Hailing from the Black Forest region of Germany, the Black Forest Horse is a rare and unique draft breed with a lovely temperament and hardy nature. As an all-around workhorse, Black Forest Horses were indispensable to pre-industrial farmers, but their numbers have declined in recent years.
Though some private owners keep Black Forest Horses for riding or driving, it’s extremely rare to encounter them in person—especially in the United States. German breeding programs are working hard to preserve these remarkable horses, however.
Quick Facts About the Black Forest Horse
|Breed Name:||Black Forest Horse|
|Place of Origin:||Germany|
|Uses:||Driving, riding, agricultural|
|Stallion (Male) Size:||16 hh, 1,400 lbs|
|Mare (Female) Size:||14.3–15.2 hh, 1,250 lbs|
|Climate Tolerance:||Cold climates, adaptable|
|Temperament:||Docile, hard-working, hardy|
Black Forest Horse Origins
Originating in the Baden-Wurttemberg region of Germany, the Black Forest Horse is named for the forested mountain range, where it developed around 600 years ago. These strong, sturdy horses were designed to work in the highland farm areas and withstand the harsh winters.
Black Forest Horses were first recognized with a studbook in 1896. Because it was primarily bred for working in agriculture and forestry, the breed declined as its use was replaced by machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Only about 700 Black Forest Horse mares are currently registered, despite efforts to preserve the breed.
Black Forest Horse Characteristics
The Black Forest Horse has an easygoing nature typical of draft horses, but it’s exceptionally elegant in its movements. It’s an exceptional workhorse that’s adaptable to different environments and uses, including modern uses as a competitor and pleasure horse.
These horses are also healthy with no known health conditions, though they are easy keepers and tend to become overweight without careful diet control.
Like other draft breeds, the Black Forest Horse was refined for use in agriculture and forestry, such as logging and farm work, in the Black Forest region and beyond. With its docile nature, hardiness, and strength, the Black Forest Horse was an excellent all-around workhorse for pre-industrial farmers.
Currently, the few Black Forest Horses are preserved for breed competitions, pleasure riding, and competitive driving or harness work.
Appearance & Varieties
With such careful breeding over the centuries, the Black Forest Horse is primarily found in flaxen chestnut. The coat itself is a darker chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, with some varieties appearing nearly black. Unlike other draft breeds, the Black Forest Horse is typically kept with a long, flowing mane and tail.
A few bay varieties exist, which are a deep auburn with black manes, tails, and points, but these are even rarer. A batch of gray was once produced, but breeders were not successful in making this color a standard.
After the first studbook, these horses were regulated by the state according to breeding regulations and qualifications for breeding stock. With the tight guidelines, virtually all existing Black Forest Horses are level-headed, versatile horses known as the “Golden Retriever of horses.”
Now, there are only 46 state-approved stallions, 16 of which are at the Marbach stud farm owned by the state. There are several private breeding facilities as well, but all are governed by the same regulations to preserve the breed. Only 700 mares are registered, but these horses are known for being highly fertile.
Are Black Forest Horses Good for Small-Scale Farming?
Most of the Black Forest Horse’s original use has been replaced by machinery, but they can do heavy farm work for small-scale farming. Generally, these horses are kept more for competitive driving or pleasure riding, however.
Black Forest Horses are prized for their gentle nature and versatility for riding, driving, and competition. Though the Black Forest Horse is an ideal choice for all types of equestrians, it’s difficult to find one available. With low population numbers and even fewer breeders, these horses can command high prices—if you can even find one for sale.
Featured Image Credit: Uli Ebner, Pixabay