Friesian Horse Breed Info, Pictures, Characteristics, FAQ & More

Black Friesian horse with long mane galloping

“Straight out of fairy tales!” This could perfectly describe the elegance and majesticness of Friesian Horses. They are one of the most famous equine breeds in the world that’s why it’s no wonder celebrities like Kim Kardashian are fancying to have one of them.

I won’t blame you if you want one of these, too. However, before searching for a breeder, you must first read this article that is meant to make you a Friesian expert.

I have included a brief history of Friesian horses as well as their growth, temperament, health, and prices on this guide to equip you on your horse-owning journey. Ride on and let’s start!

Contents show

What Is a Friesian Horse?

The Friesian horse is a tall breed known for its thick long manes and tails. These trademarks, along with their black coat, create its majestic appearance. In some cases, though, their coat may also exhibit chestnut coloration.

Even though they are relatively larger in size than other horse breeds, they are quite agile and graceful.

They are now seen dominating the sports and entertainment arena for equestrian events despite being originally used in war and agriculture. They excel in carriage driving as well as on dressage.

The feathering on the lower legs, slightly arched neck, noble head, and powerful elevated gaits are also hallmarks of this horse breed. But what’s more interesting about them is their history! Would you believe that they almost got extinct?

If you want to learn more about this, you’ll enjoy the following section.

Friesian Horse History and Origin: Where Did Friesian Horses Originate From?

Friesian horses originated from Friesland, one of the provinces in the Netherlands. The history of how they were developed and how they become what they are now is quite intriguing.

It is an adventure that started from the battlefield to the ranches, and now to the show rings where Friesians still dominate.

Originally, Friesian horses were used as war horses during the Middle Ages. Their large and powerful body build enables them to effortlessly carry a knight in full armor into the battle.

The utility of Friesian horses shortly transitioned into carriage horses. They became a symbol of wealth for the upper-class farmers during the 19th century according to the Royal Association of the Friesian Horse Studbook (KFPS).

This is the oldest studbook in the Netherlands which promotes the interest in the Friesian horse.

A threat to the Friesian horse breed came in the 19th century when they needed to compete against larger horse breeds (Bovenlanders) for farming purposes.

Some owners tried to crossbreed Friesians with other larger breeds expecting to produce a more robust horse. However, the attempt proved to be unsuccessful and has threatened the purity of the Friesian breed.

Friesland breeders aimed to relinquish Friesian horses from extinction by mechanizing a breeding strategy and rearing which turned out to be successful. In addition, the breed is also made a bit smaller to compromise for more horsepower.

Along with the mechanization of farming practices, farming horses were set aside as machines were viewed to be more practical.

The industrialization vanished Friesian horses from farmyards which then caused a drastic decrease in their numbers with only 500 mares registered in 1965.

It is believed that the Friesian horse was first introduced to America in the year 1625 when the Dutch founded Amsterdam. The arrival of these so-called “trotters of Dutch descendants” (as ads in 1796 refer) influenced the development of other horse breeds in America.

The majority of Friesian horses that we know now are bred for sports and entertainment purposes. Although they no longer serve as war horses, their robust and strong appearance still persists.

Currently, they are known for their majestic looks and movement which they sport on different equestrian events.

Uses of Friesian Horses: What Are Friesian Horses Used For?

Black Friesian horse runs gallop on the snow

As mentioned in the history of Friesian horses, this equine breed was first used as battle horses for they can effortlessly carry a full-armored knight during a war.

There are multiple recorded accounts narrating stories about war men riding Friesian horses and how they were famous among emperors and knights.

The Friesian horse also aided in farming before they were replaced by heavier stallions and machines. Their function then shifted to carriages which became a symbol of wealth during the 19th century.

Most upper-class farmers rode them to church. Seldomly, they were also used for entertainment including short-track trotting races.

The current Friesian horse we now know is used for several purposes such as breeding, sporting, recreation, and sometimes, a combination of the three.

They are also seen at dressage events and equestrian sports. Some of the specific competitions they participate in include ridden work under the saddle, harness horse, and driving.

Watch these Friesian horses majestically performing dressage in the show ring:

Fantastic Friesian dressage Horse

Friesian Horse Breed Characteristics: What Does a Friesian Horse Look Like?

