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AskHQ: The Vlaamperd

Q: What is the Vlaamperd?

A: The Vlaamperd, which directly translated means ‘Flemish horse’, is actually a breed of horse that originated in South Africa, and still exists here today. During the 19th Century a distinctive type of horse existed in the Cape called the Hantam horse. This horse came into being through the use of Arabian and Thoroughbred stallions imported by Lord Charles Somerset in the 1820s.

After the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, some Friesian stallions were imported to South Africa by a Cape Town undertaker. There was a prohibition on the export of Friesian horses from Holland at that time, as the Dutch were trying to control the breeding of their horses. To avoid these regulations, and evade the law, the Friesian horses were actually shipped from Antwerp in Belgium. As a consequence these stallions were called ‘Vlaamse perde’, referring to the port of their departure. These Friesian stallions were used on the Hantam and other local mares, and the progeny ultimately became the stock for a new South African breed.

However, the Friesian was not the only breed to play a role in the creation of the Vlaamperd. An imported East-Friesian/Oldenburg stallion called Kemp also had a great influence on the breed. There was also the introduction of some Cleveland Bay blood, and even today some of this Cleveland Bay blood can be identified in the Vlaamperd.

Thus the Vlaamperd was established as a breed, with the Hantam gradually becoming extinct. He is considered today to be a truly dual-purpose horse. He is brilliant in harness but also has graceful high-stepping action, making him a popular saddle horse and classical dressage horse. The main colour found in the breed is black, although mares are allowed to be dark bay. No lighter-coloured horses may be used in breeding. The Vlaamperd stands somewhere between 14.2 and 15.2hh. He is a lightweight horse with fine features.

The SA Vlaamperd Breeders’ Society was formed in Bloemfontein in 1983 to further preserve and protect this rare breed. Today, the South African Vlaamperd is considered an independent breed and is thus one of the few truly South African breeds.