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Knabstrupper Horse Breed History, Characteristics & Uses

Knabstrupper Horse Breed History, Characteristics & Uses

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Beautiful and exotic, the Knabstrupper horse breed has a different sort of appeal. These horses are popular for their striking spotted coat, but there is a lot more about this breed that meets the eye.

The Knabstrupper Horse Breed

The Knabstrupper horse breed has one of the oldest registries in Europe, set in 1812. Spotted horses existed in prehistoric Spain. But the Knabstrupper traces its origin to a single mare.

A Danish butcher named Flaeb bought a chestnut blanketed mare from a Spanish cavalry officer. Later, Major Villars Lunn bought the mare, who earned the name Flaebehoppen — literally, “Flaeb’s mare”. Major Lunn took her to the Knabstrupgaard Estate in Holbaek, Nordsealand, Denmark. There, he bred Flaebehoppen to a Frederiksborg stallion, producing a colt with surprising colouration.

This colt, Flaebehingsten, as well as his dam, bred to a variety of high-quality horses and produced what would become the Knabstrupper.

As all horses came from a single estate, there was a real risk to the breed. This is due to inbreeding, as there was a limited number of breeding horses. A fine in the Knabstrupgaard almost extinguished this breed, but thankfully efforts by others managed to revive the Knabstrupper horse breed.

In 1971, Appaloosa stallions introduced new blood into the breed. As both breeds come from the spotted Spanish horses, the Knabstrupper earned vitality from the cross. This breed only came to North America in 2002, where it now has an established registry, founded in 2005.

Today’s breed counts with influence from horses such as the Danish Warmblood and Trakehner, as well as the original Frederiksborg and, more recently, the Appaloosa.

Breed Stats

Height 14.2 – 16 hh, but usually around 15.2 to 16 hh.

Color: The Knabstrupper horse breed is popular for its beautiful spotted coat. It can have any of the leopard complex patterns, but more common is the “leopard” pattern: solid white with spots. These can come from a bay, black or chestnut colours.

Occasionally, as in the Appaloosa, the horses may be born solid but still carry the leopard complex genes.

Conformation: Being a “colour breed”, it can show a variety of conformations, depending on the lineage. According to the KNN, the Danish registry, they come in four types: Classic, Sports Horse, Mini and Pony.

The Classic types are closer to the original, Baroque influence on the breed, and tend to be short and stockier. The Sport Horse takes after the warmblood crosses and is leaner and taller.

Uses: The Knabstrupper has a very flashy appearance, which attracts all sorts of uses. The Sport Horse types are popular in dressage, eventing and showjumping, while the Classic types are more popular in driving, classic riding and even as a circus horse, due to its appearance. Pony types are popular with children.