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....
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.
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.
Uses & Suitability
Type & Standard
KNN Sports Standard
KNN Classic Standard
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
50% solid (lplp)
50% colored (Lplp)
50% colored (Lplp)
25% solid (lplp)
25% whiteborn (LpLp)
50% colored (Lplp)
50% whiteborn (LpLp)
100% Knabstrupper colored.
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.
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.
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
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)
Arabian* (including Shagya & Anglo-arab)
Welsh ponies (not Cob)
Danish Sports Pony
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
- Results for the USA only
About the Knabstrupper Network
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