PetMD Editorial

Published Dec. 6, 2009

The Holstein, also known as the Holsteiner Warmblut (literally the Holstein Warmblood) is a breed that was developed in Germany for calvary purposes. Over the years, however, it has been brought to, and flourished in, other countries.


Physical Characteristics


Standing at between 16 and 17 hands tall (64-68 inches, 163-173 centimeters), the Holstein is larger than your average horse. It draws its strength and endurance from its powerful quarters, croup, and withers. And even thouh a Holstein's legs are short, they are dense and muscular, perfect for draft riding.

The typical coat colors for a Holstein are brown, black, and bay.


Personality and Temperament


The Holstein is good-tempered and shows a keen willingness to learn and work. It can be taught easily and performs brilliantly. This is why it is a preferred breed for equestrian sports enthusiasts such as those competing in the Olympics.




To breed quality Holstein horses, it is best to use registered sires and dams. Furthermore, the first two years is the best time for training a Holstein.


History and Background


The Holstein breed dates as far back as the early-13th century. It was bred in a horse-breeding region, Schleswig-Holstein, from where it received its name.


A result of interbreeding Neapolitan and Spanish horses, the Holstein was produced to serve as part of the German calvary. (The stock was later refined by added blood of West Asian horses, particularly those from Turkey.)


Holsteins were not only used in the army. The higher ranks of society wanted the horses, and monks and landlords were pressured to produce fine-quality Holstein breeds for their lords.


The history of the Holstein did not stop there, as it continued to be recognized as an important horse breed. In 1686, a law was passed to emphasize the need for Holstein stallions and mares of high quality. Holstein horses also became a major export product of Germany.


The Association of Breeders of Holstein Horses was established for the purpose of propagating and preserving the Holstein. It is their task to make sure that the Holstein retains its desirable traits.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health