Iceland horses are one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world. They were brought to Iceland long before any of the European Breeds that we are so familiar with had been established. The Icelandic Horse, along with only a couple of other rare breeds, represents the closest link we have to the first domesticated horses.
Iceland horses were first brought to Iceland by the Vikings who settled the country in the years 874~930.
Crossing the Atlantic in their small open boats was an adventure, even without having to bring livestock, so people stopped bringing horses to Iceland when a sufficient number had been imported.
For 9 centuries, no other horses have been brought to Iceland, and now there is only one breed of horse in Iceland: the Icelandic horse, one of the purest in the world. Many diseases, from which horses on the European continent or in the United States suffer, are unknown in Iceland.
During the centuries, the Icelandic horse was the only means of transport in Iceland. It carried people, building materials, goods and mail over mountains, through powerful rivers, over rugged lava fields and even over glaciers.
In the 20th century, cars, buses, and airplanes took over, while horseback riding became a popular sport and hobby. People used to keep their horses outside, and only started to stable them in the 20th century. Thus, the horses were toughened by harsh weather conditions, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. The principle of “Survival of the fittest” made the Icelandic horses very fit indeed: they are famous for their amazing strength, sure-footedness, stamina, and endurance.
Icelandic Horse Colors
The fantastic range of colors of the Icelandic horse is a unique treasure that horse breeders have maintained and fostered. Here is a list of all the colors and nuances of the Icelandic horse.
- Bay dun = Bleikálótt, Bleikálóttur
- Bay = Jarpur, Jörp, Jarpt, Jarp-
- Blue dun = Mósótt, Mósóttur, Móálóttur, Móálótt, Mósa-
- Blaze = Blesótt, Blesóttur, Blesa
- Black = Svart, Svartur, Svar-, Svört, Brúnt, Brún, Brúnn
- Buckskin = Moldótt, Moldóttur, Mold-
- Cremello = Albínó, Hvítingi
- Chestnut = Rauð, Rauður, Rautt
- Dun stripe = Með ál
- Dark = Dökk
- Dark buckskin = Draugmoldóttur
- Flaxen = Glófext, Glófextur
- Grey = Grár, Grá, Grátt, Apalgrár, Apalgrá, Apalgrátt, Steingrá, Steingrár, Steingrátt
- Glass-eyed = Hringeygur, Hringeyg, Hringeygt, Glaseygur, Glaseygt, Glaseyg, Vagl
- Light black = Móbrún, Móbrúnt, Móbrúnn, Mó-
- Liver = Sót-
- Leg stripes = Kengálótt, Kengálóttur
- Pinto = Skjótt, Skjóttur
- Palomino = Leirljós, Ljósa-
- Roan = Litförótt, Litföróttur
- Smoky black = Glóbrúnt, Glóbrúnn, Glóbrúnt, Móbrúnt, Móbrún, Móbrúnn
- Silver = Vindótt, Vindóttur, Vindfext, Vind-
- Splash white = Slettuskjótt, Slettuskjóttur
- Snip = Nösótt, Nösóttur
- Socks = Sokkótt, Sokkóttur
- Smutty = Kolóttur
- Star = Stjörnóttur, Stjörnótt
- Thin blaze = Breiðblesóttur, Breiðblesótt, Halastjörnóttur, Halastjörnótt
- White = Hvítur, Hvít, Hvítt
- With eel, stripe on it’s back = Með ál
- Yellow dun = Bleik, Bleikur, Fífilbleik, Fífilbleikur
These descriptions can be combined to show the whole combination of colors in an Iceland horse. For example, if a horse is described as rauðlit/förótt/glófext/skjóttur/hringeygur, it would be chestnut/roan/flaxen/tovero/with the white sclera.
**We are also discovering new color coat patern like “ýruskjóttur”
Icelandic Horse Gaits
Iceland horse maybe 3,4, or 5 gaited, the majority having 4 gaits. The walk, trot, and canter are common to every breed of horse. The Icelandics’ fourth gait, the tolt, is part of what makes the Icelandic horse so special. The tolt is a natural 4 beat gait that is extremely smooth to ride, but very powerful. The footfall is the same as at the walk, but much faster. A good tolt is almost as fast as a gallop. The fifth gait is called the flying pace and is a two-beat lateral gait where the horse moves the front and hindfoot on the same side at the same time. Speeds of up to 45 km/hr have been recorded in the flying pace.
History of the Icelandic Horses
Iceland horses were brought to Iceland by the first Viking settlers during the years 874 – 930. Their boats were small, and only a few horses, the very best, were brought along. At the early stage, the import of farm animals was forbidden in the country. Because of this, the original Nordic horse remained as a preserved purebred in Iceland throughout the centuries.
They arrived with families and animals in town, ready to farm, fish, fight with each other, and form a republic. For those early settlers, the horse was indispensable. He plowed the fields, carried cargo and crops, forded glacial rivers and picked his surefooted way over treacherous mountain trails, sharing the often short and brutish life of his master as an equal partner and beloved friend. That partnership, between man and horse, forged over a thousand years ago, endures today with a love and loyalty that is hard to describe.
Exporting the Icelandic Viking horses
Icelandic horses are now popular all over the world and horse enthusiasts are eager to have this beautiful Viking horse to there collection. There are Iceland horse farms in many countries now, it is starting to be a big business to breed this strong horse not only for Icelander also for other horse breeders. If you want to know more about buying horses in Iceland you can read this article here “Icelandic Horses for Sale“