Vlaamperd Horse: Characteristics and History

The Vlaamperd horse breed, an exceptional and rare horse variety from South Africa’s Western Cape region, was developed through breeding various equine lines including Friesian, Hackney, Thoroughbred, Cape Harness horse and various heavy Warmblood strains together to form its complex genetic mix that gives this distinct horse its individual features and qualities.

Named for its Friesian heritage and European roots, Vlaamperd horses represent South Africa’s rich equestrian history with their distinct blend of strength, versatility, and elegance.

A symbol of South African horse breeding expertise; this breed epitomizes South African excellence when it comes to breeding horses. Their development represents both cultural and genetic fusion that continues today.


The Vlaamperd horse breed has its roots in South African equestrian history dating back to the 19th century. Initially developed from Hantam horses bred from crossing indigenous mares with Thoroughbred and Arabian horses imported by Lord Charles Somerset in 1820, marking a new chapter in South African equine history.

Post-1902’s Anglo-Boer War concluded with further refinement for this breed. A Cape Town funeral undertaker imported Friesian horses renowned for their grace and power; these Friesians were then crossed-bred with Hantam mares to infuse new vitality into the breed’s development, helping form what we recognize today as Vlaamperd horses. This marked a key turning point in its journey towards what has now become our familiar Vlaamperd horses.

The Vlaamperd was developed over an extensive process involving the introduction of various other breeds like Hackney, Cleveland Bay, Cape Harness and Oldenburg horses into its breeding programme.

This rich tapestry of genetic input contributed to its eventual extinction – as was witnessed with Hantam horses – leading to more robust and versatile horses which excel at farm work as well as harness tasks.

Two stallions played an instrumental role in shaping the Vlaamperd breed: Kemp (a cross between East Friesian and Oldenburg horses), one of its foundational sires; then Scheepers, foaled in 1930, further refined the characteristics and abilities of this noble horse breed.

South African breeders faced an ingenious way around the Dutch government’s restrictions on exporting Friesian horses by importing Friesians from Antwerp, Belgium under the label of Vlaamse perde (Vlaamperd Breed). This strategy ensured both enrichment and continuity for this unique breed.

Recognizing the need to safeguard this unique breed, the Vlaamperd Breeders Society was formed in Bloemfontein in 1983 as an important step toward keeping this unique horse alive.

Through this initiative, it prevented its decline into oblivion; today, Vlaamperd horses serve as living symbols of South African equestrian culture celebrated through tourism and various national festivals; their journey from farm horses to national symbols epitomize resilience, adaptation and the enduring spirit of South African equestrianism.


The Vlaamperd horse breed hailing from South Africa stands out for its distinguished stature, typically reaching an average height of 154 cm (15.1 hands). Physically similar to its Friesian cousin but with lighter bone structure reflecting their common genetic heritage.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Vlaamperd is its luxurious mane and tail, adding to its majestic appearance. Furthermore, this breed boasts a well-rounded croup that indicates its sturdy build ideal for various equestrian activities.

In addition, its legs are long and slender adding grace to its gait while its high arched neck gives it an opulent profile.

Vlaamperd horses exhibit an intricate variety of coloring. Stallions typically sport rich black hues that reflect classic elegance associated with many horse breeds, while mares may feature dark seal brown tones, adding even further visual diversity to this fascinating breed.

Furthermore, this variation between stallions and mares represents not only the unique beauty of Vlaamperd horses but also genetic variation within its population.

Temperament and Use

Vlaamperds are beloved horses known for their gentle yet friendly disposition, making them suitable for an array of equestrian activities.

Intelligent yet easily trainable, Vlaamperds make excellent candidates for both experienced riders and beginners. In traditional applications they were employed in agricultural work, show jumping, dressage competitions, carriage pulling as well as therapeutic riding programs – making them a fantastic option.

Conservation and Current Situation (CCTS).

The Vlaamperd is considered an endangered breed, and efforts are currently being undertaken to conserve and promote its unique traits.

The Vlaamperd Breeders Society in South Africa plays an integral part in these conservation efforts by maintaining studbooks and encouraging responsible breeding practices – however due to limited numbers outside South Africa they remain relatively unknown breed.

Cultural Significance

In South Africa, the Vlaamperd is more than a horse breed – it represents regional pride and cultural heritage. The breed’s rich history speaks volumes about South African diversity.

Horse lovers and breeders celebrate its beauty, strength and unique place in South African history.