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Knabstruppers are a horse breed which has experienced the highest glory and the deepest oblivion, which has carried kings to the coronation and has pulled the farmer’s plow. But its colorful appearance was always closely connected to that of its owner. If one is a colorful person, one cannot but enjoy this living example of nature’s diversity.

 

Major Villars Lunn at Knabstrup Hovedgård founded the Knabstrupper breeding and was one of very few to live to see the results of his breeding work i.e. a new horse breed, which was founded on Danish breeding traditions over centuries.

 

The roots of the Knabstrupper are of the old Spanish horses that were crossed with the Frederiksborg Horses, the oldest Danish breed. Knabstruppers are actually only distant relatives to the Appaloosas. Today they show up as two different breeds with different bodies as there are so many horse generations in between. 

 

Knabstruppers have been called baroque horses, aligned with Lippizans, Andalusians, Lusitanos, Kladrubers, Frederiksborgs and so on. Among the ancestors of the Knabstrupper is an abundance of spotted horses, popular not only because of their outer appearance but also because of their great abilities and endurance in many areas.

 

Besides the color they are very well known for their special character showing a high level of intelligence, which predestines them for show-training and up-graded work. The breed is used not only for leisure and hobby riding but also for the most advanced equestrian disciplines including dressage, eventing, show jumping hunting, pentathlon, and the airs above the ground. Due to their outstanding movements, which are powerful, but easy to be controlled they are also used for therapeutic work.

 

Today the Knabstrupper is unfortunately becoming rare, but its unique cultural heritage and abilities inherited over generations are now being recognized. Knabstruppers are nowadays bred in different types: baroque and the modern sporthorse type. They are also bred in different sizes: horse size, pony size and miniature.

Knabstrupper Breed History

So begins a little part of the story of The Danish Knabstrupper, the unique world famous but very rare Danish spotted high school dressage horse of nobles and kings, bred to perfection through the centuries....

 

Denmark, the oldest kingdom in the world, is by tradition a seafaring nation thanks not least to the Vikings. Not only were the Vikings capable seafarers, but they were also considered to be excellent horsemen. Thus the Norman descendants of the Vikings won the battle of Hastings due to a highly trained cavalry, which could only have been developed by people who prepared their horses through education and selective breeding. In the 12th century a French priest wrote to the French king that the Danes have at their disposal an outstanding population of horses that surpasses anything he has hitherto seen.
  
In the church of Skibby not far from Knabstrup Hovedgaard is a frieze of murals showing three young princes riding spotted horses. These murals are entitled “Memento Mori” (remember death) and thus tells us that secular decadence will be punished in the afterworld. It further tells us that spotted horses expressed decadence, wealth, arrogance and  joie de vivre.
 
When the reformation came to Denmark in 1536 the nobles' estates fell to the crown and king Frederik II founded the royal stud at Frederiksborg. During the reign of his son, King Christian IV, a hitherto unseen splendor was displayed at the royal court, which required correspondingly magnificent horses. In 1662 king Christian V spent a long period at the court of the sun-king Ludwig IV as the court of Versailles was his great example. Ludwig IV had a great passion for spotted horses and was often depicted mounted on such horses. The spotted horse was the quintessence of the time, and thus should not be absent from the Danish court either.
 
Spotted horses were bred in Denmark as long ago as 1671, when there was a very popular stud called “The Tiger Horses”. At this time the spotted horses were almost solely for the use of the royalty and nobility. Fewspot or 'white born' horses were used as carriage horses (it was difficult to get horses with matching spot patterns) and were also used as the mount of the monarch in Coronation ceremonies. Spotted, as well as fewspot, horses were used in the Court riding academy of Christiansborg Castle and proved themselves well not only as a classical riding horse, but in driving as well.
 
Purchasers from all over the world came to the yearly auctions at Frederiksborg. The carriages of the Russian Czar were harnessed with Danish white born horses, and at the auction in 1771 the white born stallion Pluto was sold to Austria and became the oldest of the ancestors of the famous Lippizaner. Unfortunately, after a peak in production and quality in 1750, this Royal breeding line came to a sad demise as the color disappeared, this was likely to be due to the grey gene.
 
