fjord horse breed

A Comprehensive Guide To The Fjord Horse Breed

The Norwegian Fjord Horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in existence.

With a rich history that spans thousands of years, these remarkable horses have left an indelible mark on the tapestry of equine heritage.

Evidence of horses has been found in Norway from the end of the last ice age.

From their ancient origins in Norway to their enduring contributions to various disciplines, the Fjord Horse has captured the hearts of horse lovers worldwide.

Join us as we delve into their distinctive characteristics, versatile abilities, and stunning appearance. Get ready to be captivated by the magic of the Norwegian Fjord Horse.

The History of the Norwegian Fjord Horse

In the realm of horse history, the Norwegian Fjord Horse reigns as one of the oldest breeds that have withstood the test of time.

Its origins trace back thousands of years, intertwining with the intriguing tale of the Przewalski Horse – the primitive wild wanderer of Asia’s past.

The Fjord’s story begins in western Norway, where more than 4,000 years ago its earliest ancestors were tamed by Norwegian farmers after the ice ace. These noble creatures even galloped fearlessly into battle, ridden by the legendary Vikings and have been used as dfraft horses.

Despite its ancient lineage, Modern Fjord horses are very true to their ancestors and have maintained their purity thanks to meticulous breeding efforts.

This remarkable breed stands as a treasured symbol of Norway’s heritage. It’s cherished for its historical value and countless contributions to the lives of the Norwegian people.

Fjord Horse Characteristics

Fjords are renowned for their remarkable temperaments, embodying traits of gentleness, cooperation, and eagerness to work.

Watch a short video showing their characteristics

Vikki and Regean show off the Norwegian Fjord

With their well-mannered nature, Fjord Horses are a delight to handle and interact with. These equine companions often prove to be perfect partners for young riders and beginners venturing into the equestrian world.

However, their appeal also extends to experienced equestrians who are seeking a dependable and cooperative mount.

Thanks to their calm demeanour, many Fjord Horses are regarded as nearly bombproof! They’re known to instil confidence in riders of all levels.

You truly can’t go wrong with a Norwegian Fjord Horse.

We are lucky enough to have one at Strathorn. His name is Regean and he is a favourite with our riders. He has an amazingly quiet nature, but can turn on the style when need. He jumps, does dressage, and will handle a beginner as easily as an advanced rider. In fact the only issue we ever have with him is when he spots a feed bucket… hold on tight because he’ll go straight for it!

Girl holding a Norwegian Fjord horse

Vikki and Regean the Norwegian Fjord Horse

The Uses and Breeding of Fjord Horses

Fjord Horses have been selectively bred to preserve their exceptional qualities – ensuring the integrity of the breed.

Norwegian Horses excel in both riding and driving disciplines. They gracefully navigate lower-level dressage and cross-country courses, showcasing their ability and willingness to learn.

With their enduring spirit, Fjords make fantastic companions for trail riding, exhibiting both stamina and reliability. Their patient nature and serene temperament also make them ideal choices for riding lessons. They can bring joy and comfort to riders of all abilities.

The Fjord’s adaptability and gentle disposition truly make it a cherished partner in various equestrian pursuits.

Fjord Horse Size

The Norwegian Fjord Horse has a small and compact stature, typically ranging from 13.2 to 14.2 hands in height. Despite this, the Norwegian Fjord is classified as a horse and not a pony – find out the difference here – This is because they are draught animals, i.e used for pulling loads. It’s worth noting that the breed standard doesn’t impose a specific height limit.

Despite their modest size, these equines possess amazing strength and have no trouble carrying adult riders.

With a weight typically falling between 900 and 1,000 pounds, Fjords have plenty of power and capability.

Their compact build doesn’t stop them from being able to shoulder the weight and provide a secure mount for riders of all sizes.

Don’t let their size fool you – Fjord Horses are small in stature but mighty in their carrying capacity.

Fjord Horse Colourings and Markings

The unique appearance of the Norwegian Fjord Horse boasts an unmistakable charm. Every Fjord proudly showcases the iconic dun colour, a signature feature of the breed.

Another important part of their appearance is the striking primitive markings, known as “Njal marks”, which came from one of the foundation sires of the contemporary Fjord Horse.

Prepare to spot dorsal stripes and horizontal markings on the back of their front legs, adding to their distinctive allure. You might also see dark stripes over the withers.

Their mane and tail has a captivating blend of darker blacks and browns, with the centre of the mane and tail adorned in bold black. This creates a striking contrast against the lighter exterior hairs.

