The Norwegian Fjord Horse, the Norwegian Fjord or the Fjording, as it is known in its homeland, is a very popular breed of horse in Europe and America. It is popular for riding, recreational cart-driving, sports, and farm work.
It’s a breed of horse that originated in Asia and was domesticated by the inhabitants of Norway. The agile, mild-mannered Fjord horse, with a short and compact structure, has a rich history. It is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of horses that exist today.
The pleasant nature and versatility of this breed of horse make it an excellent confidence booster for novice riders and even children. The easily trainable horse is a popular choice for riding and driving. Its compact size is beneficial for mounting, and the easy keeper is convenient to maintain.
The Norwegian Fjord horse has a history dating back to 4,000 years. That makes this breed one of the oldest of their kinds, which exists even today. The Norwegian Fjord is believed to be connected to the Przewalski horse of Mongolia. The popular belief is that the wild horse variety traveled great distances and found their way into Norway.
They were then tamed by the Norse people to work in farmlands and perform heavy lifting, and pull farm carts.
These horses were used in wars and in the Norse farms by the Vikings. These horses are also considered one of the purest horse breeds that exist in Norway and the world over. Because the horse has been selectively bred, all Norwegian Fjord horses look very similar to one another.
The fact that Norwegian Fjords have been selectively bred for at least 2000 years is established by archeological excavations at Viking burial sites where remains of these horses have been unearthed. The fact that these horses were carefully bred makes them one of the oldest and purest breeds with least or no influence from other breeds of horses. It has historical significance and the symbolic Norwegian Fjord can be found in distinguished Norwegian coats of arms.
Even the Norse mythology gives high regards to the Fjord horse and describes it as “beloved by the gods”.
All horses eat grass and hay and so does the Norwegian Fjord horse. This hardy horse breed requires a balanced and restricted diet to maintain good health. The diet should mainly consist of alfalfa, grass, and grain with a controlled supply of vitamins and minerals. Too many treats may lead to weight gain and obesity.
Fjords are not difficult to maintain. To keep a check on their weight, it is best to give these horses a dry lot rather than grass. A grazing muzzle, while grazing on the pasture, helps to keep a check on their diet. They are not voracious eaters and are satisfied with little.
Breeding And Uses
Due to the selective breeding, Fjords have retained their bloodline and purity. The integrity of the breeding pattern has made it one of the oldest and purest horse breeds.
There are a lot of rules followed when it comes to breeding these horses. Too much white on a stallion’s body is considered undesirable traditionally. If a stallion of this breed has considerable white marks on his body, it is disqualified for breeding. Possibly, the one and only white mark that’s accepted on a Norwegian Fjord stallion is the white star that it got genetically from one of its forefathers (a foundation stallion). Maintaining such strict standards gives them the similarity of appearance.
A male horse that is not considered for breeding and if castrated is called a ‘gelding’.
In the olden days, Norwegians only considered breeding their Norwegian Fjord only if it had a ‘got mote’, meaning a pleasant and smart appearance. If the horse did not have a striking appearance that seemed nice enough, he or she did not qualify for breeding. That is one of the reasons why you can tell a Fjord horse in a glance from a distance. They have their distinct look and characteristics! If the look, behavior, and work of Fjord Horse do not function in agreement, then breed standards may not be met well.
Attempts have been made to breed Fjord hoses with other breeds like Dole for a few generations. But in the long run, the coats and color became attractive and the temperament changed. These traits were considered undesirable. In 1907 a decision was made to strictly maintain breed standards and to remove ‘Dole’ blood from Fjord horses.
For ages, these horses have been used for riding and driving as well in farms. This hardy and versatile breed is also used for competitions, as a tourist transport, and in sports. The Fjord horse has good endurance and is good at climbing mountains and trailing rocky roads. Due to its mild temperament, calm nature, this breed is a favorite in therapy as well as riding lessons for beginners.
Norwegian Fjords are known for their small and compact body. An adult horse usually grows to a height of 13.1 and 14.2 hands.
If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘hands’ for measurement, it has been a common term for measuring horses since time immemorial. This was before rulers were invented and measurements were standardized. The horse is measured from the ground to its shoulders to decide its length. The Fjord horse does not have a strict standard for its height.
The usual weight of this breed is 900 to 1000 pounds. They may appear small and compact but are powerful enough to effortlessly carry adults.
From wild horses to a domesticated breed, these animals have several features that help them to survive in the cold weather and from predators.
- They have large eyes on the side of their heads, which allows them to get a view of what is happening around their whole body.
- They can rotate their ears individually to precisely pinpoint the direction of sounds.
- Their strong legs allow them to run fast and escape from their predators.
- The muscular body can travel through rugged paths.
The well-built sturdy body and agility allows the Fjord horses to carry loads on hilly roads, pull carriages, and perform farm jobs.
The Fjord has distinctive dun colors. The price of a Fjord horse is often determined by its dun color.
