Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse photo
A smoky black Icelandic horse gelding
Photograph by Paula Jantunen. License: Public Domain.

Icelandic Horse photo
Grey dun icelandic horse
Photograph by Paula Jantunen. License: Public Domain.

Icelandic Horse photo
Grey Icelandic horse
Photograph by Soffía Snæland. Some rights reserved.


Other Names
Icelandic Pony

The typical Icelandic horse is rectangular and compact in shape. It has a large, well defined, proud and alert head and a short, strong neck. Its legs are clean and dry with strong tendons and strong thick hooves. The Icelandic horse has a thick double sided mane and a long tail.

12 to 15 hands

The most common colors are chestnut, black, grey, bay and tobiano. However, Icelandics may be found in more than one hundred color varieties.

The Icelandic is a docile and friendly horse breed. It is quite independent but also hard working and eager to please its owner. It can be ridden for great distances, which it will cover without tiring easily, and can quickly find its way home if let loose. It responds very well to voice commands which is the usual way of controlling it. Icelandics do not usually kick or bite and they are easy to catch and handle. They are self-assured and act well in traffic.

Suitable for
The Icelandic is a riding horse. It is also used for long-distance treks and cross-country. Icelandic horses also compete in jumping, dressage and endurance races.

A health problem known among Icelandic horses is sweet itch. It is caused by an allergy to the saliva of Culicoides midges and affected horses may display itching on the mane and top of the tail. In order to avoid this problem, owners can provide their horses with blankets. In severe cases, it might be necessary to provide the horses with steroids.

The Icelandic is the original horse of the Vikings taken to Iceland in the ninth century and purebred ever since. Before the days of mechanization, the Icelandic was the most important working animal in Iceland as well as the only means of transportation. When the first automobile arrived in Iceland in 1904, the Icelandic became redundant. However, several breed enthusiasts tried to keep the Icelandic breed alive and formed the first breeding association the same year the automobile was introduced. Nowadays, there are around 100,000 Icelandic horses in the world, most of them in Europe, but also in the United States and Canada.

It matures slowly and is generally not completely grown until the age of 6-7. Because of Iceland's geographic isolation the Icelanding horse has remained disease free so far. Icelandics are very healthy horses and it is not uncommon for both females and males to be capable of breeding at an advanced age (25-27 years). They have a long, active lifespan of 25-30 years, although there has been a record of an Icelandic living to 42 in Britain.