Black horse breeds have always carried an air of mystique around them. They are the subjects of human admiration, as well as countless legends, books, and films.
The most common black horse breeds are the Friesian, Percheron, Fell Pony, Murgese, and Mérens. The most famous black horse in history is Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great.
Interestingly, pure black horses are quite hard to come by. Really dark bay and brown colors are often mistaken for black. These “false black” horses only show their true colors when the light hits them at a certain angle.
Although black horses are relatively rare, below we have listed common black horse breeds and along with interesting information on each.
Here are 6 gorgeous black horse breeds:
Also known as the Belgian Black, these horses are black as midnight. Any white markings are undesirable in this breed, with the exception of a small white star on the forehead.
Friesians are powerfully muscled but graceful, with an elegant knee-action. They have long, flowing manes and tails and range between 14.2 and 17 hands in height.
This impressive black horse breed dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. During this era, Friesians were popular war horses not only in their homeland, but throughout Europe.
Historically, these horses also pulled carriages and worked on farmlands. The mechanization of agriculture saw a sharp decline in Friesian populations, which fortunately recovered after the Second World War.
Included in our most expensive horse breeds list, the modern Friesian horse breed is ideal for dressage and carriage driving. Its lighter version, the Friesian Sports Horse was specifically bred for FEI level competitions.
Because of their striking color and appearance, members of the breed often appear in movies, particularly in history- and fantasy-related productions.
Almost exclusively black, the Fell Pony has lived in the British moorlands since ancient times. Its silky black coat and long, flowing mane has not only mesmerised the British public, but also members of the royal family.
Although black is by far the most common color in the breed, Fell Ponies can also be brown, bay and grey. Their average height is 13.2 hands, but can go up to 14 hands. Fells must show strong pony-like characteristics and have full, flowing manes, tails and feathers.
Fell Ponies are native to the Cumbria region in north-west England where they still roam today in feral herds. The breed is closely related to the Dales Pony, with which it shares a common ancestor, the now extinct Galloway Pony. Starting from the Viking Age, Fell Ponies served as packhorses, worked in agriculture, and were known to cover great distances under saddle.
Due to their harsh homeland, these ponies are extremely hardy, strong and sure-footed. Today, Fell Ponies are used for a range of riding and driving activities, as well as therapeutic purposes.
The Fell Pony Society has formed in 1918 to preserve and protect this endangered breed. The society enjoys the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who occasionally rides Fell Ponies herself.
Another elegant black horse breed, the Dales Pony is famous for its intelligence, strength and stamina. Similarly to its close relative the Fell Pony, the ancestors of Dales Ponies have lived in the mountainous region of northern England for thousands of years.
Black coat color dominates the Dales Pony breed, however bay, brown, grey and roan ponies can also be registered. Excessive white markings are not accepted in the breed. Dales Ponies stand between 14 and 14.2 hands and must display a short but muscular body type with abundant long hairs.
The history of the modern Dales Pony is intertwined with led mining in the Dales region of Yorkshire. Its ancestry includes a number of native British breeds including the Scottish Galloway Pony and the famous sire Darley Arabian.
Originally a working pony, the Dales performs well both under saddle and in harness. Due to their calm temperament and kind nature, these ponies are ideal for children and beginners.
The Dales Pony is also one of the rarest horse breeds in the world, with under 5,000 ponies registered worldwide. A small number of feral ponies still live in their natural habitat the Pennine Hills.
This eye-catching black horse breed is the descendant of Neapolitan, Arabian and Barb bloodlines. The Murgese is well-known for its hardiness and versatility as a riding and light draft horse.
Murgese horses are almost always black, but dark roans also occur. They are of a tall sporty type, with a height range of 14.3 to 16.2 hands. The breed also has a characteristic outline and notoriously hard hooves.
The modern Murgese developed in the early 20th century Italy and is more refined than its older version. The ancestors of the breed have influenced several European horse breeds, including the Lipizzaner, Frederiksborg, and Kladruber.
Murgese horses have impeccable manners and even the stallions are easy to handle. Their main use is in cross-country riding, but in some areas of Italy, they still work on farms or as light draft horses.
The always black Mérens is a French mountain horse breed native to the Ariégeois region. They are versatile riding horses especially talented in trail riding due to their outstanding endurance and sure-footedness.
Mérens foals may be born a lighter shade, but their coat always matures into black over the years. The breed is divided into two types: a shorter mountain horse type and a taller sports horse type. They are usually between 14.1 and 15.1 hands tall.
The origins of the Mérens Horse are obscure. Their roots lie somewhere in prehistoric times, with a possible link to Iberian or Oriental horses. What we do know is that the looks and qualities of Mérens Horses have largely been shaped by their harsh natural habitat, the Ariégeois mountains.
The official breed registry has formed in 1933. Since the near extinction of the Mérens Horse in the second half of the 20th century, breeders and enthusiasts have been working intensively to preserve and promote this unique breed.
Historically, Mérens Horses worked as farm- and packhorses and even served in the light cavalry. The breed’s role has later shifted to recreation and tourism. Mérens Horses are also used by the mounted police and therapeutic riding centers.
The last on our list of black horse breeds is the Percheron, a French draft horse breed. Although originally bred for war and heavy draft work, the Percheron is often complimented on its elegance and agility.
While Percherons are often black, grey is also a common color in the breed. Their height ranges enormously from 15.1 to 18.1 hands. Although large in size and powerfully muscled, Percherons are known to be easy keepers.
The medieval horse breed takes its name from the Perche province in western France where it originally developed. Due to the addition of Arabian blood in the 18th and 19th centuries, the breed has gained extra refinement and endurance.
Similar to other draft horse breeds, the number of Percherons rapidly declined after the Second World War. Fortunately, the breed has since recovered and is now popular in the United States and France.
Among the biggest horses ever, Percherons are still used for agricultural and forestry work, as well as riding and driving. Their warmblood crosses make excellent competition and mounted police horses.
Other black horse breeds we haven’t covered include:
- Friesian Sports Horse
- Irish Draft