Forgotten Horses Free Horses




Risk Level: At risk
Local Risk Level: Endangered
Seasonal free during the summer months on alpine pastures

Noriker horses are probably one of the oldest draft breeds in Europe. They used to be to most important transportation for trade goods between the Adria and the bigger cities Munich and Salzburg north of the Alps, as well as a farm horse in the mountain valleys of Tyrol and South Tyrol. The name goes back to the roman region called Noricum. There are different theories about their origin. Some sources say, that the romans used the Norikers to invade the mountain areas, others say that there already has been a local draft horse, which later became the Noriker. Nevertheless, the breed influenced many other European draft horse breeds and has a rich colour palette for their coats, with leopard, pinto and blue roan adding to the uni base colours. With the machinery taking over after the second World War, the population of the Noriker horses dropped drastically. In the past Yeats the breed got rediscovered by drivers and leisure equestrians who are looking for a hardy horse with good character. The Noriker is still very popular with farmers and are their pride on festivals and traditional competitions.

Transhumance is a traditional practice that has shaped much of the landscape in the Alps, as without it, most areas below 2,000 m (6,600 ft) would be forests. While tourism and industry contribute today much to alpine economy, seasonal migration to high pastures is still practised in Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. In some places, cattle, horses and goats are taken care of by local farmer families who move to higher places. In others, this job is for herdsmen who are employees of the cooperative owning the pastures. The animals live in high pastures for a summer from June to October depending weather conditions and altitude. They are allowed to roam free on a vast area, usually don’t have any shelter but what the landscape offers in trees and rocks. The German language knows a few words for transhumance like “Almsommer” or “Sommerfrische”. It is a popular way to bring up the young stock, so they can develop their character, social behaviour, instincts and sure-footness.


Here are some places where you can see Norikers roaming free on alpine pastures or in action and where you can support the breed. A big thank you to everybody who works with me.

  • Kühtai Alm
  • Arztaler Alm Fam. Maier
  • Südtiroler Haflinger Zuchtverband
  • Karl Leitgeb
  • Paul Weitlaner