Fjords often sport a stylish short-cut mane that stands upright, while many also display lighter-coloured muzzle and belly hair.

Do Norwegian Fjord Horses have Zebra Stripes?

Norwegian Fjord horses do sometimes have zebra stripes – but it not what you immediately imagine when you think Zebra. The Zebra stripes, often found on Dun horses refer to horizontal markings on the horses legs

Zebra stripes on a Norwegian fjord horse

Zebra stripes on a Norwegian Fjord horse legs

Norwegian Fjord Horse Coat Colours

The coats will also delight you, with a variety of shades including:

  • Brown dun
  • Red dun
  • Yellow dun,
  • Grey dun,
  • White dun.
Brown Dun Fjord Horse

Brown Dun Fjord Horse (above)

Red Dun Fjord Horse (above)

Yellow Dun Norwegian Fjord Horse (above)

Grey Dun Norwegian Fjord Horse (above)

White Dun Norwegian Fjord Horse

Fjords are one of the horse breeds that carry the dun gene. The dun gene is what’s knows as a “dilution gene” . It affects the red and black pigments in a horses coat.

The dun gene lightens most of the body while leaving the mane, tail, legs, and dorsal stripe the colour of the base coat color. A dun horse will always have a dark dorsal stripe down the middle of its back.

Common Health and Behavioural Issues

Fjords have a robust and resilient nature, and they typically enjoy good health compared to many other horse breeds. They’re also not known to have any behavioural issues. Still, they are susceptible to certain health concerns:

  • Laminitis: A painful condition affecting the hooves which can cause the rotation of a horse’s coffin bone. Fjords that are overweight or overfed have an elevated risk of developing this condition, emphasizing the importance of proper weight management.
  • Colic: A distressing digestive ailment that poses a potential threat and may require urgent surgery. While Fjords aren’t inherently predisposed to colic, those that are overweight or overfed may be more susceptible.

If you manage your horse’s weight and make sure they have a balanced diet, then your equine pal shouldn’t need to worry about either of these conditions.

Diet and Nutrition

Fjord Horses are known for their easy-keeping nature, requiring minimal amounts of hay and grain. In fact, many Fjords thrive on a diet consisting primarily of quality hay alongside a vitamin and mineral supplement. This gets rid of the need for additional grains.

Bear in mind that some Fjords may start piling on the pounds if they have unrestricted access to lush grass. To manage their weight effectively, these horses can be turned out in a dry lot or don a grazing muzzle while grazing on pasture.

While individual needs may vary, the Fjord breed demonstrates that a little feed goes a long way!


When it comes to grooming, Fjords have relatively straightforward needs.

However, they do develop thick winter coats (because they’re from western Norway). So, regular currying and the use of a shedding blade are key to assist in shedding out during springtime.

To maintain the iconic standing-up-straight style of the breed, their manes will also need regular trimming. Regeans mane is “hogged” meaning it is cut short and sticks up like a mohican. We sometimes clip Regean to give him a dinosaur mane. Check this link out for different types of horse clip

Regean the Fjord with his Dinosaur clip

Fjords greatly appreciate routine grooming sessions and proper hoof care. If you tend to their grooming needs with care and consistency, they can showcase their natural beauty all year long. Plus, you’ll have some great horsey bonding sessions!


Is there a Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry

Yes there is a Norwegian Fjord horse registry in the USA, here is a link to it . There are also a Fjord Horse National Studbook Association of Great Britain, and let’s not forget the Norsk Fjordhestsenter in Norway! The Mecca of Fjord horses!

Are Fjord Horses a rare breed?

Fjord Horses are relatively rare compared to many other horse breeds. In Norway, there are currently an estimated 5,800 Fjords and the global number is around 80,000.

Fjord Horse International has stated that only 15% of Fjord mares are bred annually. Due to this, the breed is unfortunately considered to be endangered.

Are Fjord Horses friendly?

Yes, Norwegian Fjord horses are known to be laid-back, good-natured, and agreeable. They’re kind and gentle, as long as they’re treated in the right way. This makes them a great choice for beginners and children.

They have a calm demeanour which means they don’t spook easily. So, they’re ideal for novice trail riders.

What disciplines can you use Norwegian Fjord Horses for?

Fjords excel in lots of disciplines, including cattle work, western riding, eventing, jumping, vaulting, dressage, and combined driving. They’re also popular for competitive trail riding.

Is the Icelandic horse related to the Norwegian fjord horse?

Yes! they are one of their closest relatives, although the Norwegian Fjord does not have the same gait as the Icelandic Horse.

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