The Norwegian Fjord Horse

Home » Living in Norway » The Norwegian Fjord Horse

Say hello to the Norwegian Fjord horse, one of the world’s oldest horse breeds.

The Norwegian Fjord horse (fjordhest in Norwegian) might sound like a mythical creature from the Norse mythology, but I can assure you it is perfectly real.

Two Norwegian Fjord Horses galloping in a field

This curious-looking horse breed is from the mountainous parts of western Norway, but today it can be found in many countries all around the world. Let’s take a closer look.

A description of the Norwegian Fjord Horse

The Fjord Horse is a pure breed, meaning it has a clean, unmixed lineage of a recognized breed over many generations.

This is a horse that has been bred for its strength and power, much like the Thoroughbred horse was bred for its speed and agility in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Fjordhest is a strong and robust animal but relatively small compared to other horse breeds. It has a medium-sized head, a thick, arched neck, sturdy legs, and large hooves. All of these features combined make for a compact and muscular-looking horse. 

A close-up of the Norwegian fjord horse

Measured from the withers, heights of the breed generally fall between 13 and 15 hands (132cm – 152cm; or 52 – 60 inches); while they normally weigh between 400 to 500 kilograms (880 – 1,100lb).

Colour variations

Norwegian Fjord horses are dun, which means they have a body that is either tan, gold or a similar lighter shade. The dun gene dilutes the red and black pigments in the coat which results in this pale and light appearance.

Read more: Dogs in Norway

These lighter colours are contrasted with much darker features on the horse, most commonly black or dark brown, the undiluted pigments. These darker shades, or points, are typically on the face, ears, tail, legs and hooves.

Since 1922, Norway has officially recognised five standard shades, colours that set the breed standard: brown dun, red dun, grey dun, uls or white dun and yellow dun. These are primitive markings that are directly associated with the pure breed status of horses. 

A horse with a long history

The Fjord horse is thought to have existed over 4,000 ago, which makes it one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. It is also believed to have been selectively bred for the last 2,000 years. 

Side profile of the Norwegian fjord horse

It has been bred to be a workhorse, which accounts for its strong build. But while the fjord horse is solid and sturdy, it is also surprisingly agile. All of these physical characteristics made it incredibly flexible in terms of what it could be used for.

In the past, the fjord horse would have been put to work ploughing farmer’s fields or pulling timber – it thrived as a workhorse in the mountainous regions of western Norway.

It has been robust enough, because of its agility, thick coat and large hooves, to deal with the harsh environment and challenging terrain at the wettest and coldest times of the year.

There is also evidence to suggest that it has also been used as a driving horse over the centuries.

Interestingly, the fjord horse is believed to have been used by the Vikings as a war mount. This has been confirmed by recent archaeological discoveries in Norway.  

Coats of arms

The fjordhest is depicted on the coat of arms of Gloppen in the traditional district of Nordfjord in Vestland county.

Gloppen kommune logo

Gloppen’s coat of arms was granted on December 19th 1986 and depicts a silver/grey Fjord horse set against a blue background. The horse was chosen because of its history in the area, a place where it has been bred over the centuries.

Also at the heart of western Norway is the former municipality of Eid in the former county of Sogn og Fjordane.

Their coat of arms was adopted on April 26th 1986, and shows the yellow head of a fjord horse on a red background. The region has a rich horse history and the fjordhest is still a popular breed in the area.

Fjord Horse associations

There are many websites and organisations out there dedicated to the Norwegian Fjord horse. In fact while researching for this article, I was surprised by just how many!

Young fjord horses in western Norway

So if you are eager to learn more about this beautiful bread or are an owner looking to join a breed community, these sites might be useful sites: 

The Fjord Horse International is a worldwide forum of member countries that provide and exchange information about the welfare and breeding of the Fjord Horse.

Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry is an organisation that prides itself on the preservation and appreciation of the purity and beauty of the breed. 

Another useful, but Norwegian-only, resource is the Norsk Hestesenter. The Norwegian Horse centre helps to promote the quality of horse breeding in Norway and also has expertise in horse personnel education

Many of these associations and organisations have options to become members, donate and help various Fjord horse causes; and all of them champion the health, preservation and well-being of the breed.

About Mathew Paul Gundersen

Mathew is a British (og litt Norsk) guy living in Stavanger, Norway. He is a journalist, a literature student and a keen runner (amongst other things).

Norway Weekly Subscribe Banner

1 thought on “The Norwegian Fjord Horse”

  1. We enjoy this wkly. paper sa mange !! Vi elske dette lander sa vi enjoy all the buildes og stories. Our famiallie is in the Flekkefjord area of Norge and we have visited 3 times. It is the most vakkert country in the world. You are so blessed to be living there.


Leave a Comment