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Horse Breeds
First Posted: July 9, 2009
Sep 21, 2010

Norik, Noriker, Norisches Kaltbult (German), or Pinzgauer Horse

Noriker Horse



The Noriker horse, also historically known as the Pinzgauer horse, is an autochthonous, moderately heavy Austrian draught horse breed. The origins of the Noriker horse are assumed to be the central Alpine region around the highest mountain of Austria, the Grossglockner. In early history this region became known as the Roman province Noricum. At the end of 19th century the original name Pinzgauer horse was changed to Noriker horse. This was due to the Romanophile attitude in this time.

Except for agricultural and forestry work this horse played an important role in the transportation of goods through the Alps (they carried salt, gold and the famous Celtic iron from Salzburg to Italy and on the way back they brought wine and spices). This purpose developed a long-rectangular, deeply stored and step-safe draught horse - an adjustment to the alpine terrain. The augmented use of Noriker horses in agriculture started much later during the industrialization period in the 19th century.


The Noriker is a moderately heavy mountain draught horse with a deep center of gravity, surefootedness and with a good sense of balance. The height of withers averages between 156 and 163 cm. The head should be dry, typeful and should express a so-called harsh draught horse aristocracy. The neck is strong with visible musculature. The shoulder should be long and well positioned. The width of chest is broad and deep, the croup is very muscular. Special attention is put on a correct position of the legs with strong and clear joints. Circumference of cannon bones of mares has to be between 22 cm and 25 cm. Due to its colour varieties the Noriker enjoys large popularity. Beside the basic coat colours bay, black and chestnut there are leopard spotted Leopard complex horses, Mohrenköpfe (blue roans with black head), brown and red roans, tobianos and overos. grey coat colour does not occur.


Over the years the early history of the Noriker horse breed always has been reported to be linked to the Roman empire. This view is kept obstinately up to nowadays by different authors. In contrary horse husbandry and the existence of an autochthonous Celtic alpine horse type, which has been the precondition for trading and transport through the Alps, is proven by a series of artifacts from the 1st millennium B.C. At that time Rome was not even founded. From this early time up to the end of the 19th century Noriker horses guaranteed the trading between central Europe and the Adriatic sea havens.

Very early in the breeding history of the Noriker horse, baroque horses played an important role. With the establishment of the stud farm Rief (near to Salzburg) in the year 1565 the phase of the refinement by Neapolitan and Iberian stallions began, which exerted their influence on the Noriker horse until 1806. Down to the present day this influence is visible in the conformation of these horses: Roman heads with swung upper lines and long hair occur frequently in black horses or blue roans. The name Mohrenkopf refers directly to the Italian expression "testa di moro" or "capo moro." Most apparently the baroque influence is visible on the coat colours. Besides Mohrenköpfen, the leopard spotted coat color, named Tiger (from Spanish tigre), is still an active breeding objective of the breed, in contrary to nearly all other European horse breeds.

In the year 1903 the stud book was closed and since then Noriker horses are strictly pure bred. The years between the two wars were the glorious time of the Noriker horse, and the population grew constantly. After the second World War the mechanization started to take over but in the poor mountainous regions of Austria the machinery was not affordable. So horses in the Alps have been part of everyday life up to the 1970's. In the year 1968 (Noriker horse population 34.510 heads) the decline of this breed began. In our time almost all draught horse breeds of Europe are endangered. Also the Noriker horse belongs to the group of endangered horse breeds. The late 1970's were titled as the crisis of horse breeding in Europe. In nearly twenty years 80% of the Noriker horses disappeared, a fact that was directly connected to the 3rd wave of mechanization. In the year 1985 only 6,996 Noriker horses survived this development - nowadays 10.000 Noriker horses are living in the Austrian countryside. The Noriker horse population developed to one of the biggest draught horse population of Europe.

Sire Lines

Nowadays five sire lines are existing:

  • Vulkan-Line: Since the beginning this sire line has been the biggest one. More than 50% of the present Noriker horses belong to the Vulkan line. The line was founded by the brown stallion 13 Vulkan 635; born 1887 in the Pinzgau. The reason for the dominance of this line was the fact that the founder stallions and their descendants represented the, in those times favoured, heavy draught horse type.
  • Nero-Line: The Nero-line is the second largest line in the Noriker breed, founded by the stallion 554 liz. Nero. The most famous Noriker stallion ever, the stallion 1378 Stoissen-Nero V/977 belonged to this line. This stallion, born in 1933, had all qualities which are also desiderate in the present time. The reasons for the major influence of the Nero-line are the same as for the Vulkan-line.
  • Diamant-Line: Until 1950 the Diamant-line started promisingly in the early 20th century but afterwards it was pushed back by the Nero-line. The founder of this line was 367 Bravo 149, born in the year 1877. The name of this line origins from his great-grandson 216 Diamant 496, born in 1903. Those horses are very typeful, figurate, vivid draught horses.
  • Schaunitz-Line: The Schaunitz-line was founded by the stallion Amor, born in 1888 in Tirol. The line is named after one of his sons, 255 Schaunitz who was born in 1896. In former times Schaunitz horses were famous for their vivid temper and their durable constitution. Their sometimes difficult character could be the reason for the decline of this line in the 1980's. Nowadays the smaller caliber, the pleasing conformation combined with good movements lead to a new era of this line.
  • Elmar-Line: The stallions of the Elmar line are mostly leopard spotted. The line was founded in the year 1896 by the stallion 80 Arnulf 55. For this line the baroque influence as the special coat colour and the shorter format and light calibre is typical. It is a small sire line but nice leopard spotted horses are appreciated.
  • References

    Dr. Thomas Druml (editor) (2006). Das Noriker Pferd. Graz, Aut: Vehling Verlag. ISBN 3-85333-123-8.
    Dr. Helmut Feuersänger (1941). Der Pinzgauer Noriker. Landespferdezuchtverband Alpenland e.V. Salzburg.
    Johann Schöfl (1960). Das autochtone Kaltblutpferd der Alpen, der österreichische, Norike', mit den charakteristischen Merkmalen seiner Blutlinien. Vienna, Aut: Dissertation BOKU Vienna.
    Suchanka Emil (1900). Das norishe Pferd. Vienna, Aut.

    For More Information:

    Noric Horse - Oklahoma State University Breeds of Livestock
    Noriker Horse - Cowboy Frank
    Noriker Horse

Horse Breeds