Fjord Horses are small, powerful equines that hail from Norway. They are a great combination of size and strength. Fjord Horses are some of the oldest domesticated horses in the world and have been a staple in Scandinavia for thousands of years. Fjord Horses make excellent companions, riding horses, and farm horses but there are not many of them left. That means that finding or spotting a Fjord Horse can be extremely difficult unless you frequent rural Northern Europe.
This brief guide covers everything you need to know about Fjord Horses including their origins, characteristics, uses, and population status.
Quick Facts About Fjord Horses
|Breed Name:||Norwegian Fjord Horse|
|Place of Origin:||Norway|
|Uses:||Riding, driving, plowing, hauling|
|Male Size:||14.1 hands; 1,000 pounds|
|Female Size:||13 hands; 900 pounds|
|Color:||Brown dun; red dun; gray; white|
Fjord Horse Origins
The Fjord Horse originated in Scandinavia. It has been present in Norway since the end of the last Ice Age when herds of wild Fjord Horses could be found roaming the icy countryside. The earliest humans in the region began breeding and rearing these Norwegian Fjord Horses over 4,000 years ago. Viking burial sites and archeological evidence tell us that Fjord horses have been used and selectively bred for at least 2,000 years. That makes the Fjord Horse one of the oldest and most domesticated horse breeds.
The Fjord Horse gets its name from the fjord region of Norway. Fjords are steep rocky cliffs in which the iron gray waters of the North Sea penetrate inland. It is in this beautiful and remote climate that Fjord Horses live and thrive.
Fjord Horse Characteristics
Fjord Horses are known for being short, stocky, and powerful. They are adept at living in cold mountainous terrain, which makes them the perfect farm horse in rocky northern regions of Europe. Fjord Horses are very surefooted and sport a thick winter coat that protects them from the bitter Scandinavian winters.
The Fjord Horse has a very compact and muscular body. It has a short neck and unique mane in which the interior hair is dark (often black), and the outer hair is either gray or white. If you trim the mane short, it will stand erect though you might want to let it grow if you live in a cold climate and use your horse as a working animal. At first glance, the Fjord Horse looks like a miniature draught horse, and that is not too far from being accurate. However, the Fjord Horse is more agile and fleet-footed than the standard draft horse or draft cross. Fjord Horses have many of the benefits of a draft cross while being a natural pureblood breed.
Fjord Horses are known for having a calm and even temperament. In this way, they are similar to draft horses which are typically more mild mannered than other more “hot blooded” horses. The Fjord Horse’s calm temperament makes it easy to ride and good for driving. It also makes them adept trail riding horses since they rarely spook and are confident on their feet.
Fjord Horses have a number of uses. In the rural areas of Norway, many people still use their Fjord Horses as light driving horses. They pull plows, haul firewood, and are used for riding in the countryside. In urban areas, Fjord Horses are often seen pulling carts, carriages, or sleds for tourist purposes.
The power of the Fjord Horse, combined with their mild temperament, makes them very versatile. However, their small size makes it so that they cannot outcompete larger European draft horses in terms of power or overall workload.
Appearance & Varieties
The Fjord Horse primarily comes in one color: brown dun. In fact, over 90% of Fjord Horses are born with this coloration. That is a mark of their genetic makeup. The other 10% or so of Fjord Horses come in three other colors: gray, white dun, and yellow dun. That means that only 2.5 horses out of every 100 will be one of these offshoot colors, with yellow dun being the rarest color.
When it comes to other varieties, there are none. Since the Norwegian Fjord Horse is an ancient purebred horse, it does not have any varieties other than potential crossbreeds (which you can get with any species).
There are not that many Fjord Horses in the world. Many Fjord Horses reside in their native Norway, where they still thrive in the cold, rocky climates. The Fjord Horse is the national horse of Norway.
There are only estimated to be 80,000 Fjord Horses worldwide, making them an endangered breed. There are not enough foals being born to sustain a natural population, and the wild Fjord Horse population is all but gone. Fjord Horses only have one foal per year, making population upkeep a challenge.
Other nations with appreciable numbers of Fjord Horses include neighboring countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as countries with strong equestrian cultures, including Germany and the United States. The Norwegian government takes on the task of counting and registering the Fjord Horse and also oversees its conservation. There are larger populations of Fjord Horses abroad than there are in Norway, with only between 5,000 and 6,000 registered Fjord Horses still existing in their native land.
Are Fjord Horses Good for Small-Scale Farming?
Yes! Fjord Horses are an excellent choice for small scale farmers. Their small size makes them easy to manage (and they won’t eat you out of house and home like large draught horses). They can do a variety of jobs, including pulling and driving. They can also be ridden, which is not always the case with large working horses and mules or other horses as small as the Fjord Horse. All of this makes the Fjord Horse extremely versatile, and they absolutely thrive in rural areas and on small farms. Unfortunately, due to their small population and shrinking numbers, it can be extremely difficult (or expensive) to find a Fjord Horse to call your own.
Feature Image Credit: Maria Junge Fotografie, Shutterstock