History and Origin of the Breed: The Norwegian Fjord Horse is one of the world's oldest and purest breeds of horse. It bears a striking resemblance to the horses painted on cave walls by ice age artists some 30,000 years ago and is believed to have migrated to Norway over 4,000 years ago. They were believed to have been first domesticated around 2000 B. C. Archaeological excavations at Viking burial sites indicate that the Fjord horse has been selectively bred for at least 2,000 years.
The origin of the breed is uncertain, but it is probably related to the primitive wild horses of Asia, the Przewalski. The Fjord Horse is one of very few breeds to retain the original primitive character and color. Earlier names for the Fjord horse have been the Vestlandshest (West Country horse) or the Nordfjordhest (Northfjordhorse) which indicates the breed's geographical connection with Norway. The Vikings used the Fjord horse as their primary war mount. Therefore, it may be assumed that it affected the breeds indigenous to other countries, notably the "mountain and moorland" ponies of Great Britain and the Icelandic Pony.
The Fjord horse has earned a reputation as a strong, durable and pleasant-natured pony. Throughout history is has been used by the farmers of Norway as a general-purpose pony to pull loads on their hilly farms. In addition to its strength, the breed is also noted for its light and smooth action. The Fjord horse has a thick coat so that it can endure rough winters with minimal care. The combined qualities of the breed have led to its exportation to many other countries in Europe, particularly Denmark, where it has been widely used for light draft work.
The first Fjordhorse Studbook was published in 1910 and today boasts a population estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000. There is a widespread interest in the breed and a considerable number of Fjords are bred both in Europe and in the Americas.
The Fjord horse of today is bred for both riding and driving. It is capable of performing well in both driving and endurance classes and can also perform adequately in elementary dressage and cross country jumping classes. The Fjord horse is used extensively in riding schools and riding for the handicapped programs. The tourist industry along the West Country fjords of Norway has always used the Fjord Horse as an important means of transportation and as a good representative for Norwegian culture. In 1994, the Fjord horse along with the other two native breeds of Norway, safely drove many winning competitors and celebrities to different venues at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Breed Characteristics: One of the Norwegian Fjord Horse's most unique characteristics is that approximately 90 percent of all Fjord horses are brown dun in color. The other 10 percent are either red dun, gray, pale dun, gold or yellow dun. The Fjord horse retains the "wild" dun color of the original horse as well as the primitive markings which include zebra stripes on the legs and a dorsal stripe that runs from the forelock down the neck and back and into the tail. Dark stripes may also be seen over the withers. Red duns have reddish-brown stripes and body markings. Gray duns have black or very dark gray stripes and markings. The pale or white dun is a very light body color with black or gray stripe and markings. The yellow dun have a darker yellow stripe and markings, they may have a completely white forelock, mane and tail. The yellow dun is a very rare color in the breed.
Another unique characteristic of the Fjord horse is the mane. The center hair of the mane is dark (usually black) while the outer hair is white. The mane is cut short so it will stand erect. It is trimmed in a characteristic crescent shape to emphasize the graceful curve of the neck The white outer hair is then trimmed slightly shorter than the dark inner hair to display the dramatic dark stripe.
The head and neck should present an appearance of elegance without coarseness. The head is medium sized and well defined with a broad, flat forehead and a straight or slightly dished face. The eyes are large. The ears are of small to medium size and set well apart. The neck of the Fjord horse is well muscled and crested. It has lower withers than many breeds. While defined, the withers are generally level and strongly muscled. The Fjord horse has a compact body with a deep girth and well sprung ribs. The back is short to medium in length with a strong coupling. The loin is broad and strong. The croup is well muscled and well rounded to the tail. The legs are powerful, with substantial bone and excellent feet which are black in color
The Norwegian Fjord Horse is known for its gentleness of temperament, willingness to work, stamina, and vigor. Used for draft work, riding, and driving, individuals vary in size and weight according to use. Although there is no true distinction, references are often made to a "riding" versus a "draft" type of Fjord, depending upon the characteristics emphasized. The Fjord horse ranges in height from between 13.2 and 15 hands with most individuals measuring 14 - 14.2 hands and weighing between 900 and 1200 pounds.
Breed Organizations: Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry The Registry maintains a stud book for Fjords in America to keep accurate bloodlines. Rules of Registration are designed to preserve genetic purity and type.
Working with Norway, the Registry serves to promote the Fjord horse and provide educational information to those interested in Fjords. A list of breeders all over America is available through the Registry. The Registry keeps statistics on the Fjord horse in America and also offers a judges training program in cooperation with Norway.
The Registry stives to promote good horsemanship and breeding practices among members. Excellence in performance in recognized through award programs.
The Norwegian Fjordhorse Association. (Norges Fjordhestlag) The Norwegian Fjordhorse Association's most important duty is to unite all those interested in the breed and to encourage them to work for the common good. The society was founded in 1949 and is divided into country, district and local groups. Originally breeders organized their own interest groups locally, the earliest being founded in 1899. Today NFHL has about 2000 members and publishes a magazine which comes out six times a year. The Norwegian Fjordhorse Association has several sister organizations in other countries. There are Fjordhorse Societies in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain and the U.S.A.
For More Information, Contact:Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry P. O. Box 685 Webster, NY 14580