Icelandic Horse: Icelandic Horses are one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world and are Iceland's only native breed. These horses are the direct descendants of the horses that were brought to Iceland by the Norwegian Vikings around a 1000 years ago.
The Vikings traveled by sea in open narrow boats bringing with them their horses and other livestock. The Icelandic breed has had no infusions of outside blood since 930 AD, when the Icelandic Parliment passed a law prohibiting the importation of horses from foreign nations. The law was meant to prevent the introduction of new diseases, but it also helped contribute to the evolution of a geneticly pure breed that has remained unchanged by crossbreeding. Horses were often considered the most prized possession of a medieval Icelander. Indispensable to warriors, war horses were sometimes buried alongside their fallen riders.
Icelanders also arranged for bloody fights between stallions; these were used for entertainment and to pick the best animals for breeding, and they were described in both literature and official records from the Commonwealth period of 930 to 1262 AD. Icelandic Horses are extremely surefooted and athletic. Though they are usually small in stature the Icelanders never refer to them as ponies. The Icelandic has many roles in Iceland, from the farm to the racetrack, the hardy ponies are used as a means of transport in the rugged volcanic and glacial interior of the island as they can carry adults long distances over jagged, harsh terrain.
The Icelandic is a "five-gaited" breed that stands between 12.3 and 13.2 hands high. Colors are shades of dun, bay, black, palomino, grey and chestnut. The breed is especially popular in western Europe, Scandinavia, and North America. There are about 80,000 Icelandic horses in Iceland and around 100,000 abroad.
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