Norway is a beautiful country, famous for its scenery and particularly the Fjords. There are also a good few horse breeds that come from this fine country! Norwegian horse breeds share some characteristics, as they are made for their native terrain and climate, but there are also a few differences to set them apart from each other.
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This is a draft and harness-type horse, originally from the Gudbrandsal Valley. It is thought that it descended partly from the Friesian horse, and has had Thoroughbred and Arabian blood added. The breed was split into two types in 1872; heavier driving and agriculture types and a lighter class for racing and riding.
The heavier type was used extensively during WW2, when Norway was occupied by Germany, but after the war was over and increasing mechanization reduced the need for draft horses, the numbers declined somewhat. A breeding center was established in 1962 to maintain the numbers, and there is now a flourishing population of Dolehest.
They stand between 14.1 and 15.3 hands, and are usually bay, brown or black. Gray, palomino, chestnut and dun also exist in the breed, and all colors often have white markings. The Dole Gudbrandsal is mainly used for heavy draft and agricultural work, though it has been crossed with Swedish horses to produce riding horses.
The Dole Trotter is a subtype of the Dole Gudbrandsal, and it is considered a separate breed though they split fairly recently (in the 1800s). The founder stallion, whose lineage is found in all Dole Trotters today, was either a Thoroughbred or a Norfolk Trotter.
This breed is lighter and finer than its draft-type cousin, though it stands a similar height, 14.1 to 15 hands, and looks very similar to the Dales and Fell ponies of the UK. They are generally bay, black or brown, though gray, palomino, dun and chestnut colors also appear. The Dole Trotter is used in trotting races, and is often interbred with the Dole Gudbrandsal.
This is a small horse, but incredibly strong for its size. It is one of the oldest breeds in the world, and unlike many it has remained largely unchanged since its origins. Excavations at Viking burial sites show that the Fjord horse has been selectively bred for at least 2,000 years, and has been used for hundreds of years as farm animals in Norway.
The Fjord is a very distinctive horse, with a draft horse’s muscle and bone, in a small body. They stand between 13.1 and 14.3 hands, but despite this they are always considered to be a horse rather than a pony. All these horses are dun, and there are 5 officially recognised shades of this color within the breed. The Fjord has some very eye catching primitive markings, including horizontal stripes on the back of the legs, a dorsal stripe, and a darker mane and tail.
The Fjord takes the dorsal stripe to the extreme; it runs the entire length of the horse, from ears to tail, and the mane is usually hogged so that it stands up straight and hows off the color difference. The Fjord was traditionally used as a work horse, for farming and transport, yet they are also light and agile and so suited to being riding horses. They generally have a mild, friendly, calm temperament and so are ideal for riding horses for children, and are also used for therapeutic riding.
First documented in 1898, this little horse is the smallest of the Norwegian national horse breeds. It came perilously close to extinction after the second World War, when there were between 15 and 20 mares left, and only one stallion. Intense efforts were made to save the breed, and it is now no longer listed as endangered.
The Nordlandshest/Lyngshest is so called because the change of its name to Nordlandshest in 1968 was violently disputed by breeders in its original namesake, Lyngshest, that a compromise had to be reached to include both names. This pony stands between 12.3 and 13.3 hands (though some reach 14.1 hands), and it is very strong for its size.
They can be chestnut, bay, black, palomino, buckskin, gray, and shades of dapple, and are used for riding and driving, as well as for packhorse purposes, junior harness racing, dressage and jumping. They have a natural boldness and are well known for their endurance.
The Scandanavian Coldblood Trotter is made up of two closely related breeds – the Norwegian Coldblood Trotter and the Swedish Coldblood Trotter. These breeds are the result of crossing light, fast horses with native coldblood breeds, either the Dole or the North Swedish Horse.
This trotter stands about 15.1 hands, and is most commonly bay, chestnut or black. They can also be dun or cream colors, but not white or pinto, and they are exceptionally well suited to their native cold climate, with their thick and heavy winter coat. They are bred for use in harness racing, and compete in shared heats pulling a two-wheeled cart.
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Great article. Prior to reading this, I was familiar with only one of the mentioned breeds here, the Fjord Horse. I enjoyed learning about these Nordic breeds. I wish there had been a pic of the Scandanavian Coldblood trotter too.