The Frederiksborg Horse

- Denmark’s oldest national horse breed

History of the Frederiksborg Horse

The Frederiksborg Horse is the world’s oldest pedigree domestic animal breed, and is in itself a living piece of Danish cultural history rooted in the Royal Frederiksborg Stud, which added glamour to horse breeding in Denmark for several hundred years.

The operation of the royal stud farm at Frederiksborg dates back to King Frederik II (1534-1588). After the acquisition of Hillerødsholm, which was later called Frederiksborg, the best horses from various royal stud farms started being gathered here.

Just like his father, Christian IV (1577-1648) was very interested in horse breeding, and he expanded the stud farm significantly through purchasing, probably mainly of Iberian horses, a type of horse that was in style all over Europe at the time. Christian IV could be characterised as the actual founder of the later well-known Frederiksborg stud farm, not least because the arrangement of an actual stud administration was his doing.

The purpose of the stud farm breeding was to achieve light riding horses for haute ecole and more robust coach horses for the royal carriages. The breeding took place through a loose housing system in fenced forest fields. The horses were divided into studs. One stud consisted of about 18 mares (more or less depending on the grazing possibilities in the fields). Each spring, a selected stallion was let into the mares’ enclosure. In the beginning, the breeding took place as mixed breeding without specific principles through continuous purchases of new stallions.

After the establishment of absolute monarchy in 1660, higher demands were made - with the French court as the role model - on luxury and displaying of pomp at the royal ceremonies. The royal stables were given representative tasks to an extent that had not been seen before. Now, the horses in a team had to be identical in colour, markings and size. In order to meet these demands, the studs were divided according to colour, after which pure breeding was carried out with the studs of various colours. For example, there were chestnut, black, grey and last, but not least, the most distinguished of them all, white studs, which supplied white horses for the king’s coach, and which were the pride of the stud farm throughout the ages.

This breeding was so successful that the Royal Frederiksborg Stud experienced a Golden Age for almost 100 years, where the horses from this stud farm became acknowledged and famous all over Europe for their noble blood and their wonderfully elegant builds. They were used to a wide extent for upgrading at many European stud farms and were given the name ”Danish horses". You get the best impression of the appearance of these horses by looking at the equestrian statue located in the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace. The French sculptor Saly sculptured the king’s horse from 1753 to 1771 from the best parts of various Frederiksborg stallions from the stud farm at Frederiksborg. Thus, it is an idealised horse, but it shows the type of horse that the stud farm tried to achieve through breeding.

The Frederiksborg Horse was used as a coach horse as well as a riding horse. The breed became so popular that too many horses were exported to other countries, and by the middle of the 1800s, the population was too small to continue the success of the breeding. The stud farm was closed around 1871, and after this, the breeding of Frederiksborg Horses was continued on a private basis by the farmers.