The KFPS – the oldest Friesian breed registry in the world, provided the standard appearance, movement, use, and vitality for the Friesian horse. It is the same standard the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) follows.

According to KFPS, the general appearance and impression of the Friesian horse are luxurious and proud. It is known for its black color (sometimes chestnut), abundant hair, and elevated gait.

The elegant hair is evident on the mane, tail, and feathers. Only white markings below the eye line that do not exceed 3.2 cm (1.26 inches) are allowed, while any other white markings in the body are considered faults.

The body build of a Friesian horse is harmonious and even. To illustrate, their body ratio between the front end, mid-section, and rear-end are 1:1:1 which gives the Friesian horse a rectangular body shape.

The neck is elevated which creates a sloping line upwards the poll (the point right between the ears). Meanwhile, the back is strong and muscled as well as the powerful legs.

The walk of a Friesian horse is roomy and follows a regular four-beat pattern. Its elegant trot is a pure two-beat pattern that is characterized by suppleness and long suspensions. It portrays balance while trotting and has its neck elevated while it rises in front.

Friesian Horse Coat Colors: Are Friesian Horses Always Black?

The majority of Friesian horses come with a mysterious black coat. It is the standard color according to the KFPS.

However, Friesian horses can also exhibit the chestnut coat, although only on rare occasions. Some purebred Friesians carry the red gene which is responsible for the chestnut color due to inheriting it from both of its parents.

White markings are also allowed provided that they do not exceed 3.2 cm in size and that they appear below the eye line. Any other white marking on the body is considered a fault.

In 2007, a supposedly white Friesian horse was introduced in Equitina – a horsing event. Although it was equally stunning as other Friesians, it is not purebred but a crossbreed of an Arabian horse and a Friesian. Purebred Friesians can’t be white unless they suffer albinism.

READ NEXT: Palomino Horse: All You Need to Know About This Golden Horse

Friesian Horse Size and Weight: How Big Do Friesian Horses Get When Fully Grown?

The Friesian horse is a large horse breed that typically stands from 15.1 to 17.3 hands high from the tip of their feet to the withers.

The unit of measurement used in defining the height of horses is “hands high” or “hands” which is equivalent to 4 inches. This means that Friesian horses are 60 to 70 inches tall on average.

A full-grown Friesian stallion can weigh up to 1,300 to 1,400 lbs. The weight is evident in the muscular and robust body build of the Friesian horse. The dense bones also contribute to the heavy mass of the horse.

What Associations and Registries Recognize the Friesian Horse?

As Friesian horses become more popular each day, a lot of clubs and communities dedicated to promoting them have also increased.

If you are wondering where you can find reputable associations that register and recognize Friesian horses, I got your back.

Check out these registries and associations meant for Friesian horses:

Friesian Horse Temperament: Do Friesian Horses Make Good Pets?

Woman with a Friesian horse and a dog

After hearing that Friesian horses were originally bred as war horses, you might be wondering now if they have fierce and aggressive behavior.

While their fierceness persists, it is only during competitions where it is exhibited. I bet you would be surprised to know that equine trainers describe the Friesian breed as an intelligent and calm horse.

Friesian horses are known for their willingness to learn, socialize, and please their owner. They are receptive and calm when being handled by family members which makes them good family pets.

They don’t get easily spooked especially when someone they know rides them. As for how they behave towards other animals or pets, they are not known to show aggression towards them.

However, you should understand that the temperament and behavior mentioned are the general traits of the Friesian horse breed. The individual temperament of each horse will also be influenced by their environment where they live and the training they receive.

Friesian Horse Lifespan: What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Friesian Horse?

This large horse breed can only live up to 16 years. This is a bit shorter compared to other horse breeds which have life expectancies ranging from 25 to 30 years. It is believed that the lifespan of the Friesian horse was cut due to selective and inbreeding.

The Friesian horse matures at the age of five to six years although they can already be ridden at the age of two. Due to their short life span, Friesian horses retire earlier than others. You should also be wary since they are prone to inherited genetic disorders.

Friesian Horse Health Issues: Are Friesian Horses Healthy?

The robust and muscular body of the Friesian horse is not only for display. They are mostly strong and healthy all throughout their lifespan.

Nevertheless, regular monitoring of their nutritional intake and physical condition is still needed.

