PetMD Editorial

Published Dec. 6, 2009

The Knabstrup is a spotted horse that originated from Denmark. A rare horse breed, it is mainly used for riding.


Physical Characteristics


The Knabstrup is a hardy horse, but there are a variety of strains. Some are small while others are notably larger. The typical Knabstrup stands between 15.1 and 16 hands high (60-64 inches, 152-163 centimeters).

The Knabstrup's most distinguishing feature, however, is its beautifully spotted coat, which can be seen in a variety of colors. The horse also has strong, stable limbs and hard hooves.


Personality and Temperament


The Knabstrup has a calm, friendly temperament. The Knabstrup also demonstrates keen intelligence and a willingness to learn. This is mainly why Knabstrup horses are a preferred breed of horse for circus acts.


History and Background


Although some may argue that there is evidence to support the Knabstrup has been in existence as far back as the age of the Vikings late 1st century, the earliest confirmed record is a wall tapestry located in Oslo, Norway, from about 1200 A.D., depicting a brown Knabstrup with fair and rust-colored spots. There are also cave paintings in France nearly 20,000 years old showing a group of spotted horses with foals.

Some have attempted to trace the actual origins of the breeds, though much of the discoveries are still in dispute. There is, however, sufficient evidence to support the theory that the Knabstrup may have originated from Asia, spreading when Chinese traders used spotted horses for pack duties and distributing goods to the West.

The Knabstrup did not come to Denmark until 1804, when one of Napoleon's soliders left a spotted mare behind. This mare, known as Flaebehoppen ("the snivel mare"), became the ancestor to many of today’s Knabstrup horses.

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