The most common five are:
- Red dun (Popular and common, red-yellowish shades)
- White dun (A cream option)
- Brown dun (Are nearly golden)
- Grey dun (Comes in dark slate to light silver-gray shades)
- Yellow dun (A paler red dun option)
Brown dun is the most common dun color, with 95% of the Norwegian Fjords appearing with a brown dun. The rarest is the yellow dun.
Coats of these horses vary from shades of chestnut to light cream and red-brownish to different shades of gray.
Some primitive markings are considered important for identifying a true Fjord horse. That includes dorsal stripes and horizontal stripes on the legs. Some may even have spots on their cheeks or thigh. The mane of a Fjord is another distinct feature of its body. The unique mane has hair of darker color, usually black. The outer mane is generally white. As a usual practice, the signature mane is trimmed short and it stands erect. That highlights the elegant neck curve and the dramatic white and black mane hair.
Dark stripes like a zebra are often noticed on the forelegs of Fjord horses.
How Do They Look?
The Norwegian Fjord horse has a small but bulky build. The small body is muscular, agile, and stronger than it looks. It is linked to a load pulling, working horse, or a ‘draft horse’. This breed of horse features a small, dished shape face with a flat forehead. Their large eyes and small ears and the significantly prominent signature mane with a dark streak of hair distinguish them from other breeds.
The mane is long and extremely thick. To keep the mane in control and for the convenience of the horse, the mane is trimmed and usually shaped to a height of 2 to 4 inches. Most of the horses of this breed typically have a two-toned mane.
The coat of Norwegian Fjords is also very thick. That is an adaptive feature that helps them to tolerate the extreme cold of Norway and its surrounding mountainous areas.
Any white markings are rarely found on Fjord Horses, but a small whitish star on the forehead is found on some horses.
What Are They Used For?
Norwegian Fjords are traditional workhorses of the Norse population. For generations, they have worked on farms, plowed fields, pulled loads, timber, carried people, and have gone to war with their masters. Their gentle temperament and calm demeanor make them easy to train. This breed has a reputation for being great family horses.
In modern times, Fjord horses are mainly reserved for riding. Be it riding schools or riding therapy, this breed is one of the first choices. Not to forget, these horses are also used for horse cart competitions or as wagon horses.
Fjord horses have been important through generations due to their ability to traverse difficult terrains and for their short yet strong body. This breed proved their worth during World War II for carrying people, food, medicine, ammunition through mountainous regions.
Where Do They Live?
The Norwegian Fjord horses find their origin in the Nordfjord region and are considered to be Norway’s national breed. In the present day, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States of America have more Fjord horses than Norway.
This breed is now bred in many European countries and in America. It was in the 1900s the Fjord horses were brought to the United States. But it was in the mid-1900s when foundation horses of this breed were imported start breeding programs in the USA.
How Long Do They Live?
Like breeds of horses, the Norwegian Fords live approximately have a life span of 30 years.
How Fast Are They?
Norwegian Fjord horses are very agile and may lead an active life even at 30 years of age. The stallions are active in breeding programs even after they have crossed their prime.
How Much Do Fjord Horses Cost?
It is not difficult to get a Norwegian Fjord horse in the United States. They may cost anything between $2000 to $10,000, depending upon their color, age, bloodline, and training. There are reputable horse breeders who may have the right horse you are looking for. Some talented trainers can help in evaluating the horses for you.
These horses may be more expensive than some other breeds, but that may be for a good reason.
- Though most horses of this breed are now bred in America, some are still imported from Norway and other European countries.
- Quality may be the biggest reason for the price variation.
- The availability of horses may spike up the price. There are around 5,000 Norwegian Fjords in the United States of America- It’s simple, the demand is high and the supply is limited!
- Breeding limitations. There are more stallions, geldings, and filly as compared to the number of mares. That restricts the breeding capacity and supply.
- Horses from pure bloodline cost more.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Fjord horses are admired for their calm and pleasing qualities and that makes them ideal for beginners as well as professional riders. These horses have an agreeable manner, laid-back attitude and are always eager to please others. They are easy-keepers and a preferred choice of horses.
Unique Characteristics Of The Fjord
Fjords are known for their good temperaments, gentleness, cooperative behavior, and their willingness to work. In short, these horses are well mannered, motivated, and enjoy working. They are ideal horses for children and novice riders. Fjord horses are considered one of the most reliable horses by even advanced equestrians.
The generally hardy breed does not have too many health issues. The common health problems of these easy-keepers are ‘Liminitis’ a hoof condition that can be painful and ‘Colic’ a digestive issue. Both the problems usually occur with overfed and overweight horses. Colic can be fatal for Fjord horses and may even require surgery.
Norwegian Fjord horses require regular grooming. Trimming the mane and smoothing the edges keep the trademark mane standing straight up straight, that’s a style statement! Regular hoof care also helps the horse.
Norwegian Fjord horses have a wonderful reputation as far as their calm manner is concerned. It is so easy to train this breed that there is a misconception that they are ‘born rained’. This breed may need as little as 30 days to be trained before a trained rider can ride them.
This breed of horses is often kept for show or pleasure riding, and in many instances, just as a rare pasture decoration.