More properly known as the Kladruber, this rare breed is considered one of the best in harness. One dun-colored stallion named Favory (foaled in 1779) became one of the foundation stallions for the Lipizzaner. Kladrubers and Lipizzaners share some things in common, including Spanish ancestors and being mostly grey in color.
The breed gets its name from the stud farm that developed the breed, Kladruby National Stud, which is still running after 400 years. The stud is located in what used to be called Czechoslovakia, now Bohemia. The breed originated in the 1500s by Hapsburg Emperor Rudolph II. During that time, great floods of Spanish and Italian horses were being imported to Austria in order to create the perfect war horse (Lipizzaners) and perfect carriage horse (Kladrubers). They were to be used only by the upper classes.
All records of the breed’s first 200 years were lost in a fire at the stud in 1757. The oldest known stallion that was christened the new foundation stallion was the black Peppoli, foaled in 1764. He was from Italian and Spanish breeding. He was the grandsire of the aforementioned Favory. Form the late 1700s to 1930, both white and black Kladrubers were bred. Black Kladrubers were used by undertakers and by wealthy clergymen.
For an inexplicable reason, all of the black Kladrubers were sold to a butcher in 1930, except for twenty mares. Very few black Kladrubers remain today. The breed suffered greatly during the two World Wars but somehow managed to survive. It is bred in several European countries, as well as America. In 2006, there were an estimated 1,000 Kladubers in the world, with about 250 being black.
This is a larger, leaner version of the Lipizzaner. They average 16 – 17 hands in height and have thick skeletons. They have a long, level back and powerful hindquarters. Their ears can vary from small, well-proportioned to very long. They have relatively thick manes and tails.
Their profiles are unforgettable. It’s known as “Baroque”, but is just slightly ram-headed, usually with a slightly rising curve from the eyes to the top of the muzzle. Instead of making the Kladruber ugly, they seem to give the horse an air of aristocracy. Horses with this kind of profile were seen in many great works of art, particularly the horses drawn and painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Kladrubers originally came in all colors of the equine rainbow, including Appaloosa patterns, but eventually only black and grey were preferred. Blacks can have white markings on the legs and head.
Not many people want carriage horses today, but Kladrubers also make fine riding horses. They have the collected, balanced action that makes them competitive in dressage. There are two types of Kladrubers now – called the Old Klaudruber and the slimmer Kladruber. Klaudrubers are also used in ceremonial processions of mounted bands in Stockholm.
But if you do want a carriage horse, the Kladruber is a great choice – if you can find one. Klaudrubers have competed successfully in sport driving and four-in-hand classes. Because there are so few purebred Kladrubers left, Friesians and Lipizzaners have been added to the mix to add genetic diversity without sacrificing looks or ability.
The Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies. Tasmin Pickeral. Paragon Publishing; 2003.
International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Horses and Ponies of the World. Maurizio Bongianni. Simon & Schuster; 1988.