“Like a Different Breed:” Icelandic Horses Isolated for 60 Years Skip to content
Photo: A screenshot from Vísir. The unique herd from Landbrot in the Skaftafell region.

“Like a Different Breed:” Icelandic Horses Isolated for 60 Years

Experts are conducting genetic research on a herd of horses that has been in isolation for 60 years in Southeast Iceland, Vísir reports. The horses are from the Skaftafell region and have never set foot (or rather hoof) in a stable. Their hooves have never been trimmed, their teeth have never been floated, and they have never been dewormed. The herd is nevertheless in great health, though its members are significantly smaller than the average Icelandic horse.

“They are small, the kinship has caused them to become very small and few offspring are born even though there is a stallion in the herd; one foal was born last year, none this year,” stated Kristinn Guðnason. The eight horses have been transported to Kristinn’s farm, near Hella, to be researched by specialists. Kristinn says he has not seen horses like these before, which he calls self-bred. Researchers hope to determine whether the horses are genetically distinct from the Icelandic horse breed.

Calmer temperament than other Icelandic horses

It’s not only the horses’ appearance that differs from the average Icelandic horse but also their spirit. “It seems their temperament is such that they take very well to a new environment. They are so good-natured and not afraid of anything, they might have that superiority over our bred horses, this calm demeanour, this calm that the people of Skaftafell also have,” Kristinn says, referencing how the region’s inhabitants have taken eruptions and other natural disasters in stride.

Hooves trimmed by lava

The herd has not received the veterinary care or grooming that Icelandic horses normally enjoy. Their hooves, for example, have never been trimmed, but it has not caused any issues. “They have never been tripped but the lava saw to that. You can see the hooves on these horses, it’s as if they’ve been kempt by the best horseshoers.”

Óðinn Örn Jóhannsson, an inspector from the Food and Veterinary Association, examined the horses earlier this week and gave them his highest grade. “They are of course much smaller but their physical constitution and condition is good. They are like another animal breed or horse breed, there’s a big difference,” Óðinn stated.

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