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Alternative names: Knabstrupper
Country of origin: Denmark
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Knabstrup or Knabstrupper is a European horse breed with an unusual range of coat coloration. It shows the same color pattern as the Appaloosa, with coat patterns ranging from solid, through many variants to the full leopard spotted. Leopard Spotting is the most prized color pattern. It has warmblood conformation.


Believed to have originated from the prehistoric spotted horses of Spain, the Knabstrupper is one of the oldest breed registries in Europe. Established in 1812, the Knabstrupper started with a single chestnut mare with a spotted blanket pattern purchased by a Danish butcher named Flaeb from a Spanish cavalry officer[1]. It is said that the horse had been used as a cavalry mount but stood out to the enemy[2].

The mare, who became known as Flaebehoppen (which literally means "Flaeb’s mare"), was purchased by Major Villars Lunn who owned an estate called “Knabstrupgaard” in Holbaek, Nordsealand, Denmark. Flaeb’s mare was bred to a Fredricksborg stallion and produced a wildly colored stallion son who was named Flaebehingsten. Between the two of them, Flaebehoppen and Flaebehingsten were bred to a large variety of good quality horses, producing loudly colored offspring and establishing the Knabstrupper horses as some of the most sought after in Europe at that time.

By the 1870s, the breed’s continuation was severely threatened as the limited number of Knabstrupper horses led to inbreeding. Then in 1891, a fire at the Lunn family stables destroyed 22 of its top breeding horses. By 1900, the breed’s numbers and quality had declined significantly. But supporters of the Knabstrupper horses continued to fight for the survival of the breed, and in 1947 the stud farm “Egemosegaard” attempted to reestablish the breed.

Knabstruppers are valued for their kind temperaments, high level of trainability, strength, stamina and good health as well as for their color. The Danish Knabstrup Association, known as the "KNN," obtained the European Union distinction as the 'mother organization' which all other EU verbands registering Knabstruppers must follow. The Danish "KNN" classify four types of Knabstruppers: the Sport Horse, Classic, Pony, and Minis. The Sport Horse type has been bred to excel in dressage, eventing and show jumping and has been developed by crossing the Knabstrupper with the warmblood sport horses of Europe, most notably the Danish Warmblood and the Trakehner. The Classic type is a shorter, broader horse reminiscent of a carriage horse or war horse and is very popular as a classical riding or even circus horse. The Pony type, is smaller still and is a favorite of children all over Europe.

Unfortunately although this breed became very popular it was later carelessly bred with other horses and it is not certain if any purebreds from this breed remain. They do well in dressage and show jumping, and are used in general riding, as carriage horses and as circus horses.[3]

The breed is usually around 15.2 to 16 hands (62 to 64 inches, 157 to 163 cm), but there are also pony sized ones (under 14.2).

The Knabstrupper horse exhibits various color patterns. The most popular color pattern is the leopard with its solid white background covered with black, bay, or chestnut spots. Other patterns include the blanket, the snowflake, the snowcap, and the “few spot,” an almost solid white horse that, when bred, always produces a foal with a spotted pattern of some kind. However, some Knabstruppers are born with solid colors, such as bay or chestnut. [4]

Knabstruppers originated in Denmark, but nowadays are bred in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and most recently the USA.


  1. Horse-breeds-list.com. Knabstrup horse breed information. Retrieved 2.8.09 from http://horsebreedslist.com/horse-breeds/53/knabstrup
  2. Horse-breeds-list.com. Knabstrup horse breed information. Retrieved 2.8.09 from http://horsebreedslist.com/horse-breeds/53/knabstrup
  3. Horse-Owners-World. (2007). Knabstrup. Retrieved 2.8.09 from http://www.horse-owners-world.co.uk/breeds/knabstrup.html
  4. Horse-breeds-list.com. Knabstrup horse breed information. Retrieved 2.8.09 from http://horsebreedslist.com/horse-breeds/53/knabstrup

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