By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 11, 2008

The Haflinger, also known as the Avelignese, is a diminutive horse breed which was developed in the mountainous areas of Austria and northern Italy. Usually known for riding and pulling light carts, the Haflinger stands 12 to 14 hands tall (or 48 to 56 inches in height).

Physical Characteristics

The Haflinger has a uniform chestnut brown color throughout its body, which is strong and well-structured. Its coat is thick, while its the mane and tail are rich and luscious. One special characteristic of the Haflinger is its distinct face markings; some have fire-like patches, while others have star-like patches. The Haflinger's head is very similar to its Arab ancestor, and its shoulders are slightly arched, yet well-developed. The Haflinger also has a muscular, curved croup (loin) and, because of its wide and sturdy legs, a unique gait which is described as energetic but smooth. The horse's hooves are relatively large and tough.

Personality and Temperament

The Haflinger is usually tranquil and determined. Despite its small stature, the horse is brawny and has even been referred to as “the tractor of the Alps” because of its usefulness as a farm animal and a mountain pack horse. This mountain ancestry has given it an incredible amount of stamina and perseverance, ideal for a variety of modern uses, including western-style horse shows.

Care and Health

Because of the outstanding qualities of the Haflinger, breeders are constantly trying to preserve the bloodline of this ancient horse. Occasionally, they will crossbreed studs with Haflinger horses in order to improve the breed and make it more sophisticated.

History and Background

The Haflinger's history can be traced back to the Middle Ages, though its precise origin is unknown. Artwork from the 1800s depicts a chestnut-colored horse carrying riders and packs across the mountainous region of Southern Tyrol, in present day Austria. The Haflinger, named after the Tyrolean village of Hafling, learned to adapt to its unfavorable environment and became strong and courageous. It is also thought this ancient breed descended from the horses raised by the Ostrogoths -- an east Germanic tribe which once held a kingdom in Italy. The Haflinger was later crossed with Austrian pony and Arab horse blood by breeders.

The modern Haflinger is now found all over the world and continues to amaze horse lovers with its varied abilities, including pleasure riding, western trail riding and vaulting. The Halflinger also makes for a great family-horse due to its favorable size for children.

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