A Norwegian fjord is a small but strong breed of horse. Ninety percent of Norwegian Fjords are brown dun in color. “Dun” refers to an animal that has dilute coloration with a darker line down the center of the back and faint zebra-like striping on the legs. The other ten percent of Norwegian fjords also have the dun markings but a different base color. This breed also has a distinctly colored mane, with light-colored hair on the edges and darker hair in the center. The mane is typically cut short, with the outside hair cut slightly shorter, so that it will stand up straight and the coloration can be seen.
An adult Norwegian fjord measures 13-14 hands (52-56 inches or 132.1-142.2 cm) tall at the withers (shoulders) and weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds (408.2-544.3 kg).
As prey animals, horses have many features that help to protect them.
- Their large eyes are set on the side of their heads so they can see nearly all the way around their bodies.
- Their ears swivel separately so they can determine the exact location of a sound.
- Horses’ strong legs enable them to run very quickly to escape predators.
Other adaptations specific to the Norwegian fjord breed are their muscular bodies that historically have allowed them to pull loads and perform other work on farms, and their agility which helped them to navigate Norway’s rocky hillsides.
The horses at Cosley Zoo are fed hay, a type of grass grown specifically for animal consumption.
Horses have an 11-month gestation period, after which they give birth to one foal (baby horse). Twins are rare and undesirable due to their weakness and smaller size.
Although they can tolerate cold weather fairly well, horses do need shelter from the wind and rain. During the day, the Norwegian fjord shares an outdoor yard with Cosley Zoo’s Shetland pony. Each evening the horses are led into their individual stalls inside the barn to spend the night. They are brought indoors during the day in the case of extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or lightning.
Horses can live to be up to 30 years old, with an average life expectancy of 20-25 years.
Traditionally, Norwegian fjords performed work on Norwegian farms. They have a reputation for their calm and gentle temperament, and for being easy to train. They make good family horses and can be ridden or driven.