, Othello. Othello was a circus performer for Manuela Beeloo, his owner. His sire was Ritske 202 and his dam was Paulowna, ster (s. Gerke). Othello retired in 1994 with a final performance at the FPS stallion keuring.


The first meeting to organize the Friesian Horse Association in the U.S. was held in Visalia, California. Attendees: F. Leyendekker, F. DeBoer, D. Dunnink, J. Botma, J. Mellott, R. Humason.


Sander 269 imported to the U.S. He passed the 50 day Performance Test in Ermelo in the fall of 1981.


The stallion Laes had his keuring for registration as an approved stallion and his offspring inspection at the same time. He was approved for both and given the number 278. From this point on all stallion candidates in North America also had to undergo the same procedures as in The Netherlands.


T. Cribb & Sons reopened their horse drawn funeral business with a restored London hearse, original Cribb & Sons velvets, and a pair of Friesian horses from the Netherlands. Mr. Stanley Cribb (grandson of the business's founder) runs the business today (1999) with his two sons.


The Performance Examination for stallions was transferred to the spring thus the stallions couldn't breed until after passing the test.


The stallion Barteld, owned by F. De Boer, CA, was approved for the breeding provided he passed a test equivalent to that at Ermelo. An exam was held in the U.S. and Barteld 292 was approved.


Mr. Piet de Boer set a world record with a team of 21 Friesian horses hitched to an English Road Coach in Peterborough, England.


The Approved Stallion Frans 289 was sold and imported to the U.S. He passed his offspring inspection in 1991.


The 110th Anniversary of the Royal Association 'Het Friesch Paarden Stamboek.' The studbook became the second largest studbook in the Netherlands and published promotional, multi-language, brochures.


The voluntary tongue-tattooing became mandatory.


HRH Prince Philip invites Mr. Piet de Boer to break his 21 horse record. On July 18, de Boer drove 22 Friesian horses into the Peterborough stadium pulling his London-built Mail Coach.


The first edition of the mare pedigrees was published, entitled Merriestammen van het Friese Paard, by Dr. R. Geurts.



Bouma, G.J.A. UA Short History of the Friesian Horse and the Original Friesian Studbook," Het Friese Paard. Friese Pers Boekerij b.v. Drachten, Leeuwarden, NL. 1979. English translation: FHANA website, 1997.

Dijkstra, Eelke. Friese Stamhengsten Deel 1. Koninklijkevereniging'Het Friesch PaardenStamboek' te Drachten. 1996. English translation: Tee's Translations, 1998.

Dijkstra, Eelke. Friese Stambengsten Deel 2. Koninklijkevereniging'Het Friesch PaardenStamboek' te Drachten. 1996. English translation: Tee's Translations, 1998.

Douma, A.KW. Paarden van Eigen Bodem - Het Friese Paard in Kort Bestek. Koninklijkevereniging 'Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek' te Drachten. 1994.

Friesian Horse Association of North America. UOthello - Phryso Translation, July 1996," The Friesian, Nov., pg 15. 1996.

Geurts, Dr. R. Merriestammen uan Het Friese Paard Deel 1. Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek, Drachten. 1997.

KLM/FHANA. "Friesian Horse Extravaganza II" Show Program. Friesian Horse Club of Southern California. 1997.

Koninklijke Paarden FPS 110 Jaar. Koninklijkevereniging 'Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek' te Drachten. 1990. English translation: Tee's Translations, 1998.

Leyendekker, Frank. Personal recollections. 1999.

Taylor, Sally. "T. Cribb & Sons, Truly Authentic Horse-Drawn Funerals," Driving Digest, no. 105, pg 13. 1998.

For additional information on the Friesian Horse, check the following links:

  Friesian Horse Association of North America