The friesian is an old and majestic horse breed originating in the province Friesland in the Netherlands, but swiftly rising in popularity in the rest of Europe and indeed, all over the world. They have been selectively bred for colour, type and movement for many centuries resulting in a unique horse that is often used in crossbreeding.
These baroque horses elicit a sense of pride due to their stature and long, flowing hair, making it a very popular horse for dressage, carriage driving and movie productions. As with many breeds, modern demands have caused a shift in breeding purposes, resulting in a new, more luxurious type that performs better in international competitions, though often at the cost of the original baroque version.
The friesian's unique conformation is also its greatest weakness: to maintain the unique characteristics, breeders often used inbreeding to confirm the horses' features. While there are presently many friesians all over the world, all are descending from a small number of stallions, putting the breed at risk with disorders like dwarfism and hydrocephalus. By advising breeders, monitoring inbreeding coefficients and using DNA tests to identify carriers of unwanted disorders in the population, the registry is making a strong effort to improve the breed's health.
Though the friesian once came in several colours, black has been the preferred choice for many generations, resulting in the breed's well-known black phenotype. Only rarely foals are born with the chestnut colour, as the recessive red allele is still hidden in the population. When two rare heterozygous parents are bred together, there is a 25% chance of a chestnut coloured foal. Using DNA testing, most chestnut carriers have been identified in the population, and breeders may choose to select against it.
White markings are rare. They pop up from time to time, though far more often than the appearance of chestnut. Most markings are as small as a few white hairs or a small star on the horse's head. More white is not allowed and therefore excluded.