The Haflinger can trace its history back to the mountain ponies that grazed in the Alps centuries ago and have since played an important role over the years in every day life in Austria. Although it was developed to perform different tasks over the years, this versatile horse was an integral part of daily life, whether it was for farm work, transportation, packing or even becoming a trusted and valued family horse. Although there are estimated to be over a quarter of a million Haflingers located all over the world, these blond beauties are a testament wherever they are found to their importance in their native Austria.
The origins of the Haflinger can be traced back to as early as medieval times, thanks to written records mentioning the Oriental type horses living in the southern Tyrolean Mountains. Soon these horses became domesticated by those living in the higher mountains, where farms and villages were difficult to access. Even then, these horses were versatile and used for a variety of uses, including farm work, transporting groceries and other goods from the larger villages in the valleys, and even doing draught work in the forests and fields. The horses were an important factor in many aspects of daily life even as recently as a hundred years ago. In the traditional family structure, the younger and older generations of the family tended to the family farm, while the middle generation worked in the larger village in the valley. Eventually, this led to the horse developing more for leisure riding than working.
All present day Haflingers can trace their lineage back to the foundation stallion 249 Folie, who was the issue of a half-Arab stallion named 133 El'Bedavi XXII and a Tyrolean mare. There are seven lines of Haflingers that all can be traced to Folie and still exist today. Five of the lines are through Folie's son 54 Genter, born in 1897, while the A line comes from Campi, born in 1896, and the W line begins with Sarn, born in 1915. The A line nearly became instinct fifty years ago, but today is considered to be the most important line in Haglinger heritage.
But it wouldn't be until 1921 that dedicated Haflinger breeding began in earnest with the creation of the North Tyrolean Halfinger Horse Breeding Cooperative (Nordtiroler Haflinger Pferdezuchtgenossenschaft). From that time on, Haflingers have been registered in an unbroken line, no matter where they are in the world. It is quite impressive to think that this humble mountain horse has grown to such unbelievable numbers in less than a century!
Haflingers saw their development change from all purpose farming horse to pleasure horse in the second half of the 20th century. With the rise of automobiles and other mechanization, some Haflingers still found work in the remote areas of the mountains or as pack horses and even in the logging industry, but this is when the focus on development changed toward leisure riding. It was undoubtedly its versatility, unparalleled temperament, and ability to work with children and adults alike, that helped the Haflinger grow in popularity all over the world.
Today, the breeding registry in Austria still plays an important part in the documentation and promotion of the Haflinger and these horses are still being exported from its native country today. Everywhere the Haflinger goes; it serves as an ambassador of the Austrian people and its history as an important part of daily life in the Tyrolean Mountains.