The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse that was developed in Iceland. Even though these horses are small and pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. They are a very hardy and long-lived breed, however due to a few diseases, Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. These are the only breed of horse in Iceland and they are also popular internationally, with sizeable populations existing in Europe and North America.
In Iceland, the Icelandic Horse is still used for traditional farm work, as well as for leisure, showing and racing.
The Icelandic Horse was developed from ponies which were taken to Iceland by Scandinavian settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. Throughout Icelandic history the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records. Selective breeding throughout the centuries gone by has developed the breed into its current form. The harsh Icelandic climate has meant, however, that natural selection has also played a role. A lot of horses were eliminated through cold and starvation and in the 1780s a large proportion of the breed was wiped out in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
In 1904, the first breed society for for the Icelandic Horse was created and today the breed is represented by organizations in 19 different nations, organized under a parent association, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.
On average the Icelandic Horse stands between 13 and 14 hands high and they tend to weigh between 330 and 380 kg. Though they are pony-sized most breeders and breed registries always refer to them as horses.
This breed comes in a variety of coat colors, which include chestnut, dun, bay, black, gray, palomino, pinto and roan. Icelandic Horses have well-proportioned heads, with straight profiles and wide foreheads. They also have short necks, which are muscular and broad at the base. They also have withers that are broad and low, deep chests and muscular shoulders that are slightly sloping. Icelandic Horses also have long backs, broad croups which are short, muscular and slightly sloping. The legs are strong and short, with relatively long cannon bones and short pasterns. The mane and tail are full, with coarse hair, and the tail is set low. The breed is known to be hardy and an easy keeper.
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