The Faroese horse, called "føroyska rossið" in Faroese, has wandered in the rugged landscape of the windswept Faroe Islands for over a thousand years. DNA analysis has shown that the Faroese breed is unique, not found anywhere else in the world.
But not long ago, the Faroese horse was nearly extinct. In 1960, there were only a handful of the beautiful, robust Faroese horses left – a drastic decline from the nearly 800 horses that roamed the islands a century and a half earlier. To prevent the extinction of the Faroes horse, people joined forces around this time and started breeding the one stallion and four mares that were left.
History of the Faroese horse
It is unclear where the Faroese horse originates. Some believe that they came with Irish monks in the 8thcentury, while others believe that settlers from Norway and the British Isles brought them along in the centuries that followed. Between 1850 and 1920, many Faroese horses were sold to Britain. Because of their size and stamina, they were deemed ideal for pulling carts in the British coalmines. Many Faroese took the opportunity to make money and some sold all of their horses.
Characteristics of the Faroese horse
The small, hardy and good-natured Faroese horses were originally used as workhorses throughout centuries. Today, they are mostly used for breeding and horseback riding. Because of their mild temperament, they are considered very suitable for children.
The colours of the harmonious and surefooted Faroese horse are normally brown, chestnut and black. The breed is known for its incredible endurance and ability to carry relatively large weight. The size of the horse varies, but normally ranges between 114 to 124 cm (45 to 49 inches). Because of its height, it should technically be called a pony, but because of its strength, the people of the Faroe Islands typically use ‘horse’ instead. The Faroese horse can be compared to the Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies in Britain.
Horses in the Faroe Islands
The estimated number of horses of all breeds in the Faroes is around 400. The most popular breed in the Faroes is the Icelandic horse. The horse population also includes a small number of Norwegian fjordhester (fjord horses).
Pics: Felagið Føroysk Ross