Name of breed: Kladruber, or Oldkladruby
Country of origin: Czech Republic
Breed origin: The Kladruber is not only the oldest Czech horse breed, but also considered one of the oldest breeds in the world. The Kladruber’s history dates back to 1579, when the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II founded the Narodni hrebcin, or national stud, in Kladruby in central Bohemia. The breed was primarily developed as a ‘galakarossier’: a stately coach horse to pull the imperial coach, usually in a four or six horse team, for ceremonial processions. A mixture of Spanish and Italian breeds were combined with other warmblood and draught bloodlines to develop a noble, graceful breed with a distinctive Roman nose. At first, many colours were seen, but by the 18th century the breed had been refined to feature only grey and black horses. Grey horses were used by the imperial court, while black horses were used by church officials. All grey Kladrubers can be traced back to one sire, Pepoli, from the 18th century. Black Kladrubers originally stemmed from two bloodlines, Sacramoso and Napoleone. Sadly, when Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918 and the Habsburg Empire faced a severe backlash, the population of black horses was decimated, with many sold for meat. Only 20 remained by the late 1930s, when a huge effort was made to restore black Kladrubers by introducing grey Kladruber and Lipizzaner bloodlines. The redevelopment was a success, and today there are equal numbers of black and grey Kladrubers. The white type is tall and fine, while the black type is a little heavier thanks to its stronger Neapolitan influences.
Modern day Kladruber: Today, Kladrubers are incredibly rare, with a population of around 1,200. Of these, around 1,000 are in the Czech Republic, with 500 owned by the National Stud. Their importance to Bohemia is recognised through their inclusion in the UNESCO Czech Heritage site. As well as their esteemed roles at events in the Czech Republic, Kladrubers are used for ceremonial occasions in Sweden, where they are ridden by an orchestra including trumpets, and in Denmark, where they pull the Queen’s carriage. They are also used as police horses, in the FEI sport of combined driving, for dressage, and as pleasure mounts.
Distinguishing features: Kladrubers are most easily identified by their extremely convex Roman noses. They are intelligent, even-tempered, strong, agile and graceful. They stand between 16.2 and 17 hands high and appear only in black or grey. They have large, expressive eyes, a strong, high-set, arched neck, fairly upright shoulders, a broad, deep chest, a long back, short croup, large hooves and sound, strong-boned legs. These traits give them high-stepping, cadenced gaits with trademark high front leg action in the trot. Kladrubers have a thick, flowing mane and tail and are altogether unmatched for elegance under harness.
Image credits: National Stud Kladruby nad Labem, Tres Bohemes.