Certain genetic problems are known to be commonly acquired by Friesian horses and here are some of them:

  • Dwarfism: This condition disrupts the normal growth of a horse. Friesians with dwarfism will appear to have a disproportionate figure: a normal head with a smaller body and limbs.
  • Hydrocephalus: This condition is characterized by the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain which makes it appear big and dome-shaped. It is a recessive genetic disorder that is passed down on the lineages of Friesian horses.
  • Aortic Rupture: Aortic rupture is rare for the general population of horses but pretty common for the Friesian horse breed. We can simply put this condition like a heart attack. This deadly condition occurs when the largest artery in the body of the horse bursts.
  • Megaesophagus: This disorder occurs when the esophagus is abnormally enlarged which could lead to choking and eventually, death. This genetic disorder is hereditary and has a high incidence on Friesian horses.

Friesian Horse Prices and Expenses: Why Are Friesian Horses so Expensive?

Friesian horse mare with foal

If you think that Friesian horses are expensive, you got it right. These lovely horses have hefty prices on their names.

On average, the cost of a purebred Friesian horse ranges from $12,000 to $60,000. Those with a champion bloodline and perfect conformation could even cost up to six digits.

This cost may vary depending on the training, show records, lineage, and age of the Friesian. Younger horses are also more expensive compared to adult ones.

One of the major factors breeders consider in setting the price is conformation. Each Friesian horse undergoes a strict examination called “keuringa” which is led by the KFPS. The more the horse conforms to the standards, the more expensive it becomes.

For the initial cost of owning a Friesian horse, you will need to cash out thousands of bucks for food, housing, medical examinations, grooming, training, and registration.

You will need to buy at least $250 hay per month for a 1,000-pound horse. The food expense will continue to increase as the horse matures.

The housing expense includes the land, the size and structure of the stable, and the beddings. To build a metal barn for two horses including hay storage, you will need to spend $11,500 on average. A $300 monthly expense for maintenance should also be considered.

Health examinations are also included in the initial expenses which will cost around $300. Regular grooming is essential for Friesian horses, too, and a session can cost a hundred dollars.

All in all, the initial cost can also poke a hole in your pocket! You probably have realized now that the Friesian horse itself is not the only thing that is expensive, but as well as the expenses in taking care of it.

Places to Find Friesian Horses for Sale and Adoption

Wondering where you can find Friesian horses that are either for sale or adoption?

Check out these sites where reputable breeders advertise their Friesian horses:

  • Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) – This is the American representative of KFPS. They regulate and monitor professional Friesian breeders across the country so you can find a breeder and seller directory on their website.
  • Equine.com – This online platform is an avenue for horse breeders to advertise their stallions and mares. You can find over a hundred registered Friesian horses listed on this site.

Although Friesian horses are highly valued, some still end up in rescue centers.

Here are the shelters dedicated to fostering and rehoming Friesian horses:

  • Fenway Foundation for Friesian Horses (FFFH) – FFFH rescues and rehomes Friesian horses that are surrendered oftentimes due to medical conditions. The horses they rescue are immediately provided with medical attention and health examination. Although most of the horses they take in cannot be ridden, they assure that they can still be good pasture pals.
  • Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation (MHWF) – MHWF has been rescuing Friesian horses in Wisconsin since 2001. Their horses are either surrendered due to medical conditions or the owner’s lack of funds to support them. This non-profit organization also spearheads equine events and promotes education about horses to the community.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About Friesian Horses

Gorgeous friesian stallion running

1. Are Friesian Horses Good for Riding?

Friesian horses are not only good for riding. Aside from the fact that they were ridden by knights during the Middle Ages, Friesian horses are also used to compete in events like dressage, trail riding, and driving in the modern days.

2. Are Friesian Horses Good for Beginners?

Friesian horses are good for beginners because of their good temperament. Most breeders and trainers describe them as loyal and willing to learn and please.

Friesian horses are receptive to the touch and gestures of the people they know. They are also calm and they don’t easily get spooked.

3. Are Friesian Horses Rare?

Friesians are a rare breed compared to other horses. Currently, there are only 45,000 registered Friesian horses worldwide and 8,000 of them are in North America according to FHANA.

