The Black Forest horse is better known in Germany as the Schwarzwalder Kaltblut, or the Black Forest Coldblood. It’s also called the Walderpferd and the St. Margener. But whatever you call him, this light draft horse breed is very rare in Germany and practically unknown outside of Germany. However, this rare breed has won fans in other parts of the world. Black Forest horses are being bred in North America now as well as Germany. There are an estimated 1000 horses in the world.
As its name implies, it did originate in the Black Forest of southern Germany. Another rare draft breed that originated there was the Schwarzwalder Fusche, or Black Forest Fox-Colored (sorrel or chestnut). With the exception of coloration, the two breeds are nearly identical. The first American Black Forest stud, Black Forest Stables, even lists the two breeds as being the same. Some horse breed books even lump them as a variation of a Norkier.
The breed is thought to have originated in the 1200s from possibly Breton crosses with the Noriker. They were bred to be calm, strong and surefooted. The Black Forest area is very uneven, rocky and dips up and down. Until the 1900s, the Black Forest was much larger than it was today.
Most European horse breeds suffered after the two World Wars, but draft breeds were hardest hit. It is surprising that any horses in Germany escaped from being eaten because conditions were so bad during World War II. But right after World War II came the mechanization of agriculture. There was no longer a market for draft horses – except in the forestry industry. Draft horses were far more nimble, more reliable and caused less environmental damage than machines.
By 1981, there were only 160 Black Forest mares of any color left. A concerted effort was made to save the breed(s). Freibergers and Schleswigs were added to keep from inbreeding. One factor that helped was that the horses were flashy enough and intelligent enough to be trained as riding horses. The horses are able to collect themselves enough for lower level dressage.
There are six major bloodlines in the Black Forest horse breed today. They are designated by letters of the first name of the 31 stallions thought to be the most influential. The lucky letters are M, D, R, W, F and V.
The Black Forest Horse averages 15 hands high, although they can be shorter or grow as tall as 16 hands. They are quite muscular, with deep chests, thick necks and sturdy legs. Their colors are various shades of dark chestnut with a pale mane and tail. Sometimes they can appear to be black with a white mane and tail. The mane and tail are encouraged to grow as long as possible.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Cowboy Frank. “Black Forest Chestnut.” http://cowboyfrank.net/fortvalley/breeds/BlackForestChestnut.htm
The German Horse. “Schwarzwalder Fusche.” http://www.thegermanhorse.com/SchwarzwalderFuchsDraftHorseBreed.html