Icelandic horses standing in a field, Iceland
© Rodrigo Lourezini/Shutterstoc
Norse horses. Icelandic horses, Iceland
The Icelandic horse is a small, unique breed that arrived alongside the first Norse settlers in this island country sometime between 860 and 935 CE. More than 1,000 years later, they remain purebred thanks to strict regulations prohibiting the importation of horses. And once exported, they can never come back—rules designed to stop the spread of disease.
They have adapted to their chilly surroundings, wrapped up in thick winter coats that they can shed when it warms up in spring. These sturdy animals are also perfectly at home crossing glacial rivers and rough terrain. Icelandic horses come in many colors and it is said by some that their coats reflects their personality. Celebrated in Norse folklore, they have long been seen as a valuable servant and trusted companion. These horses are usually only ridden after they turn 4 years old and these days are mainly used for racing, exhibiting in horse shows, sheep-herding, and leisure activities.