The Fjord Horse is considered to be one of the oldest breeds of horse still in existence today. Native to the western mountainous region of Norway, these small but incredibly strong horses have seen quite a lot over the centuries and have been no stranger to hard work and even war. One group that undoubtedly had a strong connection to the Fjord Horse was the Vikings, who used the horse not only for agriculture but also for war. Here we'll take a look at the Fjord Horse's long history, its connections to the Vikings, and where the breed can be found today.
Unfortunately, little is known about how the Fjord Horse arrived in Norway in the first place. Many have speculated that it is connected to horses that existed in Europe, such as the feral Przewalksi Horse or the Tarpan horse from Europe. However, researchers have discovered that the Fjord cannot be descended from the Przewalski as the latter has 66 chromosomes to the 64 of the Fjord and Tarpan. Some researchers speculate that the horse arrived in Norway from the east by way of Sweden or Denmark, where archeological evidence of horses can be dated back to the last Ice Age.
It was probably the Vikings that first domesticated the Fjord Horse, as archeological evidence supports that these animals were domesticated in the Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. Remains of horses found in Viking burial grounds tell us not only that man bred this horse for around two thousand years, but the remains greatly resemble the Fjord Horse of today. This is surprising, considering how much traveling the Vikings did in their day. Since there was a great deal of contact between Norway, Iceland and the British Isles, the Vikings would have certainly taken any other horse breeds that had attributes that they appreciated for breeding with their own Fjord Horses. While some of these other breeds were surely used in the development of the breed, the Fjord Horse of today would certainly be recognizable to the Vikings.
The Fjord Horse was considered to be a versatile, all around horse to the Vikings, as the horses were used not only for war, but as pack animals and almost certainly to assist in sustaining the agriculture. There is also some evidence that the Vikings staged horse fights, which comes to us thanks to some runstone carvings dating back to the Vikings found in Norway, which depict stallions fighting each other. While we don't know for certain, it is possible that the Vikings used these fights to determine the strongest stallions to be used for breeding.