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

With the birth of the new Norwegian national state in 1814, came big ideas. And one of them was to establish better transportation systems.
Folklore and old folk tales often depict The Black Death in the shape of an ashen-faced old woman. Her name was Pesta.
Some of the beautiful Norwegian wooden stave churches are almost 1000 years old. Today, there are 28 of them left.
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?
Norway is a land of water, with almost 1 million lakes and ponds of all sizes. Join us in exploring the 5 largest of her lakes, and some more Norway facts.
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.
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.
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.
The old Norwegian farm needed hundreds of litres of water every single day: for food-making, cleaning, and human and animal consumption.
Skårfast is a Norwegian adjective that means that a person or an animal is stuck on a steep mountain- or cliff-side shelf, and in need of being rescued.
The Stone age people were master hunters, fishers, and gatherers. The lived with the seasons and followed the prey.
On 18 November 1905, after a supportive referendum, the Norwegian parliament unanimously elected the Danish Prince Carl as the country’s new king.
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.
The modern human has a tendency to judge its forebears and their way of life solely based on the reality of our own time.
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?
Here are 12 historical photos representing the fascinating Sami culture - with deep roots in the Norwegian and Nordic landscape.
For many, it may come as a surprise that the history of rose painting and its place in Norwegian folk art is not as old as one might think.
Per O. Rød wrote the history of the Stornæve farm and its inhabitants back in 1968. Decades earlier, several children of Stornæve had emigrated to the US.
For more than a thousand years, Norwegian farmers sent their livestock to feed in the forests and the mountains. Today, this way of life has almost disappeared.
Skigard is a Norwegian noun that means wooden fence. It is made of split tree trunks, using simple tools. Fence making and mending was a task for early summer.
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.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history