About Senner Horses
Senner, or Senne, horses are a critically-endangered German
riding horse. They are believed to be the oldest saddle-horse breed in Germany,
and are documented at least as far back as 1160. They are named for the Senne,
a natural region of dunes and moorland in Nordrhein-Westfalen, in western
Germany, and live in feral herds there and in the Teutoburger Forest to the
Senner horses were bred principally as a riding horse, even
in times when working horses were in demand; they were also used as a carriage
horse. Senner stallions stood at the royal stud of Weil bei Esslingen in
Baden-Württemberg and at the state stud of Lipizza in the Austrian Empire. Today,
they are competition or recreational riding.
They are warmblooded and have been influenced at various
times by Arab, Anglo-Arab, Thoroughbred, and Iberian stock. They may have
contributed to development of Hanoverian horses.
The origins of the Senner are not known; many records of the
history of the breed were destroyed by fire in 1945. Herds of feral horses in
the Senne moorlands are documented in several Mediaeval sources, one of which
dates from 1160. The Senne lay within the Principality of Lippe, and the horses
were raised to provide mounts for the ruling Lippe family. The center of
breeding was at Detmold until 1680, when it was moved to the stables of the
Jagdschloss Lopshorn (de) near Augustdorf. The horses were kept all year round
on the heathland of the Senne and in the neighbouring Teutoburger Forest.
Numbers were never very high; the number of breeding mares averaged about
forty. Breeding records were kept from the early years of the eighteenth
century, and a stud-book started in 1713. There were four dam lines in the
breed; only one of these, dating to 1725, survives.
From the late seventeenth century, some Arab blood was
introduced; English Anglo-Arab and Thoroughbred blood was introduced towards
the end of the eighteenth century. In the early twentieth century, after the
First World War, there was some addition of Andalusian blood.
The Lopshorn castle was destroyed by fire in 1945. In 1946
the remaining Senner stock was dispersed to various owners. In 1999, some were
introduced to the Moosheide nature reserve to assist in conservation grazing.
In 2007 the FAO listed the conservation status of the Senner
as "critical". In the Rote Liste of the Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung
alter und gefahrdeter Haustierrassen, they are listed in Category I, "extremely
endangered". In 2015 the total breeding population was reported at
twenty-five head - nineteen mares and six stallions.
They are found in bay and grey; black and chestnut also
occur. Some horses show primitive markings including a dorsal stripe and
zebra-striping on the legs.