In 1683, Superbe, a black stallion, was bought by the Danish state stud at Frederiksborg Castle from a Spanish monastery cum stud in Xeres de la Frontera with the aim of improving the breeding of the classicl high school Frederiksborger horse. Here he founded the nucleus of the line that eventually led to the Danish Knabstruppernot with descendants of the original “Tiger Horses” but with a new bloodline. 
 
Villars Lunn, owner of the “Knabstrupgaard”, a manor situated in Holbæk, Nordsealand, bought a mare from a butcher named Flæbe. The mare was also called Flæbe. The mare was probably of Spanish origin, but she had the stamp of an English hunter type. The butcher had bought the mare from a Spanish cavalry officer stationed in Denmark during the Napoleonic wars.
 
Flæbe was unusually marked for horses of the day. She was dark red (Danish = Zobelfuchs) with white mane and tail, and her body was covered extensively with small white snowflakes. She also had brown spots on her white blanket. She was a quality horse, with exquisite beauty. The Flæbe mare had so many colors that she was jokingly referred to as “green”.
 
There is great speculation and much disagreement regarding the origins of the Flæbe mare. One possible theory is that she originated from Meklenbourg in Germany, where the Spanish were stationed before they came to Denmark. Another theory is that she travelled with the Spanish all the way from Cordoba in Spain. She was used as a workhorse and also proved to be very rugged. 
 
Flæbe was once covered by a chestnut Frederiksborg stallion (direct descendant of Superbe), and the colt foal she had as a result of this in 1813, was named the Flæbestallion. It was this colt, Flæbestallion, that was the foundation sire for the new spotted breed. As a result of his birth, Flæbe became the “breed mother” of the Knabstrupper horse. Flæbestallion also had an unusual coat colour and was often described as having a special metallic glow with many different colours in his coat.
 
All of Flæbe's progeny displayed fantastic spotted colour, not once did she give birth to a solid foal, even to a solid stallion. So it stands to reason that she carried the spotted genes and is responsible for the myriad of coat patterns seen in the Knabstrupper breed.

 

During the 1870s, there began an unavoidable demise at the Knabstrupgaard stables. At the Lunn family stable, the herd maintained between 40 and 50 spotted horses at the time between the two Schleswig-wars, all descendants of Flæbe. This inbreeding caused great difficulties in retaining color and quality, and the breed vitality began to deteriorate. 22 Knabstrupper horses were killed during a fire in 1891, and it was this fire (combined with the problems of inbreeding) that caused the numbers and profile of the breed to recede.  However, breeders began outcrossing to horses of Knabstrupper parentage, and a new lineage of spotted horses was nurtured.

 

The Knabstrup Association (Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark) was founded in 1971 and is the Motherbook for the breed.  Still known by the same name today, Knabstrupper horses are in great demand and the breed is ever popular with riders and drivers alike. They are intelligent, high-spirited, energetic, not temperamental or malicious, and generally have no stable vices. One of the most highly prized characteristics of the Knabstrupper is their superb temperament which allows them to perform and excel in a variety of equestrian disciplines with children, adults, and even paraequestrians.

 
As the Knabstrup breed became nationwide, it seemed a natural progression to breed ponies as well, because the color appealed to children. It was also easy, because many Knabstrup horses were about 150 cm., and breeding down was as easy as breeding up.  Some breeders even began breeding the color into ponies since it was so appealing to children, and the Knabstrupper can even be found in miniature.
 

When breeding, the spotted coat pattern is difficult to predict. There is no guarantee of coat pattern when crossing two spotted horses; it can result in solid coloured as well as spotted foals; just as a spotted and a solid horse very often produce a spotted foal. The grey gene very often shows itself in the offspring after breeding with a grey roan horse, and it can be difficult to breed out again.

 
Click Here for the (complete) Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark's Breed History!!!

