The Norwegian Fjord Horse is an ancient breed of horse bred entirely in the isolation of Norway. It is a strong and hardy horse which has adjusted over time to the severe Norwegian climate.
The Norwegian Fjord Horse is distinct in physique and said to have migrated over the Scandinavian Peninsula 4,000 years ago. There is archaeological evidence that this horse breed was selectively bred as war horses for Vikings. The Norwegian Fjord Horse also has a prominent likeness to horses painted on cave walls during the last ice age (over 30,000 years ago) as well as the primitive horse of Asia known as the Przewalski.
The Norwegian Fjord horse was further developed on the Scandinavian Peninsula for farming. The terrain is difficult with large hills and a rocky countryside. In these remote areas, there still remains little in the way of infrastructure development.
The Norwegian Fjord Horse was small and well-built to undertake this challenging terrain and work for long periods of time with great endurance. It was able to survive on a limited amount of food and scarcity of food was not uncommon. These characteristics contributed to make the Fjord horse well suited for travel and farming throughout the harsh Scandinavian winters.
The Norwegian Fjord has a docile temperament and intelligence that allows the horse to excel in a variety of areas. Modern uses of the Norwegian Fjord Horse include use in riding schools, show horses, draught horses and driving. They have excelled in dressage and jumping events.
All living Fjord’s descend from a single stallion, Njal 166. The breed nearly died out in the late 1800 due to this fact. They are the official horse of Norway and very dear to the Norwegians’ culture. Today, the government controls all breeding of this horse. The only exports coming out of Norway today are championship stock.
Characteristics and Conformation
The Norwegian Fjord Horse is a stout and short horse. The official registry does not specify an upper limit to height; however, most Fjords are in between 13.1 hands and 14.3 hands high. There are only five acceptable colors for registry which are brown dun, uls dun, grey or blue dun, red dun, and yellow dun.
There must also exhibit their distinctive primitive markings which include a dorsal stripe, “zebra stripes” on the legs, stripes on the withers, and brown spots on the body. A latent characteristic, which can be traced back to antiquity, is a white star on the center of the forehead. Today, the appearance of this white star is only acceptable on mares. While not all of the primitive markings must be present, some are desired.
The head is small and well defined. They have a flat and wide forehead. Their distinctive forelock on top of the head covers up to two-thirds of the face. The mane is thick and heavy and is usually trimmed in a crescent shape so that it stands erect and emphasizes the curve of the neck. The hair in the center of the mane is usually dark, often black, while the outside hair is white.
The silhouette is slightly concaved. The eyes must be big and calm set in small expanse to the muzzle. The nostrils are wide and contribute a square appearance to the muzzle.
The neck on the Norwegian Fjord is very distinctive. It has an inherent bottle neck that is strong, wide, and marginally curved. There must be great length and a subtle transition to the body. The neck was developed for their strong workhorse capabilities. Any type of thinness in the neck is highly undesirable for competition purposes.
Highly defined shoulders, withers, and back muscles are highly desirable as this control the movement of this short stout horse. The ribs must not be curved but prominent. The loins are vital and need to be strong yet short merging effortlessly with the croup. The hindquarters are lengthy, wide and well defined with a slight angle. The tail is mid-set and unrestricted. The thighs are strong and also well-defined and in line with the wide set quarters. The legs are well defined and thick boned with substantial joints with thick, stout cannon bones.
The Norwegian Fjord Horse has graceful movement but not particularly animated. This breed is strong and gentle. Though small in stature, it is strong enough to easily transport a human being. The modern Fjords’ ancient roots give rise to a particularly distinctive and attractive look with the intelligence required of a workhorse.
Whilst still common and popular in Norway there are extremely rare in Australia with only 60 horses known to exist. The breeding program here is small with only two recorded breeders – occasionally new animals are imported from Norway to add to the local breed stock