The rare Faroese horse is slightly smaller than the popular Icelandic horse, with which it is closely related. Similarly to this breed, there are individuals who can have five gaits (walk, trot, tölt, pass, gallop). However, die Faroe Horse is an independent breed, as was proved by blood tests and most recently by a DNA analysis in September 2004.
The ancestors of the Faroese horse were probably brought to the Faroe Islands together with other domestic animals firstly in the 7th century by the Irish monks and secondly later during the land grab by Vikings from the 9th century onwards. It has adapted well to the harsh Faroese nature, as a result the horses are resistant, frugal and hard.
At the turn of the century (from the 19th to the 20th century) there were still many ponies of the original Faroese breed on the islands. Before the Second World War many ponies were exported to Great Britain as pack animals for British coal mines, where they were used like the Shetland ponies. While the rare Faroese horse was exported, other ponies were imported from Iceland and Norway. As a result, the Faroese horse was crossed more and more and its characteristic features gradually disappeared. After that in the 1960s there were only 4-5 specimens left on the Faroe Islands. By 2007 the number of individuals of the Faroese pony had risen to 45. Meanwhile there are about 90 horses.
Faroese horses have a gentle and patient character, but can also tend to be headstrong. In relation to their small size, they are very strong, persistent and sure-footed. The robust and extremely frugal ponies are adapted to the harsh climate of the Faroe Islands, but they live outdoors all year round and brave wind, rain and storms. Their health is good, with a high life expectancy. Faroese horses can have additional gaits such as tölt and passport, but due to the small population they cannot be selected for these, like the Icelandic horse.
Friendly and patient riding horses for children, secondly sure-footed and in addition reliable horses also for adults. Likewise, they are suitable for carriage horses and pack horses, since they can carry heavy loads.
A conservation and breeding program for the rare Faroese horse were initiated by Leivur T. Hansen, after that in 1978 the organization Felagið Føroysk Ross was established. With huge efforts however, the Faroese horse population has now increased to 90 animals, which are declared genetically pure, and consequently it makes them an extremely endangered breed. Their genetic bottleneck was in the 1960s, during which the population was reduced to only four mares and one stallion. The aim is to maintain and develop the breed further. The Faroe pony has since been recognised as a unique breed.
Färöer Pferd — Faroese horse — Faroe Pony — Faeroes pony — Färöerpony — Faeroe Island Horse — Føroyski Hesturin — Føroyska rossið — føroysk ross — føroyski hesturin — Færøsk hest — Féroé
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