4. How Fast Can a Friesian Horse Run?

On an estimate, Friesians can run up to 30 miles per hour. Considering that a racing horse can run at 55 miles per hour, Friesian horses are neither fast nor slow. Nevertheless, the Friesian horses are not bred to be racing horses. They were bred to be strong and not fast.

5. Are Friesian Horses Intelligent?

The Friesian horse is a highly intelligent breed. Equine trainers describe the breed as a horse that is eager to please the owner. They are also easy to train because of their willingness to learn.

6. Are Friesians Warm or Cold-Blooded?

Friesian horses are warm-blooded horses. Thus, they are characterized by their calm and gentle demeanor but at the same time energetic and athletic. They are found in between the cold-blooded and hot-blooded horses.

7. Are Friesian Horses Aggressive?

Friesian horses are calm and gentle. They are receptive to the touch of their owners. Also, they don’t show aggression towards other animals or pets. This is the reason why they are one of the best horses for beginners.

8. Why Is Friesian Horse Hair So Expensive?

The Friesian horse is known not only for its good temperament and majestic color but also for its beautiful thick mane.

It takes a lot of effort and time to groom the beautiful hair of a Friesian horse which makes it expensive aside from the fact that the horse itself can be costly.

9. Are Friesian Horses Good Jumpers?

Due to their heavy body build, Friesian horses are not good jumpers. Although they can be trained to jump for recreational purposes, they are not suitable for joining competitions.

10. Do Friesian Horses Sweat?

Friesian horses do sweat. However, they are also known to be prone to a condition called anhidrosis, a state where the body is unable to sweat properly as a response to increased body temperature. This could lead to more severe complications.

How to Take Care of a Friesian Horse

Of course, the majestic looks and appeals of the Friesian horse are also the result of proper care and grooming.

If you want your Friesian to look as majestic as the Friesian horses on the internet, you should monitor the following:

Feeding and Diet

Although alfalfa is a common diet for some horses, most breeders do not recommend it for Friesian horses. Alfalfa is a kind of hay that does not exist in their origin land. Hence, they might have an allergic reaction if you force them to undergo this diet.

It is suggested that you feed your Friesian horse with quality grass hay. As a general rule of thumb, you must feed a horse 18 pounds of hay for every 1,000 pounds of its weight every day. Plenty of water and trace minerals are also essential components of the diet.

Cleaning and Grooming

One of the selling points of Friesian horses is their majestic appearance. However, it can only be achieved through rigorous cleaning and grooming.

Their mane, tail, and feathers should be shampooed and combed regularly to prevent them from being tangled. All in all, Friesians are high maintenance horses.

Training and Exercise

Just because Friesian horses are intelligent horses, it doesn’t mean that they won’t need regular training. Friesian horses need to be trained regularly so they will stay in shape. Regular exercise also helps horses to be healthy and sound.

Related Questions

Black Friesian horse running in the sun

What Is the Most Dangerous Horse Breed?

The most dangerous horse breed would be the one that is untrained and improperly cared for. Most domesticated horses behave well unless provoked. Any horse breed, when triggered and maltreated, can be dangerous when they defend themselves.

Nonetheless, if you want to know which horse breed has a higher tendency to show aggression, it’s the Mustang horse. This horse breed is known for its wild nature.

What Is the Most Expensive Horse Breed?

Thoroughbreds are believed to be the most expensive horse breed currently. They are highly valued for their speed and graceful appearance. Fusaichi Pegasus, a Thoroughbred horse, was sold in an auction in the year 2000 for about $60 million.

Other expensive horse breeds include the Friesian horse and Akhal-Teke horse due to their astounding looks and rarity.

What Is the Cheapest Horse Breed?

Different factors affect the price of a horse: health condition, gender, lineage, conformation, and show records. Nonetheless, you can find the most inexpensive horses in breeds like Quarter horses and Mustangs.

However, keep in mind that when we talk about cheap horses, we are still talking about thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts

The Friesian is one of the horse breeds that you should not miss. They are magnificent and flexible when it comes to functionality. Their total package is reflected in how much they are valued in the market.

However, you should be aware of the risk that you are taking if ever you decide to own a Friesian horse. This breed is at high risk when it comes to genetic problems.

Make sure that you only transact with reputable and professional breeders so dealing with these health issues can be avoided.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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