Following the Ancient Noric Horses of the Alps
Horse breeds are not shaped by breeding goals alone. They are primarily the result of their environments as well. After all, no breed can survive regardless of the breeding goals if it is ill suited to its environment. The Noric horse breed best illustrates this fact.
The Noric horse breed has a long and ancient history. It has reputedly been around for two thousand years or so. It is generally believed that their immediate ancestors were the warhorses of Rome. These were the horses that the Romans introduced and bred in the Alps. The horse breed takes its name from the old Roman province of Noricum which is now part of Austria. Since they came from a bloodline of warhorses, Noric horses were large and powerful from the very beginning.
The horses were bred from the time of the Romans until the Middle Ages with no formal guidelines. It was only sometime in the second half of the 1500s that the archbishops of Salzburg took over and devised stricter standards for breeding Noric horses. After a little over a century, the standards for breeding had largely become standard. It did not however, remain so for a longer period of time. This was simply because new human needs were beginning to emerge.
By the 1700s, agriculture became a major occupation in human settlements. Hence they needed horses that were not just war or ceremonial horses. They needed large, hardy horses that could work in the harshest of environments and still survive. Hence, Noric horses received some influence from other breeds to become ideal agricultural horses. Inter breeding however presented its own dangers. There was always the possibility of bloodline dilution. By the last few decades of the 19th century, there were renewed efforts to promote the breeding of pure Noric horses.
By the Second World War, agricultural horses were becoming less popular. This naturally led to a decline in interest on the Noric horses which also led to a decline in their numbers. The standard breeding of Noric horses was only reestablished roughly two decades after the war.
Noric Horse Traits
Noric horses typically carry all the desirable traits of a good draft horse. They are tall at 17 hands and they posses muscular bodies, long legs and large joints. They do however have a character edge over other draft horses. Because they were bred in a cold, mountainous region, they are very sure footed and stable. The environment is also responsible for the combination of calmness and toughness in the Noric breed. As expected, it would take a lot to knock Noric horses down.
The Noric Breed Today
The advent of agricultural mechanization has limited the need for draft animals. The emergence of environmental awareness however has prompted the renewed need for Noric horses. Today, they continue to be used for some agricultural purposes. They have also found roles in the tourism industry. Some lighter versions of the modern Noric horse can be used for horse competitions like driving.