Fjord horse | almost as old as the mountains | Norway

The Fjord horse is one of today’s oldest and purest horse breeds. Its historical habitat is Norway's western coast, with its deep fjords and steep mountainsides.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
The Norwegian Fjord horse. | © Marius Dobilas - stock.adobe.com.
The Norwegian Fjord horse. | © Marius Dobilas - stock.adobe.com.

Pronunciation

Fjordhest

Locked in by the landscape

The Fjord horse, with its ancient features and markings, has roots that stretch back thousands of years. The inaccessible topography of its west-Norwegian habitat, is believed to have protected the breed from extended external influence. The reduced number of natural predators in this area, may also have allowed the breed to remain wild for much longer. The Norwegians call it a fjordhest – a fjording – or a vestlandshest.

First came the goat – then the Fjord horse

Historically, the coastal population lived on small farms, and were often fishers first and farmers second. Until not too long ago, the landscape was roadless and wild. Any transportation had to happen by boat – or on narrow and sometimes treacherous footpaths. It is said about the creation of these paths that – first came the goat, then the Fjord horse.

Packhorse and workhorse

The Fjord horse’s whole anatomy is shaped by millennia living in a steep landscape. The breed is small, and, with its robust frame and strong legs, it moves like a master through the rocky environment. The Fjord horse is a perfect packhorse, a tireless workhorse, a perfect companion and workmate. It was said that if a Fjord horse got pushed over by a heavy load in a steep field, it would lie perfectly still until its owner could release it from the shafts or the harness.

Transporting tourists

In the second half of the 1800s, tourism found its way to the Norwegian fjords. Just like today, ships arrived full of people wanting to see the sites. The local farmhorses pulled the wagons or carried the tourists up the hills: to a glacier or some other local landmark. The extra cash did wonders for the local households.

Easier to feed through the winter

Compared to many other horse breeds, the historical Fjord horse needed less hay and other fodder. The climate on the west coast is also milder and the winter shorter, which meant that the horse could graze outdoors for a larger portion of the year. Compared to other parts of Norway, it was more common for small west-Norwegian farms to have a horse of their own.

A status symbol that smelled good

A horse on the farm gave its owner status. Even if it was just a small Fjord horse of dubious origin. It was said that the Fjord horse smells good. Maybe what people meant was that it smelled like home. It was – and is – a patient, strong, tough, and relentless companion, loved and respected by both children and grown-ups.

Sad was the day it had to go

A farmhorse could live with the family for over two decades, and it was hard to see it go. There are stories of how people refused to cash in the check coming from the abattoir, the day that their beloved friend finally had to meet its maker.

Emigrated to all corners of the world

The Fjord horse has found an enthusiastic and loyal following across the globe. With its distinctive physique and dun coat, and its manually cut crescent-shaped-mane, the Fjord horse is a beautiful creature. Fjordingen has been with us for millennia – let us hope that it will stay for a long time still.

Main source: «Fjordhesten» – Norsk Fjordhestlag – edited by Arve M. Bakken – Norsk Gyldendal Forlag AS 1986.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

On 9 April 1940, German forces attacked Norway in the early hours of the morning. The Norwegian armed forces attempted to stave off the attack, but they were in no way prepared for this monumental task.
On the historical Norwegian farm, winter feed for the domesticated animals was a precious resource. Sometimes it was harvested and temporarily stored far away from the farm.
The Heddal stave church - stavkirke - is Norway's largest remaining building of its kind. It is a woodwork masterpiece, with a history that stretches back more than 800 years.
A kjenge is a drinking bowl used in the old Norwegian farming society – usually with two handles - carved and hollowed out from one piece of wood.
With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
From the early 1800s and well into the 1900s, Norway was a significant exporter of natural ice. But how did they prevent the ice from melting?
In the old Norwegian farming society, a husmann was a man who was allowed to build his home on a small section of a farm’s land, and pay with his labour instead of rent.
With the Bronze age came a new and important phase in human history and development: mankind learned how to make tools and other objects from a metal they called bronze.
In this period, Norway was still primarily a nation of farmers, fishermen and hunters. In AD 1801, 90% of the population lived in rural areas.
This is our second video-slideshow with vintage photos of the Norwegian farm horse. Enjoy!
Bondegård is a Norwegian noun that means farm. In informal speech and in many dialects, people only use the single word gård or gard.
In the old farming society, nature dictated the flow of the working year. And farmworkers could only leave their jobs on 2 specific days during the year.
Mead and beer are both alcoholic drinks known from Norwegian history. The Norwegians call them «mjød» and «øl». But do you know the difference between the two?
Skodje sogelag and Louis Giske wrote the history of the two Sortehaug farms and its inhabitants back in 1986.
With this old photograph in my hand I have set myself a task: how much information can I find in Norwegian online archives based on what the photo tells me?
Queen Maud of Norway was born in London in 1869, as Princess Maud of Wales. Her grandmother was none other than the formidable Queen Victoria.
With a growing population and public sector, Norway pushed through significant reforms in several areas: public structure and organisation, welfare, health care, tax, policing, public services, and more.
During the AD 1970s, both an increased female participation in the labour market, and the green movement, were causes firmly added to the agenda. There was a heightened focus on maternity leave, access to kindergarten, and maternity benefits.
The Norwegians rarely allow alien species into their fauna. With one notable exception, the muskox - first welcomed in from Greenland in 1924.
Like all buildings on the old Norwegian farm, the stabbur had a clear purpose: it was a building designed for the storage of food.
It is said that all people are equal in Heaven. But the historical churchyard shows us that no such equality applied here on Earth.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history