Nooitgedachter Horse: Understanding the Unique Characteristics and Temperament

The Nooitgedachter, a prestigious equine breed hailing from South Africa, stands as a symbol of meticulous breeding and conservation. Initiated in 1952, the breeding program aimed to safeguard the heritage of the Basutho Pony from Lesotho, culminating in the creation of this remarkable breed.

Known for their exceptional temperament, the Nooitgedachter horses are not only gentle and loyal but also exhibit a bold and reliable nature, paired with a remarkable surefootedness that sets them apart.

Ideal for a range of equine-related activities, these horses have gained acclaim in equi-tourism, offering an unparalleled experience for both adept riders and novices alike. Their versatility is further showcased in their adeptness in various equestrian sports.

Despite their growing reputation and versatility, the Nooitgedachter remains a rare gem within the equine world, with a population of approximately 400 purebreds. This rarity not only underscores their value but also highlights the importance of ongoing efforts to preserve this unique and elegant breed.


The Nooitgedachter horse’s story is one of careful conservation and innovative breeding, unfolding across South Africa over many decades. Thanks to human foresight and commitment, its origins date back to a mid-20th century breeding program led by the Union of South Africa Department of Agriculture.

Genesis at Proefplaas Nooitgedacht

Location and Purpose: Our story begins at Proefplaas Nooitgedacht, a research station near Ermelo in Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). Here began an ambitious breeding program.

Breeding Goals: Initially known as the Basutho Pony Project, its objectives included two aspects. First was to stem the steady decline of Lesotho Ponies since 1899-1902’s Anglo-Boer War; secondly was creating an appropriate breed suitable to South African terrains and environments.

Evolution of the Breed

Initial Steps in Breed Development: The project began by carefully selecting Basutho Ponies, known for their hardiness and adaptability, as the foundation stock.

Crossbreeding Strategy: In order to enhance specific traits, these ponies were crossed with other hardy breeds selected specifically for characteristics that would provide resilience, stamina, and temperament qualities essential for their new breed.

Naming Journey

From Concept to Reality: As the breeding project continued, so too did its identity; from being known as Nooitgedacht Ponies to Nooitgedacht Horses.

Finalizing the Name: Finally, the breed was given its final name – Nooitgedachter – drawn not from Afrikaans’s term meaning never imagined but from the research station itself as it symbolizes both its birthplace and vision for creation.

Significance and Legacy

Conservation Success: The Nooitgedachter stands as an inspiring example of successful animal conservation using selective breeding to maintain endangered equine lineages.

Cultural Impact: Beyond its practical utility as a versatile breed, Nooitgedachter dogs have come to symbolize South African heritage and demonstrate resilience and adaptability characteristics found throughout their region’s fauna.

Nooitgedachter horses represent more than just a breed; they represent an entire legacy. Born out of a visionary project combining conservation with selective breeding, Nooitgedachter horses not only saved a declining breed but also produced one designed for South African conditions – their journey from an idea to celebrated breed is filled with innovation, dedication and an in-depth knowledge of genetics and environmental adaptation.


The Nooitgedachter horse stands as an incredible testament to selective breeding and adaptation, developed in South Africa. Boasting unique attributes that make this breed ideal for use in challenging environments.

Physical Attributes and Capabilities

Stature and Strength: Engineered for durability, the Nooitgedachter is a sturdy yet compact mount perfect for heavy adult riders.

With its robust frame easily traversing terrains such as steep inclines or rough trails, making this mount suitable for activities which require resilience and endurance such as trekking.

Stamina: One of the hallmarks of this breed’s success is their outstanding stamina. These horses have proven themselves capable of performing strenuous tasks for extended periods without tiring, making them especially valuable riding and working horses.

Hoof Strength: Nooitgedachter horses are famed for their strong hooves. In fact, most Nooitgedachter don’t require shoeing due to their natural ability to adapt to South Africa’s difficult landscape.

Height and Coat:

Size Range: The height of the Nooitgedachter varies from 138 to 163 cm (13.2 to 16.0 hands), offering a suitable range for various riders and purposes.

Coat Evolution and Standards: Initially, the breeding program favored grey coats in all shades. However, under the 2015 breed standard, the Nooitgedachter can sport any solid color.

Patterned coats, such as skewbald or piebald, along with blue eyes and de-pigmented skin, are not in line with the standard.

Gait Characteristics

Varied Gaits: The Nooitgedachter is known for his varied gait characteristics, going beyond just walk, trot, and canter to showcase two additional gaits that distinguish this breed from others.

Strykstap: Strykstap is a unique to this breed and features an ambling gait consisting of four beat lateral gaits that provide a comfortable ride over long distances.

Triple (Rack): In South Africa, this gait is commonly known as the “triple”. It provides both speed and steadiness when trotting. As such, Nooitgedachter makes for ideal choice in various equestrian activities.

The Nooitgedachter horse is not just another breed; it represents endurance, adaptability and elegance in one package. With its combination of strength, stamina and distinct gaits as well as various coat colors and strong hooves – its exceptional traits make this breed suitable for leisure as well as labor-intensive tasks.

Over the course of its history from regional breeder to recognized one has taken careful breeding as well as adaptation to changing environments to get here today.

Uses and Activities:

Versatility: These horses are extremely adaptable, excelling at various activities ranging from dressage and show jumping to endurance riding and farm work.

Endurance and Agility: Their endurance and agility make them great candidates for sports such as eventing and mounted games.

Therapeutic Riding: Because their gentle nature makes them great candidates for therapeutic riding programs, horses are also excellent candidates to take part in therapeutic riding programs.

Conservation and Current Status::

Rare Breed: Unfortunately, Nooitgedachter remains a relatively rare breed despite their unique qualities.

Conservation Efforts: Ongoing efforts both within South Africa and internationally aim to conserve this unique breed while simultaneously spreading awareness of its qualities to a larger audience.

Cultural Significance: The Nooitgedachter holds a special place in South African heritage, standing as an embodiment of resilience and the continuation of an historic lineage.