Friesian vs Arabian Horse: In-Depth Breed Comparison

Are you torn between choosing a Friesian or an Arabian horse for your next riding companion? Look no further! In this in-depth breed comparison of “Friesian vs Arabian Horse,” we’ll break down the key differences and similarities between these two popular horse breeds. From their physical characteristics to their temperament and training needs, we’ll help you make an informed decision on which breed is the perfect fit for you. So, let’s get started!

Friesian Horse

Friesian horse runs gallop in field

Origin and History

The Friesian horse is a powerful breed originating from Friesland, a province in the Netherlands. Their unique mix of Arabian and Thoroughbred ancestry has contributed to their excellence as riding horses (Horse Talk Mag). Friesians have been in existence for centuries, and their bloodlines have played a significant role in the development of other horse breeds like the Dutch Warmblood and Gelderland.

Physical Characteristics

According to Horse Illustrated, Friesian horses are typically found standing at a height of 15.2 to 16 hands, although there are some individuals that can be either taller or shorter. These equines are highly regarded for their imposing physical presence and striking black coat color.

Their short head is adorned with alert ears, large eyes, and wide nostrils, while their high-set neck is slightly arched at the crest. One of the most notable features of Friesian horses is their long, thick mane and tail, which are often wavy. They also have “feather” – long, silky hair on their lower legs that is left untrimmed, as per Wikipedia. These unique physical characteristics give Friesian horses an elegant and remarkable appearance.


The Friesian breed is known not only for its beauty but also for its temperament. They are considered willing, active, and energetic, but also gentle and docile (Wikipedia). Their intelligence and calm disposition make them excellent choices for various disciplines, from dressage to driving and trail riding.

Uses and Performance

Throughout history, Friesians have been employed for various tasks, such as carrying goods and people (Animal Queries). Today, Friesians excel in various equestrian sports, like dressage, show jumping, and driving. Their powerful build and unique style of movement, characterized by a brisk, high-stepping trot, make them stand out in the show ring (Wikipedia).

One aspect to consider is their load-carrying capacity. Friesians are capable of carrying loads weighing about 20% of their body weight, which usually falls between 1200-1400 pounds (Animal Queries). However, this capacity can depend on factors such as their physical condition, terrain, and the specific task they are performing.

Arabian Horse

Arabian Horse Closeup

The Arabian horse is a remarkable breed that is renowned for its strength, endurance, and distinctive features. In this section, we will explore its origin and history, physical characteristics, temperament, as well as uses and performance, to gain a better understanding of this incredible horse.

Origin and History

The Arabian horse originated from the Arabian Peninsula and is known for its rich history dating back thousands of years. The breed has made significant contributions to the development of many modern equine breeds due to its unique qualities and versatility. The Arabian horse has been a prized possession for various civilizations, and in the past was even taken into battle.

Arabians were bred for endurance and stamina, which allowed them to thrive in harsh desert conditions. Over time, these horses became known as superior athletes, with their bloodlines contributing to the creation of many modern-day light horse breeds (Britannica) .

Physical Characteristics

Arabian horses are compact, relatively small horses with a small head, protruding eyes, wide nostrils, marked withers, and a short back. One unusual characteristic of this breed is that they typically have only 23 vertebrae, whereas other breeds usually have 24 (Britannica). They have strong, dense bones, high tail carriage, and impressive hoof walls. The breed’s distinctive head shape and features set them apart from other horses.


The temperament of Arabian horses is often described as intelligent, energetic, and sensitive, which contributes to their exceptional performance in various disciplines. They are quick learners and form strong bonds with their handlers, often being noted for their loyalty and affection. Their spirited nature and innate athleticism make them a popular choice for many equestrian pursuits.

Uses and Performance

Arabian horses excel in a wide range of equestrian sports and activities due to their innate athleticism and adaptability. Their endurance, speed, and agility make them well-suited for endurance racing, dressage, show jumping, as well as western and reining disciplines. Furthermore, they are often used as foundational breeding stock for various sport horse breeds (Deep Hollow Ranch). As their history suggests, Arabians boast an impressive track record in various forms of equine performance, from ancient times to modern-day competitions.


