Knabstrupper Horses, also known as Knabstrup or Tiger
Horses, are a Danish breed of horse with an unusual range of coat coloration,
often with tiger-like stripes.
In 1812 Villars Lunn, owner of the manor house
Knabstrupgaard, bought from a butcher named Flaebe. Probably the mare was of
Spanish origin, but it looked very much like an English hunter type. The
butcher had bought the mare from a Spanish officer, stationed in Denmark during
the Napoleon wars.
The unusual color of the Flaebe mare was memorable. She was
dark red with a white mane and tale, covered with small white snowflakes on her
body, and brown spots on her blanket.
There has been a lot of guessing about the origin of the Flaebe
mare, but a possible theory is, that she descends from Meklenbourg in Germany,
where the Spanish were stationed before they came to Denmark.
Horses at the Knabstrup stud farm were bred for strength and
hard work. The Flaebe mare stood out for her strength and stama. As an example
in 1816, the Titular councillor of state V. Lunn was run over by a carriage and
his leg was broken. In a hurry a farmhand took a two horse team, the Flabe mare
and one other. He rode to Holbaek, found that the doctor wasn’t home, from
there to Buttrup vicarage, where he did find a doctor, and then again, back to
Knabstrup. The team rode at least 30 km in 105 minutes. One horse was damaged
for life; but the very next day the Flaebe mare was back in the fields to work.
At that time she was 15 years old.
The Flaebe mare became the breed mother of the Knabstrup
horses. All of her progenies had fantastic colors, and she never delevered a
one colored foal. She was once covered by a yellow Frederiksborg stallion, and
their foal was a colt, named The Flaebestallion, and he bacame the foundation for
the new spotted breed. The Flaebestallion had a very unusual colour as well and
was often mentioned as having more than 20 different colours with a special
Another colt of the Flaebe mare was Mikkel, born 1818. He
was son of his halfbrother the Flaebestallion, and was famous for his results
in horseracing. These races were seen by many people, and gave the Knabstrup
horse the reputation of being a powerful and a great working capacity. Mikkel
is probably the most famous horse in the Knabstrup breed.
Knabstrup horses were known for their high spirit and
energetic action yet they were not temperamental. They showed no signs of being
malicious, and never had vices like cribbing and wind swallowing. The fact that
they were never put into stalls, but mostly left outside, accounts for their
ruggedness. Knabstrup horses also are
abile to live to a very old age.
Danish officers often used Knabstrup horses as mounts during
the war 1848-1850. (Schleswig war), but unfortunately, because of their
eye-catching colour, they made good targets for the enemy. In the Battle of
Isted, 1850, two officers rode bright colored Knabstrup horses, and they both
got shot. Colonel Laessoee’s horse, a colourful mare Nathalie, escaped unharmed
as the colonel was shot, and in the years to come, she went on to raise
offspring. One foal was named Laessoee after the fallen Colonel.
The other officer, general Schleppegral, had once used Mikkel
as his personal riding horse. During the Battle of Isted he rode one of the Mikkel
horses, and was also shot during the fighting. The stallion ran off and
disappeared. All efforts of the Danish Army to find the valuable horse were in
Unknown to the army, several farmers in the hills of Skovby,
caught the red spotted stallion, and kept him hidden till the end of the war.
Knowing his value, they kept their lips sealed, but used him as a sire. The
resulting horses were named them Schnapegral-peerd horses and became separated
from the original Knabstrup breed, and were greatly sought after by farmers in
the area. Much to their advantage, the stallions had fine carriage, peculiar
coloring, and lovely appearance. As late as 1910, a local was using a direct
descendent of the earlier hidden Stallion.
Unfortunately during the 1870s, the Knabstrup horses were too
closely line bred for many generations. The resulting inbreeding caused great
difficulties in retaining color and quality, and their quality began to
regress. Plus unfortunately in 1891, 22 Knabstrup horses was killed during a fire.
The combination of the inbreeding and the killed horses resulted in a decline
in the popularity and number of Knabstrup horses.
Though the horses of the Knabstrup stables met their
downfall, they left behind a great influence on horse breeding in Denmark. And
over time breeders began outcrossing to horses of Knabstrup parentage, and a
new strain of spotted horses was fostered. They are still known as Knabstrup
horses, and today they are popular again.
Knabstruppers today are bred in Denmark, Norway, Sweden,
Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Netherland, United Kingdom, USA, and, most
recently, Czech Republic, Australia and New Zealand.