Uses & Suitability

Over the centuries, the Danish spotted horse has had a variety of uses. Until the century before last, the spotted horses were almost solely used by nobles and were the epitome of decadence and joie de vivre.
 
They were primarily used in mounted festival plays and carrousels, and sometimes they were harnessed to smart and pompous carriages. This was rare however, as it was extraordinarily difficult to find and buy matching horses with similar spot patterns.
 
The white born variety of the breed, on the other hand, became the carriage horse par excellence, and every reputable princely house just had to own a few. At the time the queen used to ride to the coronation and the white born was the preferred coronation horse, later becoming the preferred companion horse for many royal monarchs.
 
The white born as well as the spotted horses did justice to themselves at the famed court riding academy of Christiansborg Castle, where, especially under the tutorship of Georg Simon Winter von Adlersflügel, they really proved their worth in the high school. It was the proven classical riding and driving horse that Major Villars Lunn bred at Knabstrup.
 
During the Sleswig wars, the Knabstruppers were often used as officers´ horses, with the often fatal result that the officer became too easy a target for the enemy sharpshooters.
 
When the royal stud at Frederiksborg Castle came to an end, the breeding program was continued under public management. The Frederiksborger was put to agricultural use whilst the Knabstruppers were mostly used for pulling light carriages or pleasure carts.
 
During the period between the great wars, when breeding was influenced by the requirements of agriculture, a somewhat heavier type of Knabstrupper was bred for heavier work. When this requirement ceased after WW2, access to the lucrative racing market through crossbreeding with thoroughbreds and warmbloods was attempted.
 
Often though, the result caused derision. Others tried to preserve the original classical riding horse; for this the main customers were the circuses all over the world. This horse that was bred for the High School was often predestined for a life as a circus horse, not only because of its color, but more for its character and because of its ability and willingness to learn. So Knabstruppers were exported to the circus world, from Australia to America, for many years.
 
When the entertainment industry, including the circuses, changed dramatically due to the introduction of television, the demand from the primary customer decreased and the most important use of the Knabstrupper disappeared. For a long time thereafter the Knabstrupper was almost a totally forgotten breed, until it once again reappeared onto the scene along with the growing interest for riding for leisure.
 
Today the spotted princely horse is mainly used for leisure and hobby riding. To anyone who, along with the ancient princes, believes in joie de vivre and expresses it through the color of his horse, the Knabstrupper is the ideal choice.
 
Besides the color they are very well known for their special character showing a high level of intelligence, which predestines them for show-training and up-graded work. The breed is used not only for leisure and hobby riding but also for the most advanced equestrian disciplines including dressage, eventing, show jumping hunting, pentathlon, and the airs above the ground. Due to their outstanding movements, which are powerful, but easy to be controlled they are also used for therapeutic work.

 Type & Standard

It is very difficult to describe the ideal Knabstrupper, in as much as a totally pure specimen no longer exists and it's uses vary. Furthermore, the Frederiksborger, from which the Knabstrupper stems, has changed type. The typical Frederiksborger of that time, and through it the breeding also carried out by the noble and estate studs (among these the Knabstrup Hovedgård), reminds us of the other European baroque horse breeds. The closest to this type today is the Iberian horse and the Lipizzaner,
 
In the attempt to find the historical Knabstrupper type, a priceless monument helps us. The mounted horseman on the castle square of Amalienborg in Copenhagen, Denmark. The French sculptor Saly created with this monument a remarkably genuine sculpture of the ideal Danish horse in 1750. The ideal horse measured 155 cm.
 
Thus Hjalmer Friis describes the monument;
 
"…an anatomically almost perfect Horse, harmonious, well built, the medium sized Head with the somewhat convex Nose is beautifully united with the rather free set, well carried somewhat heavy Neck. The Shoulder is sloped and heavyset with rounded Withers. The Chest is deep and wide. The Back is somewhat long. The Loins are broad, well-muscled. The croup medium long, regular square sided, strongly furrowed, sloping with a low set somewhat in set well borne richly haired Tail. The Legs are strong..."
 