Purebred arabian horse running in dust

Physical Differences

Friesian horses are known for their size and strength, weighing between 1200-1400 pounds, and often have a more compact body structure, chiseled head, and short back. They are taller than Arabian horses, which typically weigh between 800-1000 pounds and possess a relatively small, compact build with a small head, protruding eyes, and wide nostrils(source). Arabian horses have a distinctive “dished” face and shorter body that set them apart from other breeds. Moreover, they also have fewer vertebrae (23) compared to other horse breeds, which typically have 24(source).

Temperament Differences

Friesian horses are appreciated for their intelligence, gentleness, and calm disposition, which makes them suitable for various equestrian disciplines(source). The Arabian horse, on the other hand, is often characterized as spirited, intelligent, and people-oriented, with a strong bond to its handlers. They are sensitive and responsive horses, which can make them easier to train for experienced riders, but potentially challenging for beginners.

Performance Differences

Although both horse breeds have characteristics that make them suitable for various equestrian activities, their performance strengths differ. Friesian horses are known for their smooth, ground-covering gaits and often excel in disciplines such as dressage or driving competitions. They are also powerful, versatile horses with a rich historical connection to warhorses and knights during the Crusades(source).

Arabian horses, on the other hand, are renowned for their endurance and superior athleticism. They typically possess a smooth, efficient way of moving close to the ground, often referred to as “daisy-cutting(source).” Arabians excel in endurance competitions and have a high tolerance for challenging terrains, such as deserts. Their stamina and agility as racehorses make them popular choices for various equestrian sports.

Choosing the Right Horse

Friesian horse with black background

When it comes to choosing between a Friesian horse and an Arabian horse, several factors need to be considered. While they are both unique and impressive breeds, your final decision will depend on your personal preferences and the intended use of the horse.

Personal Preferences

Each person has their own preferences when it comes to horses. The Friesian horse is known for its majestic appearance, with an average size of about 16 hands and a weight of 1200-1400 pounds (Horse Talk Mag). On the other hand, the Arabian horse is more compact and relatively small, weighing between 800-1000 pounds (Animal Queries). Additionally, the Friesian has a bold and powerful presence, while the Arabian is admired for its elegance and intelligence (Britannica).

Some people may prefer the heavier build and the striking black coat of the Friesian, while others might be attracted to the sleek and athletic physique of the Arabian. To make an informed choice, it’s essential to interact with both breeds and observe their characteristics up close.

Intended Use

The intended use of the horse plays a crucial role in the decision-making process. Friesian horses have a history of being used in various disciplines, such as dressage, driving, and even light farm work (Horse Talk Mag). In contrast, the Arabian horse excels in endurance competitions and riding, thanks to their smooth and efficient movement (Quora).

If you’re looking for a horse with great endurance and suitability for long-distance rides, an Arabian might be a better choice. However, if you prefer a versatile and powerful horse for activities such as dressage or driving, the Friesian could be a more suitable option.

Keep in mind that both breeds can carry around 20% of their body weight in load, depending on their physical condition and terrain (Animal Queries). Therefore, their load-carrying capacities are also a factor to consider when choosing between these two breeds.


In conclusion, the Friesian and Arabian horse breeds exhibit unique traits and characteristics, which set them apart from each other. Friesians are known for their powerful presence, stunning jet-black coat, and their historical association as warhorses utilized by knights. They have a gentle and calm disposition, and are often admired for their intelligence (Horse Talk Mag). With their larger body size, they usually weigh around 1200-1400 pounds (Animal Queries).

On the other hand, Arabian horses possess a smaller, more compact body structure while typically weighing between 800-1000 pounds (Animal Queries). Their chiseled heads, wide nostrils, and dished faces are highly distinctive features that contribute to their exceptional beauty. The Arabian horse breed is highly valued for its speed, stamina, intelligence, and gentleness, with its long history dating back to the 7th century (Britannica).

Although both breeds can be great partners for those interested in equestrian pursuits, their inherent characteristics make them suitable for different purposes and disciplines. The Friesian’s strength and elegance cater well to dressage and carriage driving, while the Arabian’s speed and endurance are well-suited for long-distance racing and trail riding.

Ultimately, choosing between a Friesian and an Arabian horse will depend on the individual’s preference and the specific goals they wish to achieve with their equine companion. Regardless of the choice, these remarkable breeds captivate the hearts of horse enthusiasts worldwide.