Oktoberfest came to an end in Germany this Monday, October 3.  But in Texas, you can still find some places to celebrate Oktoberfest this weekend and later this fall!  To kick off your celebration, here is an overview of the current state of German law as it relates to horse sales by German lawyer Nikolaus Fackler.  In the spirit of Oktoberfest, this post is even being provided to you in both English and German, for your reading pleasure.  Prost!


Photo:  Flag of Lower Saxony, Germany [Niedersachsen]

“Before January 1, 2002, die Gewährsmängel (the “minimum warranties”) applied to the purchase and sale of livestock under German law. Pursuant to die Gewährsmängel, a buyer could rescind a sale if a buyer discovered the following vices or diseases in a horse within a certain time frame:

  1. Dummkoller (spinal ataxia)
  2. Periodische Augenentzündung (moon blindness)
  3. Rotz (glanders)
  4. Kehlkopfpfeifen (roaring / laryngeal hemiplegia)
  5. Koppen (cribbing)
  6. Dämpfigkeit (heaves / COPD)

The statute containing the Gewährsmängel was found in Sections 481-492 of the old version of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch or “BGB”) and the “Imperial Ordinance Concerning the Main Defects and Warranty Periods in the Sale of Livestock” (27 March 1899).

Die Gewährsmängel were abolished on January 1, 2002, when the German “law of obligation” changed as part of the required harmonization of German law with European Union legislation. 

As of January 1, 2002, German law relating to the sale of livestock is the same law that applies to the sale of goods, in general.  The following rules now apply in Germany to the sale of all goods, including horses:

  1. A good is free from warranty defects if it possesses the represented qualities.
  2. If no qualities were represented, a good is free from warranty defects if it is acceptable for  general use.

These current rules are found in Section 434 of the BGB (i.e. Sachmangel), which can be downloaded here

If a horse, for example, is sold as a show horse, it must be suitable for use as a show horse. If no qualities are represented, however, a horse must only be acceptable for general use.

This change in the law doesn’t mean we should completely forget about the old Gewährsmängel, though. Most regional superior courts in Germany would still likely find that cribbing, for example, is an abnormal behavior and an expression of a mental defect. Therefore, most German courts would find that a cribber is not acceptable for general use. This uncertainty under current German law illustrates the point that it is more important than ever to get all horse sales contracts in writing and to set forth all applicable warranties [or lack thereof] in said contract."

Gewährsmängel beim Pferdekauf:

“Das Kaufvertragsrecht hat sich in Deutschland im Jahr 2002 grundlegend geändert. Seit der Schuldrechtsreform im Jahr 2002 gibt es keine speziellen Regeln mehr für den Pferdekauf. Insbesondere wurden die speziellen Gewährsmängel im Pferdekaufrecht abgeschafft.

Foto: Rechtsanwalt Nikolaus Fackler

Seit 2002 ist die Sachmängelhaftung für alle Gebrauchsgüter gleich. Es gibt keine unterschiedlichen Regeln für den Handel mit Pferden und lebenden Tieren oder, beispielsweise, für den Handel mit Autos oder anderen Waren. 

Für alle Handelsgüter, also auch für den Handel mit Pferden, gelten folgende Regeln:

1. Die Handelsware ist frei von Mängeln, wenn sie die vereinbarte Beschaffenheit hat.

2. Wenn keine Beschaffenheit vereinbart wurde, ist die Handelsware frei von Mängeln, wenn sie für die nach dem Vertrag vorausgesetzte Verwendung geeignet ist oder wenn sie für die gewöhnliche Verwendung geeignet ist.

Wenn beispielsweise ein Pferd als Turnierpferd verkauft wird, muss es auch als Turnierpferd geeignet sein. Wenn im Vertrag keine Beschaffenheit vereinbart wurde, muss es lediglich zum generellen Gebrauch geeignet sein.

Nach den Entscheidungen der meisten deutschen Oberlandesgerichte ist Cribbing (also Koppen) eine echte Verhaltensstörung mit Krankheitswert und Ausdruck eines psychischen Defekts des Pferdes. Deshalb sind solche Pferde für den generellen Gebrauch nicht geeignet. Das Schuldrecht in Deutschland ist also seit 2002 komplizierter und – im Bezug auf das Pferderecht – unübersichtlicher geworden.”

About Nikolaus Fackler: Nikolaus “Nick” Fackler is an attorney in Augsburg, Germany with over 30 years’ experience. His areas of expertise include equine law, criminal law, and commercial law. For more information, see Nick’s full biography.

For more information, see this related post:  Miminum Warranties Applicable to Horse Sales in the European Union

[Intro and "About" authored by Alison Rowe.  English substantive text authored by Nikolaus Fackler and edited by Alison Rowe; German text authored exclusively by Nikolaus Fackler] 


Happy Tuesday, Equine Law Blog readers!  I hope you find this guest post by my friend and colleague, Dutch equine attorney Luc Schelstraete, both interesting and informative. 

"Pursuant to European legislation, a horse that is delivered to a buyer in a horse sale transaction needs to meet up to the purchase and sale terms agreed upon between seller and buyer. For example, if the parties agreed upon specific qualities of the horse, the horse needs to have these specific qualities at the time of sale. If a buyer can prove after the sale that the horse did not have these specific qualities at the time of sale, the seller can be held liable for this shortcoming. In cases where no specific qualities are agreed upon, and/or it is not discussed that the horse needs to meet specific criteria, the horse still needs to be suitable for so-called ‘normal use’."

"What constitutes ‘normal use’ depends upon what the buyer may expect under the circumstances of each particular sale. Another factor used in Europe to determine whether a horse is suitable for ‘normal use’ is the amount of the agreed purchase price. In cases where, for instance, the horse is found to have been permanently lame at the time of sale, most courts in Europe will find that the horse was not suitable for ‘normal use’."

 "In cases where the seller has guaranteed or expressly warranted specific characteristics or qualities, the horse needs to meet up with the features that were guaranteed or expressly warranted by the seller. In cases where the horse is found to have not possessed these guaranteed characteristics or qualities at the time of sale, the seller can be held liable.  When the seller makes a guarantee or express warranty about a horse, the buyer does not have to investigate whether the horse indeed has these qualities and the buyer may rely upon the seller’s representations. In other words, in cases of express warranties, courts in Europe will not hold it against the buyer that he did not investigate the seller’s representations about the guaranteed or warranted qualities."

When does EU law apply to a horse sale?  

"EU countries are required to revise their national statutes / codes, if necessary, so that they are compliant with EU legislation. In other words: EU member countries have to implement the EU legislation into their own statutes / codes. Therefore, because national statutes must comply with EU legislation, this EU law may apply to every horse sale where EU law or the law of an EU member country governs a sale.  Note:  the implementation of EU law is a minimum requirement for EU countries. EU countries can make their national statutes more specific.  If parties explicitly agree that Dutch law, for example, will apply to a horse sale, then Dutch law will indeed apply.  But indirectly, EU law will apply as well because Dutch law is based upon on EU legislation."

About the Author

Mr. Luc Schelstraete is the founder of European Equine Lawyers and Equestes. Both entities are based in Holland. Luc and his staff (6 attorneys and 5 office staff) specialize in international equine law. They assist clients in purchase and sale documentation and litigation involving horses purchased in Europe.

For further information, see: www.europeanequinelawyers.com and www.equestes.com.