Knabstrupper Horses
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About Knabstrupper HorsesAbout Knabstrupper Horses



Knabstrupper Horses, also known as Knabstrup or Tiger Horses, are a Danish breed of horse with an unusual range of coat coloration, often with tiger-like stripes.

In 1812 Villars Lunn, owner of the manor house Knabstrupgaard, bought from a butcher named Flaebe. Probably the mare was of Spanish origin, but it looked very much like an English hunter type. The butcher had bought the mare from a Spanish officer, stationed in Denmark during the Napoleon wars.

The unusual color of the Flaebe mare was memorable. She was dark red with a white mane and tale, covered with small white snowflakes on her body, and brown spots on her blanket.

There has been a lot of guessing about the origin of the Flaebe mare, but a possible theory is, that she descends from Meklenbourg in Germany, where the Spanish were stationed before they came to Denmark.

Horses at the Knabstrup stud farm were bred for strength and hard work. The Flaebe mare stood out for her strength and stamina. As an example in 1816, the Titular councilor of state V. Lunn was run over by a carriage and his leg was broken. In a hurry a farmhand took a two horse team, the Flabe mare and one other. He rode to Holbaek, found that the doctor wasn’t home, from there to Buttrup vicarage, where he did find a doctor, and then again, back to Knabstrup. The team rode at least 30 km in 105 minutes. One horse was damaged for life; but the very next day the Flaebe mare was back in the fields to work. At that time she was 15 years old.

The Flaebe mare became the breed mother of the Knabstrup horses. All of her progenies had fantastic colors, and she never delivered a one colored foal. She was once covered by a yellow Frederiksborg stallion, and their foal was a colt, named The Flaebestallion, and he became the foundation for the new spotted breed. The Flaebestallion had a very unusual color as well and was often mentioned as having more than 20 different colors with a special metalshining glow.

Another colt of the Flaebe mare was Mikkel, born 1818. He was son of his half brother the Flaebestallion, and was famous for his results in horseracing. These races were seen by many people, and gave the Knabstrup horse the reputation of being a powerful and a great working capacity. Mikkel is probably the most famous horse in the Knabstrup breed.

Knabstrup horses were known for their high spirit and energetic action yet they were not temperamental. They showed no signs of being malicious, and never had vices like cribbing and wind swallowing. The fact that they were never put into stalls, but mostly left outside, accounts for their ruggedness. Knabstrup horses also are able to live to a very old age.

Danish officers often used Knabstrup horses as mounts during the war 1848-1850. (Schleswig war), but unfortunately, because of their eye-catching color, they made good targets for the enemy. In the Battle of Isted, 1850, two officers rode bright colored Knabstrup horses, and they both got shot. Colonel Laessoee’s horse, a colorful mare Nathalie, escaped unharmed as the colonel was shot, and in the years to come, she went on to raise offspring. One foal was named Laessoee after the fallen Colonel.

The other officer, general Schleppegral, had once used Mikkel as his personal riding horse. During the Battle of Isted he rode one of the Mikkel horses, and was also shot during the fighting. The stallion ran off and disappeared. All efforts of the Danish Army to find the valuable horse were in vain.

Unknown to the army, several farmers in the hills of Skovby, caught the red spotted stallion, and kept him hidden till the end of the war. Knowing his value, they kept their lips sealed, but used him as a sire. The resulting horses were named them Schnapegral-peerd horses and became separated from the original Knabstrup breed, and were greatly sought after by farmers in the area. Much to their advantage, the stallions had fine carriage, peculiar coloring, and lovely appearance. As late as 1910, a local was using a direct descendent of the earlier hidden Stallion.

Unfortunately during the 1870s, the Knabstrup horses were too closely line bred for many generations. The resulting inbreeding caused great difficulties in retaining color and quality, and their quality began to regress. Plus in 1891, 22 Knabstrup horses was killed during a fire. The combination of the inbreeding and the killed horses resulted in a decline in the popularity and number of Knabstrup horses.

Though the horses of the Knabstrup stables met their downfall, they left behind a great influence on horse breeding in Denmark. And over time breeders began outcrossing to horses of Knabstrup parentage, and a new strain of spotted horses was fostered. They are still known as Knabstrup horses, and today they are popular again.

Knabstruppers today are bred in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Netherland, United Kingdom, USA, and, most recently, Czech Republic, Australia and New Zealand.

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