Icelandic Horses are extremely hardy and athletic, with five natural
gaits: walk, trot, canter, tolt, and pace. Though they are usually
small in stature, they are bred to carry adults long distances over
The Icelandic Horse is Iceland's only native breed. These horses are
the direct descendants of the horses that were taken to Iceland by the
Vikings in the dark ages. The Vikings traveled by sea in narrow boats
with limited space, so only the best horses were selected to make the
The horses brought to Iceland during this period were probably
Norwegian Dole Horses and Celtic Ponies (the ancestor of the British
Exmoor and Shetland).
The Icelandic breed has had no outside influence since 982 AD, when the
Icelandic Parliament passed a law prohibiting the importation of horses
from foreign nations. The law was meant to prevent the introduction of
new diseases, but it also helped contribute to the evolution of a
completely unique breed that has remained unaltered by crossbreeding.
Today the law remains, and Icelandic Horses that leave the country are
not allowed to return.