London department store, Harrods, swapped reindeer for horses to welcome Father Christmas

Harrods, London’s famous Knightsbridge store celebrated the countdown to the festive with its annual parade to welcome Father Christmas this weekend. It featured a team of Friesan horses instead of reindeer due to FMD restrictions.

Two of the company’s own black Friesian stallions, six-year-old Koss and 10-year-old Vechter, pulled the open-top landau carrying Santa.

Another two five-year-old black Friesians, Spartacus and Apollo, were harnessed to a delivery van. Four white horses on loan pulled another landau.

Head coachman, David West, who drove Father Christmas, said: “They are perfectly behaved even though they are stallions. We keep them entire to retain their jet black colour.

“The horses are brought over from Holland as three-year olds for training and we introduce them to London traffic at around four or five years old.

“Parades like this, and going to shows, are good for us and the horses as it helps to break up the normal routine. And putting them behind a 100-piece band certainly wakes them up.”

The Friesian horses work throughout the year pullingdelivery vans and a variety of other carriages.

Harrods has eight black Friesians in total – four stallions and four geldings. They work a six-week-day week for five hours a day and are stabled in a purpose built air-conditioned boxes underneath the store.

In the second week they go to the estate of Harrod’s owner, Mohammed Al Fayed, in Surrey, where they have some time off but are also ridden and driven.

As cloven-hooved animals, reindeer are subject to the same FMD restrictions as sheep and cattle.