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The Norwegian Fjord horse is one of the world's oldest domesticated horse breeds; Norwegian Fjord horses have been ridden for over 4,000 years, and selectively bred for at least 2,000 years. Because the breed has been pure for so long, is closely resembles Przewalski's horse, the only known true wild horse native to Asia, rather than other domesticated horses which have been interbred for various desirable traits. Norwegian Fjord horses were an important part of Viking society, and probably comprised part of the founding stock for breeds like the Icelandic horse, as well as native Celtic ponies in Britain.
True Norwegian Fjord horses are not very common. Export of the horses from Norway is carefully controlled, to ensure that only stock of the highest quality reaches the outside world. The Norwegian Fjord horse is deemed to be an important part of Norwegian culture, and the horse appears on civic crests for many regions of Norway. As a cultural ambassador, the horse is often used to drive visitors to Norway, and riding tourism programs in Norway almost always feature Norwegian Fjord horses.
Technically, the Norwegian Fjord horse should be classified as a pony, as most examples of the Norwegian Fjord breed are under 14.2 hands tall. However, within Norway, they are always referred to as horses, and this naming trend has continued outside of Norway. The horses have a distinct stocky, muscular build which makes them suitable for riding, driving, draft work, and dressage, and some smaller boned Norwegian Fjord horses are also used in jumping. The distinctive upright mane of the Norwegian Fjord is usually trimmed to emphasize the muscular neck of the horse, along with the animal's distinct coloration.
The coat of a Norwegian Fjord horse is dense and creamy in color, with dark markings. Norwegian Fjord horses are classified as duns in color because of their light coats. A red dun will have red markings, while a gray dun will have gray markings, and so forth through the range of colors which also includes white duns, brown duns, and yellow duns. The white dun coat variation has dark markings, while yellow duns, which are extremely rare, have markings which blend closely with the rest of the horse's coat. In all cases, Norwegian Fjord horses have a distinct dark dorsal stripe which runs down the back, along with dark cores to the mane and tail and dark edged ears. In addition, the Norwegian Fjord typically has striped legs and light feathering on the hocks, along with dark or striped hooves.
The Norwegian Fjord horseis beloved in Norway for its gentle disposition, trainability, and durability. The horses can endure a wide range of temperature extremes, and tend to be very good natured and loyal. Although some of their work has been eliminated due to mechanization, some Norwegian farms still keep Norwegian Fjord horses around for field work, riding, and driving.