Icelandic horses: for vikings, farmers and travelers alike -


Icelandic horses rub their heads together on a snowy field in south Iceland.

Icelandic horses: for vikings, farmers and travelers alike

Meet Iceland’s enchanting horses and discover the gentle nature of this hardy breed.
Icelandic horses touching noses on a snow-covered field near Þríhyrningur.
Icelandic horses are a beautiful breed. Photo by Brent Darby.

Icelandic horses – transported by Vikings

Icelandic horses are one of the oldest breeds of horse on the globe. In fact, they are the closest connection we have to the very first domesticated horses. They are believed to have been transported to Iceland by Vikings over a thousand years ago. Surprisingly, for at least nine centuries, no other horses have been brought to Iceland. As a result, there is only one type of horse living in Iceland. This means that the Icelandic horse is one of the purest and healthiest breeds in the world.

The Icelandic horse has played an important role in the life of Icelanders for centuries. What’s more, its presence is well documented in Norse mythology. Many horses are featured in these mythical stories. The historic importance of these Norse myths is still seen today. In fact, many riding clubs bear the names of mythical horses.

The Vikings treated their horses with the utmost respect. These brave creatures played a prominent part in Viking warfare. Often, a warrior killed in battle was buried alongside his mount.

Hard workers with a winter coat

For centuries, the Icelandic horse was the only transportation method. As a result, horses worked hard carrying materials, food, people and mail across the rugged countryside.

The Icelandic horse is an inherently hardy breed and lives outside all the year round. They have impressive strength and the ability to endure all weather. They can traverse rivers, lava fields, steep mountainous terrain and even glaciers.

Tölt – what is it, anyway?

In more recent times, the role of the Icelandic horse has changed. Now, these unique animals are best known for their surefootedness, stamina and good nature, making them the perfect partner for riding and exploring the Icelandic environment. The eye-catching beauty of the breed is unmistakable with their varied colourings from smoky black, to yellow dun, and, of course their unique movement or gait know as the “tölt.”

The tölt is a natural four-beat-gait that is extremely smooth to ride but also extremely powerful. The fifth gait is the flying pace. It is is a fast, high speed gait where the horse moves the front and hind foot on the same side at the same time. This is an exhilarating ride unique to an authentic Icelandic horse.

Riding excursions are available to both novice and experienced riders. To book your Icelandic horse expedition contact the Hotel Rangá reception .

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