The Chestnut Factor

The chestnut factor refers to the occasional birth of chestnut Friesian foals (also referred to in recent years as fox friesians).


The Friesian breed has traditionally been black in coloration, and this has become the breed standard, so deviations from the standard, such as chestnut coloration is for the most part undesirable among breeders.


The early Friesian horses had coat colors of all varieties, but since then these variations have been selectively bred out in favor of black. However, the chestnut gene is what is called ‘recessive’ meaning that it tags along with the black color gene, but doesn’t show itself. They call the chestnut gene (c), small letter because it is recessive, and the black gene (B), large letter because it is dominant.


Because many horses carry the chestnut gene and it cannot be completely eradicated, the FPS registry has tested all its approved stallions for the gene so that mare owners can make informed decisions when breeding.


The registry has also begun testing young stallions for the chestnut gene and pulling them from the approval process if they are carriers to reduce future incidences of chestnut foals. So a mare owner today can test their own horse to see if she carries the gene, then, if she does, then choose a stallion who is not a carrier, thus ensuring a black foal.


Although the occurrence of chestnut foals is in no way a very serious breeding or health issue, since no actual physical harm comes to the foals and the only objection is cosmetic, it is however, something to be aware of for those in the FPS registry when choosing stallions for certain mares.


The Friesian Heritage Horse & Sporthorse Int’l registry (HH) operates a specialty book, the Fire Friesian Book!

The purebred chestnut, or red, Friesian is at risk of extinction!

It is the goal of the Friesian Heritage Horse to preserve and expand the bloodlines of the chestnut/red Friesian horses.


Today, red Friesians come primarily from only three Dutch approved stallions:

Wicher 334 (FPS #199101031)

Jillis 301 (FPS #198503011) & His Son Abe 346 (FPS-199206311)

Laes 278 (FPS #197502781).


In general, the Friesian breed has an extraordinarily small gene pool, and because of this, the breeding of purebred Friesians is more complicated than most other breeds. 


There are a multitude of health issues documented within the breed, and therefore, it is vitally important to avoid inbreeding.


Since the red or chestnut Friesians are limited to only three currently known stallion lines, the gene pool of available red lines, within the purebred Friesian breed, is miniscule and this puts the chestnut/red Friesian horses at even greater risk.

Fire Magic, purebred Liver Chestnut Friesian stallion

"Fire Magic" rare chestnut Friesian stallion was imported in 1997 from Friesland in the Netherlands FHANA registered RED Friesian.

Within the Friesian breed, if you breed the 1st red line to the 2nd red line and produce a red, that red can only be bred to the third line, therefore a genetic dead end is reached.  For those who wish to breed only purebred red Friesians, it is recommended to use non-red carrying Friesian lines to breed to one single red-carrier line, with the goal of producing black horses that silently carry a red gene.  These red carrying blacks can then be used to breed back to one of the other known three lines of red (whichever ones they are not related to), in the hopes of producing red carriers with expanded Friesian lines. It is only by breeding black red-carriers that we can expand the purebred Friesian bloodlines carrying the red gene.  However, the fact will remain that only three lines of Friesian are known to carry red and those lines must be returned to, in order to produce actual red Friesians.  By returning to those lines, the dangers of inbreeding occur.


It is their belief that by using SELECT horses, that are the descendants of the Friesian horse crossed with other horse breeds, the gene pool can be widened, and hopefully improve the health, height and longevity of these beautiful colored horses, while retaining Friesian characteristics.


This book was NOT developed for the goal of producing “quick” high percentage red Friesians. For the Crossbred Friesians within the Fire Friesian book, the breeding goal should be to breed quality horses with a high amount of Friesian traits, while keeping the actual percentage of Friesian blood lower, so that genetic diversity can be obtained.  Keeping the Friesian temperament and type is of utmost importance!

More information can be found on their website