The Knabstrupper, also known as the Knabstrup horse, is a Danish warmblood breed renowned for its distinctive spotted coats. This breed has a relatively recent origin, with its lineage tracing back to a single spotted mare who relocated to Denmark in 1812.

A small breeding population and limited gene pool has threatened the breed’s survival throughout its history. After extensive inbreeding resulted in reduced breed quality, breeders began outcrossing the horses to create a new strain of Knabstrubbers with greater athleticism and strength.

Today, various types of Knabstrupper horses showcase unique skills across a range of equine disciplines. Even though these horses are considered rare, their eye-catching appearance and cooperative temperament continue to captivate new enthusiasts all over the globe.

This breed profile will discuss the Knabstrupper’s history, characteristics, common health problems, and nutritional requirements. Keep reading to learn more about caring for and feeding Knabstrupper horses.

Knabstrupper Horse History

The history of the Knabstrupper horse began in Denmark in the early 1800s, and it’s only in recent times that these horses came to North America.

The breed has seen considerable transformation over the past two hundred years due to crossbreeding, leading many breeders to question whether any purebred Knabstrupper bloodlines still exist.


All Knabstrupper horses alive today can trace their ancestry to a single dam named Flaebe’s mare. Purchased by Villars Lunn in 1812 and believed to have Iberian lineage, the mare had distinctive white flecks throughout her body.

Flaebe’s mare gained her name from the butcher who sold her to Lunn, but is said to have originally been purchased from a Spanish officer. [1]

This spotted mare gave birth to foals with a distinctive spotted colouring. Her first offspring, the Flaebestallion, became the foundation sire of the Knabstrupper breed.

The Flaebestallion’s sire belonged to the Frederiksborg breed, the oldest Danish horse breed. Although popular throughout the Renaissance, Frederiksborgers faced severe population decline in the nineteenth century when fancy court horses fell out of fashion.

Knabstruppers get their name from the Knabstrup estate, where Lunn developed the breed. The breed peaked in popularity in the mid-1800s before inbreeding led to a significant decline in quality. In 1891, a fire at the Knabstrup estate killed 22 horses and devastated breed numbers.

To save Knabstruppers from extinction while maintaining their spotted coats, Breeders imported three Appaloosa stallions from North America and one leopard stallion from Russia. Crosses with Danish warmbloods, Holsteiners, and Trakehners are believed to have improved the breed’s athletic ability. [2]

Historic Use

Frederiksborger ancestors of Knabstruppers were agile, flashy horses used for royal parades, court ceremonies, and warfare. Their Iberian ancestors served similar purposes. [2]

The first Knabstruppers initially gained popularity as military mounts during the Three Years’ War of 1848 – 1850. However, soldiers soon realized their flashy coats made them easy targets for enemies.

Following the revitalization of the breed with sport horses and imported Appaloosa blood in the twentieth century, Knabstruppers found their calling as pleasure horses. Different types of Knabstruppers emerged depending on their bloodlines.

Breed Registry

The Knabstrupperforengin for Danmark (KNN) association was formed in 1971 to organize Knabstrupper breeding and registrations in Denmark.

The KNN is now the founding registry for Knabstruppers throughout the world, maintaining the main studbook and establishing registration rules. The Westfalen Verband NA organization operates a studbook of North American Knabstruppers under KNN rules.

Like many Warmbloods today, Knabstrupper mares and stallions must pass official inspection before being able to breed and have their offspring eligible for registration. Crossbreeding with warmbloods, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds is permitted with approval. Knabstruppers are registered as Sport or Baroque types.

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