The international name of Bavarian Warmblood, or Bayerisches Warmblut as it is known locally in Germany, was previously called the Rottaler Horse, a name which was discontinued in the 1960's when the Bavarian Warmblood was registered as a separate breed in1963. Today there are only a few purebred Rottaler horses left and approximately 20 breeders in Bavaria exist that are actively working to preserve the breed which also receives federal support.
While German Warmblood breeds like Westphalian, Holsteiner and Hanoverian are widely known throughout the world, Bavarian Warmbloods are not very well-known of the country's many competition horses and have only become a household name outside Europe within the last ten years. But the Bavarian Warmblood Horses are elegant, large, and superior quality warm-blooded equines that command high prices at auction. Bavarian Lord Sinclair, for instance was the most expensive sports horse in the world, selling for 2.8 million Deutsch Marks at a PSI auction, until the arrival of Poetin, a Brandenburger mare who sold for 2.5 million Euros, nearly twice the amount of Lord Sinclair.
Most warmblood breeds are continuing to evolve. In fact, they are not breeds in the sense that Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Morgan Horses and Saddlebreds are breeds. Their studbooks are not closed so that other breeds can be introduced into the gene pool to reap the benefits of hybrid vigor and to speed and improve the evolutionary process of attaining the breeding goal of a particular studbook. The Bavarian Warmblood Horse is no exception.
The ancestors of the Bavarian Warmblood Horse originated in the 10th Century in the fertile valley of the Rott River in lower Bavaria, an area that was noted for the excellence of its horses and one of the oldest horse breeding regions in Southern Germany. The region was known for their local chestnut-colored Rottaler Horse and the first records of the Rottaler horses come from the Middle Ages. By the time of the Crusades in the 11th Century, Oldenburg horses were used to give the Rottaler more substance and the breed was considered to be a great warhorse. This particular crossing laid the foundation for the modern competition horse. In the Zweibrucken region to the east in the 16th century, these horses were selectively bred in monastery stud farms.
By the 18th century, the Rottalers were crossbred with imported half-breed English stallions, Cleveland Bay Horses and some Norman Cobs. Then these Rottaler Horses were mixed with Holstein stallions that had Andalusian and Neapolitan bloodlines around the end of the 18th century. In the first half of the19th century, half-breed Norfolk, Zweibruecken and Normandy horses were mixed in, and the breed became primarily used for the military because it had become too light for farm use. In order to create a stronger caliber horse, Normandy and Oldenburg stallions were again used by the end of the 19th Century and the Rottaler Horses became used for carriage and field work until World War II. Today's Bavarian Warmblood Horses are based mainly on the Hanoverian and the Westphalian Warmbloods which now dominate their appearance. The Bavarian Warmblood Horse has also been refined with small doses of English Thoroughbred and Trakehner stallions. With the introduction of the Thoroughbred, the heavily built Rottaler gave way to a lighter weight, though still sturdily built animal.
Landesverband Bayerischer Pferdezüchter e.V. (LBP) or Bavarian National Horse Breeders Society is Germany's state-run breeding program in rural Bavaria. After the Landshut state stud farm was abandoned, the stud at Schwaiganger ("Haupt- und Landgestuet") became the center of the Bavarian breeding. Approximately 5000 mares and 260 stallions are currently registered in the stud book of the LBP, but only quality horses get that privilege. Performance assessments are held each year and the horses are presented at age three or older. Only after they have proven that they possess the necessary quality and breed standard will they be entered into the Studbook and allowed to be branded as Bavarian Warmblood horses. But the selection process doesn't end with that one inspection. Both genders undergo regular re-evaluations and are given classifications according to their contribution to the breed, including their own achievements and the achievements of their offspring. The goal in breeding is the suitability for major sports, but values such as character, temperament and rideability are not to be neglected.
The Bavarian Warmblood Horse stands between 15.2 and 16.2 hands high and are usually the traditional chestnut color of the Rottaler or bay, although they are accepted in all solid colors except piebald and spotted due to the varied ancestry. It is an elegant and harmonious equine with large expressive eyes. The head of the Bavarian Warmblood is medium to long and sits upon a well-set upright slender neck. The body is strong with a heavy chest, long sloping shoulders, high withers and a well muscled, long back. The legs are strong and slender with massive hocks and sound feet. The tail is set low.
The gaits are purposeful, regular large-scale basic gaits consisting of a 4-beat walk, a 2-beat trot and a 3-beat canter. The movement is energetic, elastic, peppy, nimble and clear, swinging freely from the shoulder with the sequence of motion at a trot and canter to be clearly recognizable when in the limbo phase and with a natural balance.
The Bavarian Warmblood a straightforward, sociable, and reliable horse that is eager to please. It is recognized for its balanced temperament and strong nerves. The breed is alert and intelligent with good physical and mental resilience. It is a multipurpose horse that is used for riding, hunting, pleasure, light draft, and carriage work and is also an excellent show jumping and dressage horse at the international level. It is not a fast horse and like many other warmbloods, they are not great gallopers.
But Germany is a land of horse lovers, and in a recent poll, 13 million Germans expressed that they would like to ride if they had time and opportunity and in Bavaria alone, there are over 1 million members among 905 riding clubs. And many of those are riding Bavarian Warmbloods.