Kløvhest | means packhorse in Norwegian | Norway

Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Man with his packhorses in Valle, Setesdal, Agder, Norway - in 1948. | Photo: Mittet & Co AS DeOldify cc pdm.
Man with his packhorses in Valle, Setesdal, Agder, Norway - in 1948. | Photo: Mittet & Co AS DeOldify cc pdm.

Pronunciation

Kløvhest

The grammar

A compound word made up of: kløv + hest | noun | masculine | the indefinite form: en kløvhest (a kløvhest) | the definite form: kløvhesten (the kløvhest).

What does the word mean?

Kløv: means in this context cleft, referring to the upside-down V-shape of the goods transported on a horse’s back. The word kløv is also used about the actual goods strapped to the packsaddle. The word kløv can also be attached to the words for reindeer and dog, to describe when these two animals are used to carry goods: kløvrein and kløvhund.
Hest: means a horse.
Kløvhest: means a packhorse.

Similar or related words

Kløvsal: means a packsaddle.
Kløvmeis: means a basket attached to the packsaddle, usually one on either side of the horse’s back.
Pakkhest: means the same thing as a kløvhest, but is rarely used when describing the traditional use of packhorses in Norway. The word is, however, almost always used when describing the use of packhorses outside Norway, for example in an old western novel.

More on the historical context

A challenging landscape

Norway is a land full of mountains, forests, valleys, fjords, rivers, and lakes. It was always a tough terrain to travel through. In historical times, a large portion of the population lived along the coastline and by the fjords, and used the boat as their main means of transportation. Inland, there were very few roads to speak of, and people moved through the challenging landscape using ancient, narrow, and often steep paths.

The horse and the reindeer

The Norse population used the domesticated horse to help them transport their goods; the Sami population mainly used the reindeer.

The seasonal summer farm

The modern-day Norwegians often associate the kløvhest with the traditional and seasonal summer pasture farms – the seters, often located in roadless mountain or forest areas. The livestock was sent off to the seter all summer. At regular intervals, someone from the home farm travelled back and forth with their kløvhest to collect butter and cheese – made by the milkmaid from the cow’s and the goat’s milk.

Off to the market

The kløvhest was also used when transporting goods to and from the market, to bring the prey back from a hunt, and so much more.

Examples from books and stories

Olav G. Holen Ferdavegane i Bykleområdet og dei viktigaste vegane til og frå øvre Setesdal 1968
Derifrå kunne dei fare beint opp Austmannskardet og vidare til Torvevarden, men der er så urlendt at dei kom ikkje fram med krøtur og kløvhest.
From there, they could travel straight up Austmannskardet and on to Torvevarden, but there the rock-strewn and steep landscape made it impossible to cross with cattle or kløvhest.

Nils Jarmann Hesten var nødvendig 1989
Før kjøreveienes tid kjørte folk likkiste på slep eller slede. Det hendte to hester bar kisten på båre, eller en enkelt kløvhest gikk med den døde uten kiste. I siste fall ble liket gjort fast til et nåbrett, som det hette på Voss, likbrett i Tingvoll (Hordaland).
Before there were any roads, people transported the coffins with the dead either using a travois or a sledge. Sometimes two horses carried the coffin like a stretcher between them, or one single kløvhest carried the deceased without a coffin. In this instance, the deceased was strapped to a wooden board, which again was strapped to the horse’s back.

Sources: Nasjonalbiblioteket nb.no | Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary | Det Norske Akademis ordbok | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

1769 was the year of the first complete Norwegian census. Today, Norway has a population of more than 5 million, in 1769 the number was 723,618.
17 May 1814 is regarded as the birth of the modern-day Norwegian state. But it took almost another hundred years before the Norwegians could declare complete independence.
Are you looking for a Norwegian-to-English dictionary that includes old-fashioned words and dialect words? Then Einar Haugen’s book is your best pick.
A kipe is a tall, woven basket, often made of twigs from the birch tree. It was carried on the back, and typically used when carrying loads in a landscape full of steep fields and paths.
The word ski comes from the Old Norse language, with the meaning cleft wood. The old Norwegians were master hunters, and have been skiing for over 5000 years.
In 1942, Hans Hyldbakk wrote the history of the local cotter's holdings in Surnadal, Nordmøre, Norway. The book was updated in 1966.
In the olden days, people dressed up warmly and got out onto the fjord or lake to catch their Sunday dinner. Enjoy!
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.
In 1836, milkmaid Kari Moen from the community of Sauherad in Telemark, Norway, was attacked by a bear. She almost lost her life that day.
The land that we call Norway was once covered by a massive sheet of ice. In places, the glaciers were as much as 3,000 metres thick.
The hour of twilight is when the daylight starts to disappear – before it is completely dark. In the old Norwegian farming society, this was a time for rest.
The oldest wooden buildings in Norway are almost 1000 years old - like Urnes stave church in Luster. How come these buildings do not rot away and disappear?
Old objects tell stories, silent stories about a time gone by.
Once you start taking an interest in the old Norwegian farming and family history, then the people of the past start coming to the fore.
Ljå is a Norwegian noun that means a scythe - an old agricultural cutting-tool used when mowing the grass to make hay, or when harvesting the grain crops.
In the spring, the Norwegian mountain-snow melts and turns into creeks, rivers and magnificent waterfalls.
With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
The first half of the 1900s was a time of enormous change in Norwegian society. It was then that a young boy experienced a peculiar family custom.
Budrått is a Norwegian noun that means the output of milk products on a farm - such as cheese and butter. The word is often associated with what was produced during the summer on the seasonal mountain or forest pasture farm - the seter.
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.
A photo is a snapshot of history - and a story and a history lesson in itself.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history