Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lion of the North and his Horses - Streiff

finally I can turn to the history and images of the last horse of King Gustavus II Adolphus.

The Livrustkammaren Museum has the second horse that is known by his name, Streiff, after a Swedish cavalry colonel Johann Streiff von Lauenstein who sold this stallion to king Gustav  for a 1000 riksdalers (Swedish thalers) in 1631. It was a huge sum by Swedish standards, typically cavalry horses were bought at  69-70 thalers.

 According to the surviving documents the horse was bought in Elbląg (then known as 'Elbing' in Royal Prussia and then under the Swedish occupation) between 14-24th of  November 1631AD.

 It was said that Streiff had a pretty head and thus perhaps looked like an Oldenburg  horse ( XVIII century observation on then already century old, lifeless and  stuffed Streiff). This stallion was  definitely a Baroque horse, his conformation consistent with the images of Baroque horses we see in the period's prints, drawings and paintings. He is now of some 146cm in height ( the steed is smaller a bit  and bit longer - in his body - now than when he was alive, simply his almost 400 year old hide has shrunk in height due to gravity while I think the hide was overstretched to provide for his proud stance  when he was mounted for display, while as you can see in the black and white photos his nostrils/muzzle and ears were damaged a bit by the fire the stuffed Streiff  survived at the Museum).

Streiff was a chestnut and his nice brown colour still survives, and as we can see below he was ungelded; from his conformation, a bit 'overstretched ' aspect aside, generally he was quite powerful a charger. His seemingly unimpressive height, by modern standards, is actually fine and quite symptomatic/typical of the war horses through out the centuries of use of riding horses in war until the late XIX century.  Smaller, but more robust, with better conformation and more vitally,  these war mounts were able to withstand the rigors of war, wounds, stress, irregular and often spoiled feed, fatigue and inclement weather etc.

 Returning to Streiff's association with his rider, he probably became the preferred mount for the King, when the grey one died at Ingolstadt, nota bene it can be said with certainty that King had more than these 2 horses.
I am sure that the Swedish historians of Gustavus Adolphus must have came across information on other horses used by the King during his war in the Germanies (name I use since there was not a single Germany then, since Germany came about in 1870 when Prussia won the Prussia-French war), perhaps more names etc. So we know that King Gustav rode  Streiff during his last battle at Lutzen in Novemeber 1632, where the king was killed and Streiff wounded; the Museum information states that the battle charger died from his wounds in route to Sweden in late December 1632 or January 1633. The skin was prepared by a taxidermist in Wolgast in the Spring 1633.

There is also King's saddle and tack that Streiff was saddled with  during their last battle. It is known, from surviving documents etc, that this saddle and harness were the New Year's gift from Queen Maria Eleonora when she visited the king  in German states during the winter of 1629/30.  Streiff and King's last saddle are for ever united in this Royal Museum display we have the photos of.

As per the bridle, we can see a very impressive curb-bit, with long shanks. The bridle, reins and breastplate were made(over the leather base) from the same embroidered velvet (?) as were the saddle and pistol holsters. In sum this complete tack was worthy the King in its splendour, colour and Baroque embroidery.  Perhaps they were made in any of the German states or Flanders, or Holland?

Hail to these war horses and let us remember them and their faithful service to their 'caballero-king' (using  a Cid-esque term).

probably in the future I will talk in more detail about King's adventures while at war, as there are some.


Kadrinazi said...

Z innych rumaków króla: koń którego Gustaw II Adolf dosiadał pod Tczewem w 1627 roku miał zostać ranny od ostrzału polskich muszkieterów (lub hajduków, bo w sumie wciąż nie wiemy kto zranił króla).

Sam Wise said...

Beautiful horse !
the colour of the back is unusual (for me !)
That's also impressive that some horses could be preserved like that.
A lot of things to learn about horses!
Thanks !

Dario T. W. said...

Michal - to jest kwestia o ktorej musze poczytac, moze znajde jakies dane o jego koniach w bitwach - dzieki!
Sam - his back and its colour, I think the saddle and time caused the hair to fall out, perhaps also the dies in the saddle pads etc caused this discolouration. Both horses represent the oldest surviving examples of taxidermist art in Europe, I think. The oldest horses to survive as mummies, some 2,400, are the ones from Pazyryk kurgans in the Altai, now at the Hermitage. Perhaps there are some wild equids still in the permafrost in Siberia waiting to be discovered. At least I hope that.

Sam Wise said...

Thanks Darius for all those interesting informations !
I suspected the the colour of the back could be done by the saddle, but was not sure !
Horses in Siberia? it could be a great new,right !

Elizabeth D said...

This horse VERY closely resembles a Friesian horse, particularly one of carriage-horse breeding. This is a Dutch breed of very ancient origins, that is often cited as one of the most ancient European horse breeds. I don't think the hide is stretched into an unnaturally proud shape, since that's exactly what Friesians are shaped like, and they have long hair on the lower legs (unlike, for instance, Oldenburgs). They have a high and arched neck, and a very proud and high stepping gait. Modern Friesians are ALL solid black with the very rare occurrence of firey-red chestnut (and if you look at the fading on this hide based on the darker hair under the girth and saddle you notice this horse too was originally a brighter red). This horse does not closely resemble an Oldenburg, though one can imagine that a German who is mostly familiar with the locally common horse breeds might say that. Again, it looks exactly like a Friesian and the sculptor did a good enough job on the body that it is recognizable. Here is an example of a modern Friesian with the same body type as this historic horse: . Chestnut Friesians are so rare in modern times (mainly because they were bred for carriage driving for very many years and uniform BLACK color was desired) that it is harder to find a good picture of one with a perfectly similar body type but this one is somewhat close . This stallion when he was alive was really striking and magnificent looking which is obviously the motivation for wanting to preserve him in this way.

Dario T. W. said...

by the way - all images I have used in this post originated from the collections at Wikimedia Commons - like this one: