One hundred and sixty-five years after it first started carting out barrels of beer, the international brewery giant Carlsberg still has a stable of beautiful and very rare Jutland horses that walk the streets of the Danish capital of Copenhagen every day.
Text PETER BENNETT Photography KAMILLA BRYNDUM / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.4
At a time when multinational companies are preoccupied with focusing on their core business and trying to keep the financial crisis at bay, it’s a heartwarming surprise to see an iconic brewery brand going to such lengths to hold on to what has proved its most faithful business partner from day one: its horses.
In addition to the 41,000 humans they employ, there are also seven beautiful horses on the staff of the Carlsberg Group. They live at Carlsberg’s newly renovated stables and three grass pastures, located at the historic site where JC Jacobsen founded the famous brewery in 1847 just outside the old walls of Copenhagen in Valby.
Back then Carlsberg relied on the 300-plus horses it kept in its stables to distribute its beer across Denmark. It used a mixture of breeds: Frederiksborgers, the Danish national breed, a crossbreed of Jutland and Belgian horses, and other light and heavy breeds. But that changed in the late 1920s. Slowly but surely a forward-thinking stable master introduced more than 200 Jutlands, an ancient Danish breed. And from that time on it became Denmark’s number-one brewery horse.
The decision to introduce pure-bred Jutlands to the Carlsberg stables was initiated by a handful of Jutland horse breeders who worried about the breed’s future as the use of motorised transport became increasingly widespread, making working horses superfluous on roads and farms alike. In the 1930s, there were 160 horses in use at Carlsberg, and by the mid- 1970s there were just 35 horses remaining in the stables in Valby. Since then the Jutland horse has come close to extinction. So Carlsberg’s stubborn persistence in safeguarding their Jutland horses from cutbacks and rationalisation has made an invaluable contribution to the Danish Jutland Horse Association’s efforts to save the breed, whose current population barely reaches the 1,000 mark.
The Jutland horse is a powerful and extremely strong coldblood horse whose ancestry can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when it was used as a warhorse. It was originally on the small side, but in around 1850 breeders began to move towards the heavy draught horse that we know today. This among other things meant using a Shire-Suffolk stallion in the breeding to bring more body and height to the breed.
According to the breeders’ association, the Jutland should be medium-sized and compact with a deep body and a broad chest. It should have a medium-sized, clean-cut head with sharply defined features, a well-raised, well-set neck and a short, strong back. It should also have energetic, regular movements when walking and trotting, and, last but not least, an alert and willing temperament. The most common colour is chestnut, often with a light-coloured forelock, mane and tail. Brown and black Jutland horses are rare. An adult Jutland weighs 700-1,000 kg.
Today, Carlsberg’s two mares and five geldings are trained to be brand ambassadors at festivals, fairs and special occasions for the company’s PR and marketing department. For example, it has become a tradition for the carriage horses to be out on the streets of Copenhagen on J-Day, the first Friday in November when the beer that has been brewed for the Christmas holiday goes on sale. The horses are of course, a point of connection for the public, and the stables are open every day except Monday from 10.00 to 16.30.
The latest arrival at Carlsberg’s stables is the magnificent gelding Ludvig. He was found on the small island of Rømø situated in the marshlands of West Denmark. The staff are always on the lookout for docile, kind horses with a strong sense of character who are willing to work and can keep their cool at all times – for instance, in heavy traffic or at crowded festivals. “Such horses are not easy to come by,” says Henning Stenager, manager of the Horse Stables and Beer Wagon House at the Carlsberg Brewery. “But when we find them, we take them in and give them a fun life with training, light carriage work and a lot of attention from visitors and tourists.”
Although they represent a link to the old way of doing things, Carlsberg’s seven beautiful brewery horses haven’t entirely escaped modern business methods, and their effect on Carlsberg’s image and PR value have been carefully scrutinised, analysed and assessed by the brand’s advertising department. “Our horses aren’t just the jewel in Carlsberg’s crown,” says Stenager. “They actually represent a measureable value for Carlsberg, with a marketing value calculated at over €200,000 per year. So as long as that value exceeds the costs of running the stables, the destiny of the Carlsberg horses is quite safe.” •
Visit the Jutland horses at the Carlsberg Brewery Horse Stables and Beer Wagon House, where you can meet the seven Jutland Horses and the staff that look after them. For more information on opening hours, contact Carlsberg Visitors Centre, (+45) 3327 1282, firstname.lastname@example.org.