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What is a Knabstrupper?
T The Knabstrupper or Knabstrup is a Danish breed of horse with an unusual range of coat coloration. Coat patterns range from solid to a full leopard spotted coat, with many variants in between. The spotted coat is caused by a genetic mechanism called the Leopard complex and is the most prized color pattern. The spotted color patterns common in the Knabstrupper are seen in other breeds, such as the Appaloosa horse, though the two breeds developed independently of one another. The breed has warmblood conformation..
History of the Knab
Spotted horses were bred in Denmark as long ago as 1671, when there was a very popular stud called “The Tiger Horses”. At this time the spotted horses were almost solely for the use of the royalty and nobility. Fewspot or 'white born' horses were used as carriage horses (it was difficult to get horses with matching spot patterns) and were also used as the mount of the monarch in Coronation ceremonies. Spotted, as well as fewspot, horses were used in the Court riding academy of Christiansborg Castle and proved themselves well not only as a classical riding horse, but in driving as well.
One of the requirements of horses used for breeding at the Knabstrupgaard was good performance. Horses had to have shown great stamina and good temperament under heavy work loads. For horses at that time, that often meant being ridden or driven for long hours over rough terrain. The Flæbe mare was in service at Knabstrupgaard as a light workhorse (carriage driving as well as farm work) from May 1812.
Knabstrupper horses were known for their liveliness and energetic action, but they were not temperamental. They had no malicious tendencies or vices. They were never housed in stalls and were mostly kept outside, which explains their hardiness and reputation for being 'good doers'. Danish officers often used Knabstrupper horses as mounts during the war 1848-1850 (Schleswig war). Unfortunately, because of their eye-catching colour, they we easy targets for enemy snipers.
During the 1870s, there began an unavoidable demise at the Knabstrupgaard stables. At the Lunn family stable, the herd maintained between 40 and 50 spotted horses at the time between the two Schleswig-wars, all descendents of Flæbe. This inbreeding caused great difficulties in retaining colour and quality, and the breed vitality began to deteriorate. 22 Knabstrupper horses were killed during a fire in 1891; and it was this fire, combined with the problems of inbreeding that caused the numbers and profile of the breed to recede.
Though those horses of the Knabstrupgaard stables met their demise, they left a great legacy on horse breeding across the whole of Denmark. Breeders began crossing to horses of Knabstrupper parentage, and a new lineage of spotted horses was nurtured. Still known by the same name today, Knabstrupper horses are in great demand and the breed is ever popular with riders and drivers alike.
The leopard spotted horses from Knabstrupgaard were the foundation for the breed in the Holbæk-area, as well as Bornholm and northern Jutland. They were also popular as a circus horses, and in this capacity, the breed travelled all over the world.
*Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark site
Although the future of the Knabstrupper is unknown, I hope this fantastic breed gets the recognition in the equine world that it deserves as a fantastic horse for a wide range of Equine disciplines and suitability for every level and skill of rider.