The friesian horse

"Impressively Elegant"

The Friesian horse is the only purebred horse native to the Netherlands. Its roots go far back in time. The Friesian horse was recognized as early as the 13th century, and Friesian horses of today still display definite similarities with their distant ancestors. The breed's long history and a consistent breeding policy have consolidated the specific 'Friesian' characteristics. On this sturdy foundation, the Friesian horse has evolved into what it is today: an imposing presence in every respect.

With its black colour, long mane and full tail, the Friesian is recognizable in an instant. The horse has an elegant build and powerful, elevated gaits. Its character is friendly and graciously spirited. All of these qualities make the Friesian a fine horse that can be used for many different purposes.


The Friesian horse is being successfully – and above all, very enthusiastically – employed in various equestrian sports. The specific Friesian qualities are displayed especially well in driving competitions where they can be seen in action before the gig, in the single horse and pairs classes as well as in the unicorn and show cart categories. Competing for the highest honours, these black horses are making themselves very well known.

The Friesian horse is also a fine dressage horse. Its fine self-carriage, willingness to work and inquisitive nature make it perfect for this branch of the sport. Friesians are now increasingly being seen at national competitions where they are displaying their talents to compete on equal terms with all other horses bred for riding purposes. Friesian horses are just as well represented in driving trials and marathon tests. And, last but certainly not least, one can scarcely imagine a more enjoyable partner as a recreational horse than the Friesian.

Fine examples of the Friesian breed

Certain teams of horses are the 'parade horses' for the studbook. They display the outstanding sport achievements of which Friesians are capable. An example in point is the Friesian Foursome, who became the Dutch championship team in the Z class during the Levade in 1999. Several pair and four-in-hand marathon teams are achieving very well at the international level. Simply the ease with which many studbook stallions can be ridden in Z dressage within a short time says much about their achievement capabilities that, due to the selection done in breeding, are being lifted to an increasingly higher plane.

Within the Netherlands and abroad

In the 1960s, the Friesian horse was being threatened with extinction. At that time, there were only a thousand horses registered in the studbook. Due to certain breeders whose love for the breed was a very important element in their lives, we still have a purebred Friesian horse. By 2003, there were about 40,000 horses registered in the Royal Association "Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek" (FPS). The association now has 12000 members, 7000 of whom are in the Netherlands and another 5000 of whom live in several different countries all over the world.


After the critical period in the 1960s, the tide has turned and the Friesian horse has done nothing but gain in popularity and appreciation. This year, the number of foals born was around 6000, and this number is increasing every year. These larger numbers are giving the FPS an opportunity to be stricter in its selections and in this way to bring the average quality of the horses' conformation and usefulness to a higher plane. A corps of inspection and jury members is responsible for this task. They travel all over the world to inspect the horses and advise breeders. When inspecting for conformation, it is not only breeding type and conformation characteristics - as a whole as well as in detail – that count. Definitely just as important is movement. Horses that satisfy these requirements can be recorded in one of the FPS registers and are then eligible for a more prestigious title. In the Aptitude and Utility Test (ABFP), the emphasis is on judging the horse's gaits, its aptitude for the various equestrian disciplines, its willingness to work and its character. This is an indispensable indication for a studbook that is working hard to breed more than just good-looking horses.

Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek

The Royal Association "Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek" (FPS) has been registering the Friesian horse since 1879. Its aim is to promote the Friesian horse breed and to monitor its quality. The FPS is the second oldest studbook in the Netherlands. In addition, the FPS is officially recognized as the original studbook for the Friesian horse throughout the world.

The "World Friesian Horse Organization" (WFHO)

The WFHO is the coordinating organization for the recognized association of breeders of Friesian horses who reside outside of the Netherlands. This association has its offices within the establishment of the FPS and functions under the chairmanship of the FPS. The aim of the WFHO is the worldwide promotion of:

  • the breeding of pureblooded Friesian horses according to the regulations of the FPS, paying explicit attention to a strictly applied stallion selection.
  • stimulating the use of the Friesian horse in sport.

Major inspections

Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek holds annual inspections. Two major inspections stand out from all the rest:

  • The Stallion Inspection in January. Thousands of breeders and Friesian horse enthusiasts attend this three-day inspection in the FEC halls in Leeuwarden.
  • The Central Inspections for Mares and Geldings in October. This is an opportunity to show the very best of the products of Friesian horse breeding, these horses having been pre-selected during the previous season at the regional inspections.

Both of these events are embellished with spectacular shows.


Actually seeing these horses gives one a different perspective in regard to how beautiful they truly are. The Friesian horse is a unique breed: a horse with something very special. What an experience to see and hear the imposing stallions waltzing around the ring, beholding a kür ridden to music, or watching foals – small but brave - floating alongside their mothers.

Just being in the presence of a fine Friesian horse can make a person shiver with excitement – and awe. Anyone who knows Friesians knows the feeling. It's a feeling – for some a hobby and for others a passion – that brings people from all over the world together.