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Icelandic Horses

Breed Description:

Icelandic Horses are extremely hardy and athletic, with five natural gaits: walk, trot, canter, tolt, and pace. Though they are usually small in stature, they are bred to carry adults long distances over rugged terrain.

The Icelandic Horse is Iceland's only native breed. These horses are the direct descendants of the horses that were taken to Iceland by the Vikings in the dark ages. The Vikings traveled by sea in narrow boats with limited space, so only the best horses were selected to make the journey.

The horses brought to Iceland during this period were probably Norwegian Dole Horses and Celtic Ponies (the ancestor of the British Exmoor and Shetland).

The Icelandic breed has had no outside influence since 982 AD, when the Icelandic Parliament 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 completely unique breed that has remained unaltered by crossbreeding. Today the law remains, and Icelandic Horses that leave the country are not allowed to return.

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