Icelandic Horse

By PetMD Editorial on Dec. 6, 2009

As its name suggests, the Icelandic horse was developed in Iceland, though it was originally brought there by Scandinavian immigrants. This small horse is suited for riding, particularly through the snowy terrain of its homeland.


Personality and Temperament


The Icelandic is a spirited, lively, and energetic horse. In fact, only experienced riders are advised to mount the Icelandic.




The Icelandic requires special care and attention from its owner. It should be housed in a stable and should not be left alone to fend for itself in the cold or forage for its own food.


History and Background


Curiously, the Icelandic horse is not native to Iceland. It was brought there by Scandinavian immigrants in the 9th century. These horses (most probably from Norway and the British Isles) were then bred in isolation until the 1500s -- in other words, no other breed was crossed or mixed with them. And because starvation and freezing was a problem, only the fittest horses were able to survive and adapt to the environment. The result: a sturdy, resilient breed deserving of recognition.

Even today, Icelandic horses are exclusively bred in Iceland and not permitted to leave the country. Its current popular use is still as a riding horse.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health