Friesian Horse Facts And Information – Breed Profile

The Friesian horse is one of the oldest horse breeds. They get their name from Friesland in the Netherlands, where this breed originated.

The black Friesian horse is also known as the ‘Belgian Black’.

Used initially as a warhorse, the Friesian is used in agriculture, circuses, dressage, etc. Prior to the first world war, the horse had dwindled in numbers. A similar situation emerged during the 1960s. Thankfully, this beautiful black horse is flourishing and has become popular again.

Black Friesian Stallion
Black Friesian Stallion


There is a reference in history to Friesian troops riding on stallions in the 4th century. Historian Anthony Dent states that the origin of the Fell Pony and the Shire horse can be traced back to this breed. The horse breed was used by knights with William the Conqueror depicted as riding the Friesian.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, these horses were used in riding academies. The Friesian horses were mated with Andulasian breeds in Spain. They were subsequently used as harness horses and for agriculture. The horse was brought to North America by the Dutch in the 17th century. The horses were imported into the United States from the Netherlands.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the horse originating in Friesland were found mainly in their original province used for trotting races. During the beginning of the 20th century, the horse was mostly used for agriculture. This happened due to the prevailing fuel shortages. This eventually doomed the horse, and by 1913, the horse was virtually extinct.

The crisis was again seen during the 1960s when horses were no longer used on the farm. Thankfully, the horse began to be used as riding horses for leisure activities. From then on, this breed has grown and is now being used even in dressage.


This horse breed is essentially black in color. There are even chestnut color horses to be found, though they are not accepted to be registered as a stallion. For registration, a small star (white marking) on the forehead is acceptable, no other markings are accepted. These horses are well-known for having long and thick flowing manes and tails.

Its smooth trot and willing temperament made it suitable for use as a warhorse. The Friesian is more of a warm-blood breed. The luxurious hair, the sleek appearance accentuated by the black color, and the upright neck are the distinguishing characteristics of the Friesian.

These horses have the right temperament to be used in dressage events and for leisure purposes. Its gentle nature and appearance are what have made this an iconic horse.


Compared to other lightweight riding horses, they have a slow metabolism. It is prone to quick weight gain and other metabolic problems.

Friesians are generally in good health and do not require much feeding as compared to other breeds. Their dietary intake can be calculated by considering 2% of their overall body weight. Forage is the main constituent of the Freisian diet.

Horses not used for work need 100% forage feed with fiber (hay, grass, sugar beet). If it is used for light work, it would need grains and fats up to 20% of the feed. If used for heavy work, it needs up to 40% grains and fats. Copper is needed to prevent its coat from turning red. Flaxseed oil helps keep its coat in a shiny condition.

Breeding And Uses

The Friesian horse is a breed originating in the Netherlands. These horses were initially used as war horses. They would carry a knight into battle and have been depicted in illustrations featuring knights.

The horse, later on, was used in agriculture. Nowadays, the horse is used for leisure and recreational purposes. It is used in dressage for under saddle as well as in harness.

These beautiful horses have been used in films extensively. The Mask of Zorro, Chronicles of Narnia, Ladyhawke, and 300 are some of the films that featured this black beauty.


On average, a Friesian horse is around 15.3 hands tall. They can be as tall as 17 hands. For inclusion in the Friesian registry studbook, the stallion must be around 1.6 cm by the age of four.

They weigh between 1,200 to 1,400 lbs (544 to 635 kg). 

What Breeds Make Up The Friesian Horse?

It is believed that the Friesian horse descended from Forest horses from the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. During the 12th century, the horse was mated with eastern horses belonging to crusaders. Andalusian horses were mated with the Freisian horses during the 16th and 17th centuries.

This made the horse more suitable for light work and as a carriage horse. In the 19th century, the horse was bred for trotting purposes. The Stud Registry book was set up in 1879 by farmers desiring to preserve the breed.

Today modern Friesian purebreds, as well as mixed breeds that are lightweight, can be found.


The Friesian horse is well known for its black coat. It is primarily a black horse. The black color of the horse ranges from true black to black bay and dark brown. To be registered, the horse must be pure black with no markings save a white star on the forehead.

Chestnut color horses used to be available before. Thanks to the stringent demand for black horses, chestnut-colored horses are no longer in great demand. Pure chestnut horses are not found very frequently.

Interestingly, a pure white Friesian horse was exhibited in 2007. It was 75% Freisian and 25% Arabian. As a result of this breeding, a gray color horse was also born. There are crossbreds of pinto, piebald, palomino, and dun color shades.

What Do They Look Like?

Friesian Horses Walking
Friesian mare with her foals

This horse is a true black beauty. Elegant, graceful, noble, and strong are the words to describe this beautiful horse. It is a muscular horse that has short and strong limbs. The thick mane and the feathers make this horse stand out.

There are two basic types of Freisian horses. One is known as the Baroque type. It is heavier in build. The other is the sports type, which is lighter and suitable for recreational activities.

This horse has a long neck that is arched and low-set. Its head is short-eared and is carried high. The shoulders are strong and sloped. The body is muscular, with the hind part sloping and the tail set low. The legs are strong but short compared to many other breeds.

