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History of the Friesian Horse in South Africa

The History of the Dutch Horses (Hollander/ Friesian) in South Africa as told to George Smuts by his Ancestors

According to our family history my Great Great Grand parents had Friesian horses in the Cape  in the 1880’s.   My Great Great Grandfather, born 1843, farmed at Nooitgedacht in the district of Riebeeck West and stabled about 10 – 12 black Friesian mares known in those days as the Hollanders with feathered feet (met die veervoete).

He was always very proud of these horses and their fine condition.   At that time Friesians were not necessarily only black but were found in several colours such as dark brown, black with markings, black, chestnut, and dappled grey. Further proof of the existence of the Friesian horse in the Cape is that Member of Parliament, Mr. Tom Louw, had two Friesian mares in 1896. My Grandfather often stayed with Tom Louw, who was his uncle, when he visited Cape Town and had the privilege of travelling in Mr. Louw’s  carriage which was drawn by the two mares.

Round about 1895 my Great Great Grandfather had two dark brown stallions called Hunter and Moor, which he had bred out of his mares and they were crowned, two years in a row, as the Champion Double harness horses at the Rosebank Show held in Cape Town (long before the Goodwood show). Hunter was sold to somebody in the Calvinia area and Moor went to the Karroo. Round about 1899 my Great Great Grandfather sold a two and a half year old dark brown Stallion to a Mr. van der Spuy from the Koeberg for 100 pounds. This stallion was hidden away throughout the Anglo Boer war in a camouflaged stable erected in a Kloof in the mountains in the Koeberg. The English knew of this horse but could never find it! As far as we know there were a lot of progeny from this horse in the Koeberg area. During the Boer War many of  our farmer’s horses were taken by the English and that is how their blood spread throughout South Africa.

My Great Great Grandfather eventually lost all his horses except for an old lame mare called Emma with a colt at foot , and Lisa, a young mare that escaped from her captors and found her way home. With these two mares and the colt he started his herd again. As the breeding progressed he made use of a stallion called Charlie (probably Tjailing), one of 4 stallions imported by J.S. Hoogendoorn in 1906 for their “ Undertaking” business in Cape Town. (I have copies or the original letters by Hoogendoorn to Stoeterij de Oorsprong dated 1906 confirming the sale of the 4 stallions).

The Dutch Government were not on good terms with the English Government ruling ‘South Africa’ at the time so these 4 stallions were imported via Belgium’s province called Vlaandere through the port Antwerpen. Needless to say when the horses arrived in the Cape, the local people heard the horses had come from Vlaandere, so they wrongly called them the ‘Flemish Horses’. They were then already known in Europe as the Friesian horses because the Friesian horse stud book was establish on 1st May 1897.

The horse in Europe sometimes called the Flemish horse is the Belgium draught horse or the Brabant. In 1803 these Brabants were used to breed the English Clydesdale heavier and they were not black horses. My father had a pen friend since he was 12 years old, in 1947, called Bas de Koning. He corresponded with him and asked him on a regular basis for photos and information on the Dutch Black Flemish horse.

At that time no one was aware of the real name ‘ Friesian’. The information he got was always about heavy multi coloured draught horses, no pure black horses -  in other words, the Belgium draft horses. Needless to say it caused a lot of confusion amongst the horse fraternity.

 In 1942 Mr. Hennie Serdyn, of the farm Geodertrou, Riebeeck West, bought the stallion ‘Scheepers’ from the van der Merwe's of the farm “Qwaggasfontein, Sutherland, for 100 pounds. From 1906 to about this time, 1942, the Friesian breed lost popularity. When Scheepers arrived he was the talk of the town and generated a lot of interest amongst the horse breeders of the Swartland/Boland area and a new era for the black horse was born. In about 1943/44, a colt of Scheepers was born to a mare called ‘Trapnet’, a pure Friesian. At the time the Italian prisoners of war were working on the farms and they named the colt ‘Mussolini’. Mussolini had all the characteristics of the Friesian horse of today and had a great influence on the black horses country wide. In about 1944/45 another colt by Scheepers was born to Bessie belonging to Lourens Smith of Sandrivier, Paarl. Bessie had a small percentage of hackney blood in her . This foals name was also Scheepers and he had a major influence on the black horses in the area. Old Scheepers was then sold by Hennie Serdyn to Mr. Gys du Toit of Kromfontein, Ceres, who sold him to Mr. Marten Gildenhuys from Heidelberg in the Cape, where he died. There were a lot of his progeny in the South Western district. Mussolini was sold to the Mc Gregor's of Citrusdal where he died. Besides the breeders named above there were many other breeders of the black horses in the Swartland and Boland.

