Icelandic Horse Connection

The Origin and Ancestors of the Icelandic Horse

Do we know for sure where the Icelandic Horses came from? Who their ancestors are?

Maybe not. But here are some guesses:

"It is difficult to trace its origin conclusively, but it is thought that a combination of horses from Norway and the British Isles is the most likely."

"The available steeds were no doubt direct descendants of Celtic pony native to those regions, to which the Icelandic Horse bears a strong resemblance to this day. Smaller size may have been an asset in accommodating as many horses as possible."

"The ancestors of today´s Icelandic horses came from Northern Scandinavia and the British Isles - in particular the Dole Horse of Norway and from Britain the Celtic Pony, the ancestor of the Exmoor and the Shetland. "

"The recently revived Eriskay Pony breed in Scotland is perhaps the closest modern day example of the type of horse that left Scotland for Iceland in those Viking longboats all those years ago. It is fair to say that the Icelandic horse shares some of its genetic history with of our native Scottish breeds particularly the Shetland, Highland and Eriskay with whom they have many characteristics in common."

"The ancestors of the Icelandic horse were small, sturdy and well adapted to the harsh Icelandic climate. They were brought to Iceland in the 9th century by settlers from the north of Britain and western Norway."

"Its closest relatives today are assumed to be the native horse breeds of Scandinavia and horse breeds of the British Isles."

"The icelandic pony is based on stock taken to Iceland by the Vikings when they colonized it between AD 870 and AD 930, and probably included the Fjord pony and a group of ponies from the Lotofen Islands. Later, settlers from Scotland, the Orkneys and Shetland brought their own ponies. These have blended into one breed, but various types and sizes can still be seen."

"The breed is not indigenous, but was brought to Iceland by migrants in disagreement with Norway's reigning King in the 9th Century. These were joined later by settlers from the Western Isles of Scotland who brought with them native ponies of Celtic stock (Highland ponies)."

"The Icelandic horse orginates from Celtic horses taken to Iceland by boat from Norway and Britain in the Ninth Century. The horses have been held isolated on the island with very little import for nearly thousand years. This makes the Icelandic horse one of the oldest breeds in the world and it preserved most of the appearance of the original Celtic horse."

"Vikings brought the ancestors of the modern Icelandic Horse with them on open boats when they settled Iceland late in the 9th century. The horses were of Germanic origin. Some sources believe there was Mongolian influence; that they came to Western Europe via Russia, with potential contributions from Fjords and Tarpans. There is evidence of a breed in Scandinavia and Northern Europe called Ecuus Scandianavicus, which was later crossbred to extinction on the mainland but not on Iceland. Comparison between the Icelandic Horse at the time of the settlement of Iceland and ancient Norwegian and German horses show them to have similar bone structure. It is also speculated that when the Celts from Ireland and Scotland came over they crossbred the horses on Iceland with Shetlands, Connemaras, Exmoors and Highland ponies."

"Some sources claim that at the time of Iceland's settlement there was a breed in Scandinavia and Northern Europe called Equus Scandinavicus. Other sources claim that the Icelandic horse is closely related to the English Exmoor pony."

"The Icelandic Horse is considered to be of Mongolian origin like the Arabian horse, arriving in Iceland via Russia and Norway."

"By: Olafur R. Dyrmundsson/Emma Eythorsdotti: The closest relatives are presumably the Norwegian breeds Fjord Horse and Nordland Pony, as well as the Shetland pony."

"By: Tróndur Leivsson: DNA studies of the Faroese Horse conducted at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in 2004, show the closest relationship with the Icelandic Horse compared to other north-western European pony breeds"

"The breed comparison revealed several potentially interesting SNPs. One of these (Pro258Leu) occurs at a residue that is highly conserved among AMPK genes. In an SNP screening, the variant allele was only found in horse breeds that can be classified as heavy (Belgian) or moderately heavy (North Swedish Trotter, Fjord, and Swedish Warmblood) but not in light horse breeds selected for speed or racing performance (Standardbred, Thoroughbred, and Quarter horse) or in ponies (Icelandic horses and Shetland pony). "

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