The KNN however states;
 
"...The Knabstrup horse is a natural trotter, and as a type, the “Trakenher” horse is closest to the original type. It is a common opinion that the “Frederiksborg” horse is the breeding strain of the “Knabstrup” horse, and that is not completely incorrect; but the “Frederiksborg” horse has a very high action, which is not attractive for a riding horse..."
 
Knabstruppers are nowadays bred in different types: baroque (Classic) and the modern (Sports) type. In Germany there is also the Classical type or a mixture of the Baroque and Modern type. They are also bred in different sizes: horse size, pony size and miniature. 
 
KNN Sports Standard
 KNN Classic Standard
Coming Soon!
  Coming Soon!

Color

The Knabstrupper comes in as many color patterns as it's distinct cousin the Appaloosa and more. The most sought after is the full spotted leopard, however no two Knabstruppers are alike, they are all unique. The color codes are passed on in the normal way, and the color is dominant over all other colors. A good horse has no color goes an old saying, but this is only partially true of the Knabstrupper.
 
A Knabstrupper is not always spotted, but on the other hand neither is every spotted horse a Knabstrupper.
 
LP COMPLEX: shows characteristics like mottled skin around the nose, eyes and genitals, white scelera in the eye, and striped feet and possible roaning.
 
HOMOZYGOUS:  LPLP, meaning two helpings fo the dominant LP gene.  Knabstrupper's that carry "LPLP" are Fewspots and Snowcaps. Snowcaps show a reduced level of white expression. These are color dominant Knabstrupper's and will throw one dominant copy of the LP gene when bred.

HETEROZYGOUS: LPlp meaning one copy color of the LP gene.

So if a solid colored mare (lplp) is covered by a Knabstrupper stallion (Lplp)

(or vice versa):

If a Knabstrupper (Lplp) is covered by Knabstrupper (Lplp): 

 

If a whiteborn Knastrupper (Lplp)covered by a Knabstrupper (Lplp):

 If a whiteborn Knabstrupper (LPLP) covered with any solid coloured (lplp): 

lplp + LPlp =

LPlp + lplp + LPlp + lplp

LPlp + LPlp =

LPLP + LPLp + LPlp + lplp

LpLp + Lplp=

Lplp+LpLp+Lplp+Lplp

LPLP + lplp =

LPlp + LPlp + LPlp + LPlp

50% solid (lplp)

50% colored (Lplp)

50% colored (Lplp)

25% solid (lplp)

25% whiteborn (LpLp)

50% colored (Lplp)

50% whiteborn (LpLp)

100% Knabstrupper colored.
The gene which determines the white expression is called PATN and is the difference between a horse that shows characteristics or with minimal marking and blanket or full leopard spots.

PATN-1: a gene that gives all over body white as seen with the Leopard pattern and Fewspots.

PATN-2: combination of color genes that give reduced or suppressed white expression like in various sized blankets on Knabstruppers. 

A solid color horse may have PATN, with no effect in the absence of LP. If bred to a horse with LP allele the foal may inherit both LP and PATN, and display coat patterns not seen in either parent. A solid horses can thus potentially contribute to its foal. This explains why a solid horse and a minimally marked Knabstrupper can together produce a loudly marked foal.

Those breeding Knabstuppers should be aware that just because a horse will have the leopard gene (LPlp) doesn't mean they will have spots and vise versa just because a horse doesn't have spots doesn't mean they won't pass them on!!!

Registration, Grading, & Approval

The Original/Mother registry is the Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark (KNN).

Breeding to horses that carry the grey gene is not permitted (nor to any other spotted breed).

 

As a warmblood, Knabstruppers therefore have to be presented, inspected, and graded, as well as receive acceptable scores in order to be entered into the Stud Book for breeding. Knabstruppers must also meet certain pedigree requirements in order to receive a full passport and be entered into the Main book of the registry.

 

Click Here to see the KNN Studbook Structure

 

Foals & Youngstock may be presented for inspection to help determine breeding quality but it is not required.

