08 Feb

The Fjord Pony: Norway’s Modern Vikings

After my last article about the Icelandic pony, I figured I should make one about my second favorite—the hardy Fjord pony.

As different to the Icelandic as chalk and cheese, they only share their size and hardiness. The Fjord is something special indeed. Everybody knows the sight of a Fjord, with their round barrelled bellies, the traditional bay dun colouring, and the stand-up light coloured mane with the black strip through the middle following the dun dorsal… Until recently, I didn’t know that the Fjords mane had to be carefully cut to keep it upright! These distinguishable features also give it an incredible resemblance to the horses that seem to be the bridge to a world before the domestication of these wonderful animals—the Przewalski’s and the Tarpan.

These versatile little ponies have roots to many thousands of years ago, primarily to the Viking ages, where burial runes show pictures of horses with stocky statures, round bodies and upright manes, that could only be the Fjord horse. These Vikings took their hardy ponies everywhere with them, using them for travel, for war, and even meat when needed, giving the Vikings their edge as they conquered most of the world. These ponies were often left behind, or war stallions would catch native mares, and from that came the Icelandic pony, the Highlands, and the Welsh ponies. In fact, if the Vikings raided there, the native breeds will most likely carry a bit of Norway with them.

The funny little thing about Norwegian FJords that I—as an equine genetics lover—appreciate is that they come almost exclusively in bay dun. Other colours do exist – grulla (black dun), red dun, even dunalino (palomino dun) and dunskin (buckskin with dun), however, double creams such as cremello, perlino and smokey cream are very much frowned upon, so it’s unusual to find dunalinos or dunskins in the breed. The dun gene is what gives them that lighter coloured coat and the dorsal stripe along the back, running through the mane and tail! Just another reason I love them (plus, dun is by far my favourite gene – give me a grulla any day!) Although the fjords have their own name for these colours, such as Brunnblakk for bay dun, gra for grulla, etc.

Known as a draft pony, one thing I’ve noticed about these tough little Norwegians is that they are far from the feather-footed heavy draft horses, and you can often see them competing in dressage, jumping, showing and even cross country at lower levels. Unfortunately, I’ve never—in my short time here—met a particularly athletic one that was able to take it further to competitive levels. With strong legs, good personalities, and straight paces, they can excel in anything given a little practice!

Overall, I love these tough, hardy little ponies. The colour, the personality, and just the overall kindness of these ponies is incredible, and if I had to choose between an Icelandic and a Fjord… Well, Norway wins I’m afraid.

As they say in Norway, Tusen Takk! (A thousand thanks!) Photo can be found here

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