The horses we see around us today are descended from the wild horse. In some zoos you can see Przewalski horses, which are very similar to the modern horse’s wild ancestor. Around 5500 years ago people started to tame wild horses. At first they were mainly kept for their meat, but people then discovered that horses were also good draught animals. Later people started riding horses too. It was not long before the speed and impressive stature of the horse led to the animals being used in wars.

Over time horses came to be selected for the qualities they offered. Some people wanted large, fast horses, while others were looking for a strong draught animal and others still a spirited warhorse. This is how different types of horse developed. Horses also adapted to their environment and this had an influence too.

In the Netherlands horses were mostly used in agriculture. You could tell from the type whether it had to work on heavy clay or lighter sandy soils. In the first half of the 20th century different horses were bred for farm work in different parts of the Netherlands: Friesland, Groningen, Zeeland and Gelderland had robust working horses with their own distinctive characteristics. Following the advent of agricultural machines, horses were no longer needed as draught animals. As a result the number of horses used for this purpose declined dramatically.

Two horses live at the Open Air Museum: Tinus, a Gelderland horse, and Omar, a Groningen horse