It has a high stepping trot that is brisk. The lower limbs have silky hair that is long. The hair is referred to as feathers. Its walk is straight, long, and powerful. The overall appearance of the horse is one of elegance and nobility. It is an active horse that is willing and is well-built.

The appearance of this horse is striking. This is what makes it popular for its use in movies. 

What Is This Breed Used For?

Friesian Horses are used for recreational purposes. They are also used in competitive sports. It is a sports horse that has been used for driving. It is popularly used as a carriage horse because of its looks.

It is popularly used in upper-level dressage, both classic and modern. They are also used for in-hand showing. Its friendly nature makes it popularly used as a recreational horse for fun rides, where all the family members can have a great time.

Where Do They Live?

Friesian horses originated in the Netherlands but are found across the world. They are found prominently in the Netherlands, where it is estimated that 7% of all horses are Friesian. They are found in the UK, USA, Belgium, Germany, and South Africa.

There are around 45,000 Friesian horses that are registered in the Dutch Stamboek. Of these, 8,000 horses are estimated to be in North America. 

How Long Do They Live?

The Friesian horses live for a shorter duration as compared to other breeds. They live for around sixteen years. This makes it more challenging for horse owners to get the best of the horse. The horse matures only after five or six years, leaving hardly ten years for the horse to be used for various purposes.

Because of the small numbers of horses at the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of inbreeding happened to increase its numbers. As a result, mixed-breed horses are more prone to genetic diseases. Dwarfism is a common problem. Other problems like hydrocephalus and megaesophagus affect this breed, making this horse prone to die young. This makes managing the Friesian breed a challenge for the equine veterinarian.

By the age of fourteen, they appear aged and start becoming weaker. The coat tends to become dull, and gray hairs appear prominently. Some of the common problems experienced due to aging are arthritis, skin tumors, and heart problems.

Friesian Horses Running

How Fast Are They?

Friesian horses are not as fast as other warmblood horses. At the same time, they are not as slow as other show horses. Even though these horses are used as riding horses and in showing, they are not used for racing.

Friesian horses can run at a speed of around 30 miles per hour.

How Much Do They Cost?

The Friesian horse can be a pretty expensive horse. The price depends on the breed of the horse. If you want a purebred horse, then the price would be high. It would range from $19,900 to $47,900. These horses would be approved by the Friesian Horse Association North America (FHANA).

The above price range is applicable for young purebred horses. If you are ready to buy a mixed-bred horse or a slightly older horse, you can get the horse for a price ranging from $3,000 to $5,000.

The breed, age, training, gender, size, and color are some of the factors that affect the price of this breed.

Read more about the cost of this horse breed here.

Are They Good Horses For Beginners?

The Friesian horse has gone through many phases. Initially used as a warhorse, it later was used for agriculture, and then for recreational activities. Over the centuries, the horse has been seen to be one with a very good temperament.

The Friesian is a willing horse, one that is good-tempered and easy to work with. This is what makes the horse used for a range of activities, from showing to riding and dressage. This breed is popularly used in movies where a black and beautiful horse is needed. Its behavior makes it suitable for use by beginners.

It is considered a family horse that can be used for fun trail rides. It willingly participates in such activities and any member of the family can handle this horse safely without any problems. These horses are not just athletically built but are also eager to please their owner/rider. This is why beginners should look no further than this beautiful and elegant horse.

Are Friesian Horses Fast?

Friesian horses are not known for their speed. They can only run up to around 30 miles per hour, making them one of the slowest horse breeds in existence today. The fastest racehorses can reach around 44 miles per hour.

Are They Always Black?

A studbook-registered Friesian only comes in black, although this can vary from dark brown to a true black. They appear as if they are bay when their coats shed or after being exposed to sunlight and sweat.

Are Friesian Horses Warmbloods?

For the past 200 years, Friesians have been bred free from outside blood to be a distinctive member of warmblood breeds.

Do Friesians Make Good Jumpers?

Unfortunately, Friesians don’t make for good jumpers.

They might not be good at jumping, but they can definitely do it. Easily trained to jump, this breed won’t compete in higher-level competitions due to their heavy build.

What Does FHANA Stand For?

FHANA stands for the Friesian Horse Association of North America.

Conclusion / Summary

This horse breed has a rich history ranging back to the fourth century. Initially used as a warhorse for knights, the horse began to be used for various purposes. It was on the verge of extinction, but thankfully its ability to be used for different purposes ensured it thrived well.

When you look at its overall appearance, there is no denying the fact that this is a truly beautiful and elegant horse. Its black coat, long mane, tail, and its powerful build make it an awesome horse to ride.

The biggest advantage of this breed is its calm temperament. It is not fussy and is easy to manage. This is why the horse is used for leisure as well as for sporting events. It is a family horse that is easy to manage.

The horse is expensive if you want a purebred young stallion. Older horses can be available at competitive prices. The life span of the horse is lesser than other breeds. This gives the owner a relatively shorter span, during which time the horse has to be utilized to the best of its ability.

With proper care and maintenance, the warmblooded Friesian will be a great mid-sized horse that can be used for multiple purposes. For beginners who want true beauty, this is the one to choose!

There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.

Related Post