13 Fun Fjord Horse Facts

The Fjord Horse, which is also referred to as the Norwegian Fjord, is a strong breed of horse that is relatively small in stature. Its natural environment may play a role in its stature as it comes from the mountainous regions of Scandinavia. They are agile as a breed, can be used as a light draught horse, and it is considered to be one of the oldest current breeds still existence in the world today.

It is believed that the Fjord Horse as a breed is at least 4,000 years old. Many also considered it to be one of the purest breeds that is still in existence. Interestingly enough, the Norwegian Fjord isn’t native to its region. Researchers believe that this breed migrated to Norway and was domesticated by the local villages at that point. 

Here are some additional Fjord Horse facts that will help you get to know these fascinating horses in a more personal way.

#1. They only come in one color. 

The coat of the Fjord Horse is only dun in color. The breed association for Fjord Horses does recognize five different shades of the dun color, but there are no alternative shades or colors allowed. As a breed, this makes it one of the most consistent-looking horses that there are in the world today.
The rarest shade of dun for the Fjord Horse is the yellow dun, which creates a stunning look with the yellow coat and a white mane and tail. Red, gray and white are also available shading options. 90% of the horses, however, will be the standard brown dun color.

#2. Almost all white marks make a Fjord Horse unsuitable for breeding. 

The only accepted white mark on a Fjord Horse is a white star on the forehead. All other white markings will disqualify the horse from being able to breed within the registry. Even the white star would be disallowed, except for the fact that one of the foundational stallions within the breed had this mark.

Just about every other horse breed allows several more white markings, which is just another reason why the Fjord has such a consistent appearance from creature to creature.

#3. Even the Vikings kept the Fjord Horse as a pure breed. 

Arabians may be the longest bred horse in terms of quality standards in the world today, but the Fjords are not that far behind. Evidence of selective breeding within this breed dates back over 2,000 years. There is even evidence from Viking burial sites that shows crossbreeding with the Fjord was disallowed.

#4. Appearance is a judgement standard for registry acceptance.

One of the qualifying factors for a Fjord to be accepted as a fully recognized horse with all breeding rights and privileges is “mote.” If a horse doesn’t have mote, then it won’t be allowed to breed, even if it meets all other color and size standards. If a Fjord “has mote,” then it has an appearance that is considered to be striking in the mind of the individuals judging the horse to be included within its association.

To put it another way: you can tell it’s a Fjord Horse because it looks like a Fjord, behaves like a Fjord, and works like a Fjord. If these components do not operate in a harmonious way, then it may not meet the established breed standards. 

#5. The primitive markings of the dun gene are very striking on Fjords. 

The Fjord Horse will often have markings that are directly associated with the dun gene with their coat. This includes a mane and tail that are darker than their standard coat. There may be horizontal stripes along the back of the forearms. Some horses even have transverse striping that runs across their withers. 

Pangare traits are also common within this breed, including lighter hair on the muzzle, belly and the inside of the legs. Some horses may have a lighter coat around their eyes as well. Njal marks, which are brown spots along the body or the head, are considered acceptable because one of the Fjord foundation stallions had these markings as well.

#6. Fjords are strong enough to perform heavy work.

Even during World War II, Fjord Horses were used when work was required in mountainous terrain. Their strength makes them suitable for plowing fields, pulling timber, and other heavy farm work. They are sure-footed as a breed, which makes them a good driving and riding horse as well. It is a breed that is even used as a sporting horse, though most events for Fjords are usually combined driving events.

#7. The Fjord Horse is a popular breed for therapeutic purposes.

There are many facets of a cold-blooded personality within the Fjord breed, though there are a number of warm-blood attributes as well. This combination creates a personality within the breed that is consistently calm and mild-mannered. Adding their smaller stature into account, Fjords are often used as a therapeutic horse for those with disabilities or for children who may benefit from experiential therapy.

Fjords are also used extensively at riding schools because of their overall patience and desire to please others.

#8. At one point, crossbreeding almost destroyed the Fjord Horse.

In the 1800s, a number of horse breeds were being improved through crossbreeding. By using horses that were stronger and taller, breeders believed that the Fjord Horse could be similarly improved. It was decided that crossing Fjords with another local breed, called the Dole, it would create the physical results that were desired.

For a few generations, crossbreeding between Fjords and Doles flourished in Norway. Then certain undesirable traits began to be seen in the new horses. Their coloring was quickly becoming unattractive. Their temperaments were becoming quite fierce. By 1907, it was decided that all Dole blood should be removed from the Fjord breed.

#9. All current Fjords have one stallion in their bloodline if their history is traced far enough back. 

A stallion named Njal (who is responsible for the Njal marks or spots that some horses have) was brought into the breeding programs after it was decided to remove Dole influences from the breed. Njal was born in 1891 and lived for about 12 years, with he and his descendants solely responsible for recovering the Fjord breed.

Because of this, Njal is often considered to be the father of the modern Fjord breed. Every living Fjord today will have him as their ancestor if the lineage is traced back far enough.

#10. Some North American breeding associations do not have the same evaluation programs.

The first Fjords began appearing in the United States around 1900. It would not be until the 1950s when foundation stock was imported to establish the breed in North America. There are currently two breed associations serving Canada and the US, called the National Fjord Horse Registry and the Canadian Fjord Horse Registry. Only purebred Fjords are registered with both organizations.

Unlike their counterparts in Norway, Canadian Fjords are not judged through an evaluation program. The US-based association does perform similar evaluations and will do so for their Canadian counterparts, having performed them since 1983 with a panel of international judges.

#11. A horse must obtain a score of 70 to be considered a “very good” horse. 

Fjord Horses are rated on a scale of 0-100 in terms of their conformation and performance. In order for the horse to be rated as a very good example of the breed, a minimum score of 70 is required. If a horse is able to achieve a score of 80 or above, it is classified as a top quality horse.

#12. Fjord Horses have a reputation for longevity and hardiness. 

A horse by the name of Gjest is still highly active, even though he is in his 30s. He is still even active within his local breeding program. Although Fjords typically stand at a maximum of 14.2 hands and may weigh as little as 900 pounds, their hardiness is never questioned.

Their eyes are round and expressive, being well-set on the head. The head itself is flat and broad at the forehead, while the overall profile should be slightly dished. Their placements should convey a flexing image at the neck and shoulder.

#13. Three types of Fjords are recognized in North America. 

Evaluators who look at Fjords in North America have come to recognize three distinctive body styles for this breed: draft, athletic, and all-purpose. Each horse must reflect the breed standards in temperament and appearance no matter which body classification an evaluator may choose to use for a specific horse.

This is then combined with three good gaits, with particular strengths at the trot and canter. This gives the breed a nice cadence, with balance and energy to spare.

These Fjord Horse facts show that this is a versatile breed of horse that is ready for a trail ride, some farm work, or some driving. Ready, willing, and able, this is a horse that is highly competitive, but mild-mannered, and that often makes it seem like the perfect horse.