The Haflinger - a living Tyrolean cultural asset

The historical development of the Haflinger breed is a success story par excellence: Once a sturdy mountain pony mainly used for pack and draught work the purebred Tyrol Haflinger has become an absolute world breed, a sought-after universal family and leisure horse with positive characteristics such as quiet temperament, high motivation, excellent character, comely looks and great endurance and easy to feed. Originally a local Tyrolean mountain breed the Haflinger in the course of its history has spread to more than 60 countries on all continents. The Haflinger Breeders' Association Tyrol is considered to be the first real Haflinger breeders association and the stud book of 1920 in Zams as the first Haflinger stud book, parts of which can be seen in the Haflinger museum in Fohlenhof Ebbs. After the second World War the association in Tyrol was restructured in 1946 and then with its strict breeding programme and sufficient reference to the history of origin in purebreeding expanded to the leading Haflinger breeders' association in the world.  

The Haflinger Breeders' Association Tyrol ensured the spread of the breed Haflinger with Fohlenhof Ebbs as the world centre of Haflinger breeding and the Haflinger became a culture assest of Tyrol and an ambassador for the state with innumerable mares and stallions from the breeding region which today encompasses the whole of western Austria and contains the states Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Salzburg and has more than 50% of the total number of Haflingers in Austria. 


                                                     The brands are symbols of the Tyrolean Haflinger breed.

The Haflinger is a horse from the Tyrolean mountains

The breed originated in the South Tyrol alps in 1874 with the birth of the stallion 249 Folie from a Tyrolean mountain horse mare and an Arabian stallion. Since then all stallions and mares can be traced back to this first registered Haflinger stallion. Contrary to many publications in various horse books the Haflinger is not related in any way to a cold-blood horse. The origin of the breed is a light, small mountain horse similar to a warm-blood. There were no important cold blood breeds south of the Alps and at this time the Noriker as also today was and is hardly represented in the original region of Tyrol. This can be understood if one knows the geographical features and the small structured mountain farms. Here a heavy cold blood horse would be not only difficult to feed but also impractical in use on the extremely steep terrain on farms that are only a few ha in size. At the beginning of the breed in 1900 it had a withers height of 150 cm and a metacarpal bone size of 18.5 cm. Breeding during the second World War made the Haflinger a small square horse and with the restructuring of the Tyrolean association in 1946 the re-breeding towards a large framed, slightly rectangular horse. The return to this type was was done exclusively with purebreeding which was possible with the original type.   

Organised Haflinger breeding started in 1921 with the foundation of the first North Tyrol Haflinger Breeders' Cooperative. Since then Haflingers have been consistently registered in stallion and mare stud books and must be purebred back to the founding stallion. Today there are still all 7 blood lines to which all Haflingers in the world can be traced back to.   


All of these seven Haflinger stallion lines descend from Folie, of these, five lines go back to the stallion liz. 42 Mandl, born in 1904 and over it to 54 Genter, a son of Folie, born in 1897. Only the A line can be traced directly via Campi born in 1915 to Folie whilst the W line goes back via Sarn born in 1915 to 291 Jenner and liz. 252/233 Haflingers to 249 Folie. This it was particularly important to continue the A line since this is of entirely different stock descending directly from the line Folie. The black and white photo shows the founder of today's most important blood line Anselmo from 1926. Today the A line, which almsot died out 50 years ago, is the most important stallion line worldwide, amongst which is the World and European champion stallion 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010  liz.200/T Abendstern, on the picture of the Haflinger European Show 2008 in Luxembourg at the right .
Today's stud books show lines of descent of up to 20 generations. A very large purebred pedigree for a young breed. In 2005 an estimated 45,000 registered mares were covered by approximately 2,000 Haflinger stallions. In the same year the world population of Haflingers was almost 250,000. 
These figures show the development of a little local mountain horse to an important world horse breed that deserves to be kept in purebreed and proudly bred and developed.  

From working horse - to leisure horse

Originally the Haflinger was used as a light working horse in the high mountains for work on farms i.e. on the one hand for carrying, to bring groceries up from the valley and on the other as a draught horse for work on the mountain fields and in steep woods. 

Motorization after the second World War meant that it was used less and less, even if today it is used for supplying remote mountain huts, to haul timber carefully from steep or soft wooded areas or as pack horses for various armies around the world. This type of work however is highly limited so that for the Haflinger with its excellent innate qualities, its calm and composure, its friendly way with children, new tasks had to be found. 

These traditonally established qualities are understandable when one remembers that on remote farms 100 years ago the work was mainly done by young people or the older generation, the middle aged going about work down in the valley. These characterisitcs led to a rebreeding of the Haflinger as a leisure horse as documented in the publications and books of the breed manager Otto Schweisgut in the early fifties of the last century. It was a long way to becoming a versatile horse for riding and driving but has been uniquely achieved by today's purebred Haflingers. 



Haflinger Breeding Objective

Today the Haflinger is bred as an all-purpose leisure horse requiring riding and driving qualities for recreation. Superb character and a well-balanced temperament are therefore particularly important.


Required are the harmonious proportions of an allround leisure horse together with an elegantly dynamic appearance. The head should be dry and expressive with large eyes and lots of charm. Stud stallions and mares should show marked gender characteristics. The colour of the Haflinger ranges through all shades of chestnut from light to dark with light mane and tail. Head markings are desirable but are not a prerequisite. Leg markings are not desired but are tolerated according to the regulations of the World Haflinger Federation partly without loss of points. The size of the Haflinger ranges from 140 to 155 cm. The head should be noble and dry, its size in harmony with the horse, the neck long enough and light. Also desirable are striking withers and large sloping shoulders. The back should be of medium length, supple and well muscled and when in motion should combine rhythm, carrying capacity and equilibrium. A breeding requirement is also a long, slightly inclined, not too drawn off or split but powerfully muscled croup.                
The fore and hindquarters should have clearly defined joints and be correctly set. The foundations especially with correct positioning and clearly pronounced joints. The gait should be correct, supple and have pure rhythm, without serious faults and the horse should be long striding and show a lot of drive. This type is shown in perfection by the world champion stallions and mares of the the Haflinger Breeders' Association, for example at the Fohlen Ebbs, where many show champions of the last 20 years can be seen. 4 generations of world class stallions can be see all year round when visiting Fohlenhof. There are also some of the best mares in the world and 5 generations of a mare family and many other breed collections, amongst them the reigning World and European champion mares. The breeding objective has not changed for generations but has remained the same for 50 years. But the model of the modern purebred has certainly changed because in the Tyrolean association there are many purebred Haflingers that come close to the breeding objective, something that didn't exist 20 years ago. Achieving a goal is not often easy but when one is successful and that is manifest in Tyrol, then the breeder can be proud of what he has achieved, but not satisified and has to continue in the future. Today the purebred Tyrolean Haflinger is significantly larger in width, more elegant and charming than any crossbreed and with breeding consistency will remain so in the future.