 

Mares are presented for grading at three years old in order to be entered into the studbook for breeding, and may then participate in performance testing. Outcross Mares already graded by approved registry need not be inspected by the KNN. Graded Knabstrupper mares with incomplete or unapproved ancestry (Appaloosa bloodlines etc.) may be accepted into the appendix books (F1, F2, F3) of the studbook.

 

Geldings may also be inspected and may participate in performance testing at three years of age or older.

 

Stallions may be presented as young as 2½ for the first time, and may be awarded a
one year (limited) breeding license. A stallion may be given a breeding license for a maximum of two years after which it must be presented for a performance assessment and either be fully graded or rejected based on the outcome of the performance assessment. 4 year old or older stallions must be approved at an ordinary points assessment before being presented at the performance assessment. Stallions may be put forward for regrading, but not within the same year.

 

Click Here to read the KNN Rules & Standards

 

The KNN is in the process of setting up a biennial (every other year) tour where gradings and inspections will be held at individual host sites across the USA.

The Reinland Phalz Saar International (RPSI) has a Knabstrupper Book (I & II) 
 As an extension of the parent verband in Germany that registers warmblood breeds the RPSI accepts Knabstrupper from recognized European registries (KNN, ZfdP etc). The resulting foal of RPSI approved Knabstruppers may receive a RPSI passport.

 

Knabstruppers registered with the RPSI that meet KNN standards (RPSI Book I- Stallions that have passed their ridden test) get an automatic inclusion in the KNN database- Their foals can be registered with the KNN.

 

Book II Knabstruppers (Horses with pedigree problems) are not an automatic inclusion into the KNN database, but may be accepted on an individual basis and must be inspected by the KNN judges before inclusion.

 

Knabstrupper Stallions approved for breeding by the RPSI but have not passed a ridden test are not approved for breeding by the KNN.

 

One will need to contact the KNN/RPSI directly for further information on which Knabstrupper stallion is approved for breeding in which registries).

In the future it should also be possible to bring a foal for branding at Danish Warmblood venues for KNN branding in between these scheduled tours.

 

Purportedly in the past the
North American Danish Warmblood Association would also inspect Knabstruppers at any of their regular inspections, and breeders who wished to register this uniquely Danish breed as "Danish," would also have the opportunity to do so (though this may no longer be the case).

There are several other (color) registries in North America that will register and inspect Knabstruppers but none are affiliated with the EU/Motherbook.

Acceptable Outcrosses (KNN & RPSI Books)

Danish Warmblood
Trakhener
Frederiksborger
Danish Oldenborg
Thoroughbred*
Arabian* (including Shagya & Anglo-arab)
Holsteiner
New Forest
Welsh ponies (not Cob)
Connemara
Danish Sports Pony
Shetland
PRE or Lusitano- Knabstruppers (Classic) with at least 6/8 blood in the third generation can be crossed with solid colored PRE/Lusitano.


*Must be graded/approved by recognized (EU) warmblood registry.

KNN Grading Results

Click on the links below to view KNN grading results

Click to edit table header
 
 
 
  2012
(Not Available)

 2015

 

2010
(Not Available)

  2013

 

- Results for the USA only

About the Knabstrupper Network

   The Knabstrupper Network of North America's mission is to support Knabstrupper owners and breeders in the areas that are important to them, whether it's breeding & sales, equestrian competition, or simply the enjoyment of this wonderful breed.

    The Knabstrupper Network is committed to sharing news, venues, and resources to strengthen our Knabstrupper community and bring us together with a shared passion for this great horse.

    The Knabstrupper Network also puts a special emphasis on education of the public on the history of the Knabstrupper and the breed standard of the Knabsrupperforeningen for Danmark (the mother studbook for the Knabstrupper horse) to assist in the preservation of this rare breed.

    Our goal is for the Knabstrupper Network to work with all other groups that have an interest in the Knabstrupper Horse, both here in the USA and Canada, and in other parts of the world.

† Information was acquired from:

Branderup, B. (2000). Knabstrupperen, en dansk hesterace.

History, The Knabstrupperforeningen for Danmark: www.knab.dk