In 1955 Mr. Ben Mosterd started to research the black horse in Holland and discovered that there was a black horse in the Netherlands called the Friesian Horse. The fact that Mr. Nicholaas Serdyn wanted to go and buy a Friesland heifer, gave Mr. Mosterd the golden opportunity to accompany him and find out about Friesian horses. Mr. Hennie Serdyn, brother of Nicholaas, asked Nicholaas to buy him a young colt.

The first official Friesian horses imported after 1906 were bought by Mr. Ben Mosterd, Piet Slabbert, and Hennie Serdyn in 1957 and 1958. Hennie imported the colt called Willem who sadly died soon after arriving of ‘Tjienkeretjie poisoning. He only had 2 progeny, a colt and a filly, but the filly died very young and the colt was never used to breed. Ben Mosterd imported a lot of horses at that time ,the most well known stallions being Noldus, Riemer, Webe, Satse etc as well as many stud book and star mares. Piet Slabbert imported the very well known stallion Meint and many other horses. At the time our money was very strong to the Dutch Guilder so it was affordable to import top quality horses. Ben sold the imported stallion Webe to Jan and Louis van Aarde of Kersfontein, Malmesbury who also bred good horses. Piet Slabbert’s horses were sold to Lourens Smith, from Sand Rivier in Paarl, and some went to Frikie Smit of Smitsvlei, Piketberg. The well known stallion, Grand, bred by Ben Mosterd  was sold to the Smith brothers of Sandrivier, Paarl. The Smith brothers later sold all their horses to Jannie Louw of Eikeboom, Hermon, who continued breeding fine horses.

 In the early 1980’s some concerned farmers met to discuss the future of the black horse, then still known  in South Africa as the Flemish horse. It fell to them to decide on the correct name to be registered for the breed. From the facts known to them it was decided that the correct name should be Friesian, and not Flemish. The South African Friesian Horse Society was then established and later became the Friesian Horse Society of Southern Africa. The first chairman was Dr Ben Smit and for the first 4 years my father Danie Smuts was the secretary. Some months after the establishment of the society, a few breeders broke away to start the SA Vlaam Perd Society intending to breed a horse, which they believed, would be more suitable for our South African conditions.

In the early 1980’s Frikkie Smit and his son Dr Ben imported several mares and stallions – some of the stallions were Doede, Dimer, Wessel and Beake.  Mr. Piet Michauw of Harrismith, imported the stallion Abe and Mr .Uys Blom the stallion Vincent.   At about the same time Salique, the Government research farm in the former Lebowa run by the late Dr Hans van Staden, imported 2 stallions called Evert and Djurre and some mares for their Friesian stud.

 As time passed there were ructions amongst the hierarchy of the society and in 1989 some breeders left to affiliate with the mother stub book in the Netherlands, the Royal Friesian Horse Stub Book of the Netherlands. They did this to highlight, as far as possible, the skullduggery associated with the judging, gradings, pedigrees etc. The new society is called the Friesian Horse Stud Book of Southern Africa. In short, the difference between the two Friesian societies in South Africa is that the Netherlands affiliated society (FPSSA) strives to breed horses that are registered and graded to international standards. The selectors/judges undergo many years of intense international training to qualify for their positions.  The Friesian Horse Association of Southern Africa (FPSSA) is the only association in SA affiliated with the Korninklijke Vereniging " Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek" the KFPS the mother studbook in Holland.  The KFPS regulate and set out all the criteria for breeding of the Friesian Horse worldwide.

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