At first glimpse, the Haflinger horse could easily be mistaken for a Palomino. The looks are virtually the same. The tan coat, the cream points – telltale signs of Palomino coloring. The difference is in the consistency of tale and mane color. Haflingers typically have a lighter mane, a darker tale that can still be cream-colored, and consistent chestnut coloring throughout the body.
Sometimes referred to as Avelignese horses, these horses are smaller than most other breeds. When fully grown, a Haflinger may stand at just 13 hands in height. They may look like ponies, at that is what attracts many to the breed, but they are most definitely fully grown adult horses.
Here are some additional interesting Haflinger horse facts to consider if you're taking a closer look at this small, but sturdy breed.
#1. The actual origin of the Haflinger horse is unknown.
We do know that part of their heritage includes Tyrolean horses from the mountainous regions of Austria. Farmers used these horses because of their willingness to work hard, be able to carry packs, and pull heavy loads without the care demands of larger breeds. There are two primary theories, however, about their creation. The first is that they are the descendents of horses that were abandoned after the fall of Conza in the 6th century. The second is that the horse lineage is the result of a gift from Louis IV to Burgundy over the marriage of his daughter.
#2. All Haflinger horses can be traced to one foundation stallion.
Born in 1874, the foundation stallion for the Haflinger breed is simply referred to as 249 Folie. This horse was born from an Arabian stallion and a Tyrolean mare. A purebred Haflinger horse must come from this lineage. Other Haflingers may have existed before 249 Folie, but he was the first registered horse for this breed. It would only take 35 years for a breed association to form for specific Haflinger registration, beginning in 1909.
#3. The name for the breed comes from an Italian village.
The name of the Haflinger horse comes from the village of Halfling, which actually belongs to Italy. When 249 Folie was born, however, it was still under the control of Austria. During the border transition, it was discovered that most of the broodmares for the new breed were in Italy, but the stallions were in Austria. It would take the two nations about a decade to come up with an agreement that would allow the two regions to maintain their original Haflinger breeding patterns.
#4. World War II almost destroyed the Haflinger breed.
Soldiers in World War II needed to have pack animals and this created large setbacks for horse breeders. Because the Haflinger was a sure-footed horse that was ready and willing to work, hundreds of them were confiscated and used as war horses or supply horses in the battles that occurred in the Alps. No regard to breeding and bloodlines was given the Haflinger at this time and only after the war did the Austrian government take control as caretaker of the breed.
#5. Because of the wartime confiscations, there are three unique types of Haflingers.
Three stallions of different standards were acquired after World War I to continue the breed. This created three specific lines for the breed: the A-line, the B-line, and the M-line are the most famous. They're not in alphabetical order because the lines are named after the first initial of the stallion's name. There are now 7 identifiable stallion lines within the breed, all which date back to before 1930, but they all filter through those 3 post-war lines and the initial 249 Folie.
#6. All stallions are either owned or authorized by the Austrian government.
There are breeding programs around the world today, including a program in Illinois that has been active since 1958. Yet the policies of the Austrian government is that mares and geldings are approved for private ownership, but stallions are owned or authorized by the state to maintain breed standards. For this reason, stud services are only available through the Austrian government or an authorized representative. There are numerous Haflinger importers and breeders in North America operating today, but they do so because of the authorizations allowed by the government. Today breeding programs are available in over 60 countries.
#7. Haflingers like to have a lot of exercise.
This breed requires minimal stall space, but only when they are given a regular amount of exercise. Haflingers are used to living in close quarters with humans back from their very start, so they don't mind working and interacting on a daily basis. They'll actually cause trouble for owners out of boredom, so challenging the horse is a good rule of thumb. Stall balls and other equine toys are also a good idea to own so their attention is occupied during down times. This breed also thrives in the company of other horses because of their social nature.
#8. Haflingers are remarkably healthy horses.
The breed standards of the Haflinger are so high that any flaws or faults that would cause unsoundness will usually disqualify the horse from registration. The traits that are seen at times with this breed are splay-footing, pigeon -toed feet, and being knock-kneed. Some may be narrow or wide at the hock. Horses that exhibit these traits are not generally bred with other Haflingers, which means the breed as a whole is healthy, sound, and strong.
#9. Even when horse population levels were going down, Haflinger numbers went up.
Between 1950-1974, the population levels of horses across Europe was trending downward. Yet at the same time, the population numbers for Haflingers was consistently moving upward because of its popularity. Today there are an estimated 250,000 Haflingers that exist.
#10. A Haflinger horse was the first to be cloned.
This happened in 2003 and the result was a filly which was named Prometea. She would become the seventh animal species to be successfully cloned. What made this cloning effort unique was the fact that it was the first birth where a mammal had given birth to its own clone with an exact DNA copy. In 2008, Prometea gave birth to a healthy foal named Pegasus. And, on a side note, the scientist who created Prometea was excommunicated from the Catholic church because of his work.
The Haflinger breed is a remarkable horse. They are loving, hard-working, and very social. They are also smaller than most other breeds, which makes them a suitable family horse in addition to being a work horse. If you haven't gotten to know this breed yet, then use these Haflinger horse facts to discover one of the most loved horse breeds in the world today.