Last updated: February 7, 2023
Once upon a time, in the rugged lands of the Vikings, horses were more than just animals. They were symbols of strength, endurance, and courage, inspiring awe and reverence among the people of Scandinavia.
Horses were trusty companions to the Vikings, carrying them into battle, plowing fields, and transporting goods across the land. From the northern reaches of the fjords to the rolling hills of the countryside, the horses of the Viking Era left an indelible mark on the history and culture of the Norse people.
The Viking Era, lasting from 793 to 1066 AD, was a time of great exploration, expansion, and conquest for the Scandinavian people. This blog post will explore the role of horses in Viking society, the different breeds of horses used by the Vikings, the training and care of their horses, and the legacy of Viking horses.
The significance of horses in the Viking society
Horses played a significant role in Viking society, serving as both a practical necessity and a symbol of status and power. As the Vikings expanded their territories through exploration and conquest, horses provided a means of transportation, allowing them to traverse the rugged terrain of Scandinavia and beyond.
In addition to transportation, horses also played a crucial role in agriculture and commerce, pulling plows and carts and facilitating the trade of goods. Horses also served as indispensable companions in warfare, carrying Viking warriors into battle and providing a strategic advantage on the battlefield.
In addition to their practical uses, horses were also valued for their beauty and grace. Horsemanship was a highly regarded skill among the Vikings, and owning horses symbolized wealth and status. Horse gear, such as saddles and bridles, was carefully crafted and often adorned with intricate designs, reflecting the importance of horses in Viking society.
Viking horses were practical uses and played a role in the cultural and artistic aspects of Viking life. Horses were depicted in their artwork and were revered in their mythology and religion. The Vikings’ deep connection with horses is evident in their daily life, where they played a significant role in their society.
Overall, horses played a central role in the daily life and culture of the Vikings, serving as both practical tools and symbols of status and power. Their strength and endurance made them essential for the Viking society, and their legacy continues to be felt in modern-day horse breeding and horsemanship.
Viking horses in warfare
Vikings are best known as a group of seafaring warriors. However, there is evidence that the Vikings used horses in battles. Historical accounts from the time and archaeological findings suggest that horses played a significant role in Viking warfare.
For example, contemporary accounts from chroniclers such as the 10th-century historian Adam of Bremen describe the use of horses by the Vikings in battle. There are also descriptions of the specialized equipment that the Vikings developed for use in battle, such as stirrups and specialized saddles, which mounted warriors would have used.
Archaeological evidence provides additional support for the use of horses in Viking warfare. Burial sites contain the remains of horses buried alongside those of warriors, suggesting that horses were highly valued by the Vikings and considered important components of their military.
The sight of a mounted Viking warrior was a fearsome one, and their horsemanship skills were a source of pride and prestige in their society. Horses also played a role in the logistics of Viking warfare, serving as beasts of burden to transport equipment and supplies.
While there is little direct evidence of the Vikings using horses in battle, the historical accounts and archaeological findings suggest that horses were indeed used in this way and played a significant role in Viking warfare.
Horse breeds used by the Vikings
The breed of horses used by the Vikings is not well documented and is a subject of ongoing historical and archaeological research. However, based on available evidence, it is believed that the Vikings primarily used horses of Scandinavian origin, including the Fjord horse and the Jutland horse.
The Fjord horse is a small, sturdy breed of horse known for its strength and agility. It is believed to be one of the oldest horse breeds in the world and is well-adapted to the harsh climates of Scandinavia.
The Vikings used the Fjord horse for transportation and as a workhorse, and its compact size would have made it well-suited for use in battle. The Jutland horse was another breed of horse used by the Vikings.
It was a larger breed that was prized for its strength and endurance, making it ideal for long-distance travel. The Jutland horse was used for transportation and agricultural work.
Vikings also used the Icelandic horse breed. The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse that is believed to have been brought to Iceland by the Vikings during the island’s settlement in the 9th and 10th centuries.
These horses were used for transportation, farming, and other daily activities, as well as in battle. The breed is known for its strength, endurance, and versatility, which made it an ideal horse for the Vikings.
The breed is still present in Iceland today and is considered a national treasure, known for its unique gait and character. In addition to these breeds, the Vikings may have also used horses of other origins, such as those obtained through trade or capture in their raids and conquests.
In conclusion, while the exact horse breeds used by the Vikings is not well documented, it is believed that they primarily used horses of Scandinavian origin, including the Fjord horse and the Jutland horse, and horses of other origins obtained through trade or capture.
Viking battle horse breeds
The Vikings were known for their sea raids and attacks, and it is unlikely that they traveled with large warhorses. Transporting horses over long distances was a major challenge and required a lot of resources, such as space and food.
This means that they would have had to find horses at their destination or use smaller, more compact horses that could be transported more easily. The Vikings were known for their cunning and resourcefulness, and they found ways to overcome these challenges to succeed in their raids and battles.
So, the specific breed of horses used by the Vikings in battle is not well documented, but it is thought that they utilized horses captured during their raids. In Great Britain, the horses they probably used were the Shire horses, Welsh ponies, or native Irish horses.
These horses were suitable for battle because they were strong and had endurance. They could handle the physical demands of warfare and would have been a valuable asset to the Vikings.
Horses in Viking mythology and religion
Horses were important in the daily lives of the Vikings and held a significant place in their mythology and religion. In Norse mythology, horses are often associated with the gods and were seen as symbols of power and strength.
They were believed to represent a number of qualities, including speed, grace, and endurance. One of the most notable gods associated with horses was Odin, who was said to ride an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir.
In Norse mythology, Sleipnir was considered the fastest horse in the world and represented power and grace. Odin was often depicted riding him through the skies, which was thought to depict his power and wisdom.
Horses were also associated with the afterlife in Norse mythology. They were believed to carry the souls of the dead to the afterlife and signify the journey to the next life. In this way, horses were seen as powerful and mysterious creatures that were connected to the gods and the world beyond.
In the Viking religion, horses were often sacrificed to the gods as a mark of honor and gratitude. This was considered a high honor and was seen as a way to show respect to the gods and seek their favor.
Horses were also buried with their owners, sometimes alongside weapons and other items, to symbolize status and wealth. The horse played a significant role in the Viking culture and was revered for its strength, beauty, and versatility. These qualities made the horse an important symbol in their religion, mythology, and daily life.
The horses of the Viking Era were more than just transportation. They were integral to the daily life and culture of the Vikings, serving as indispensable companions in warfare and as primary means of transportation and commerce.
The legacy of Viking horses can be seen in their depiction in art and mythology, as well as in the traits of strength and endurance that continue to be valued in horses today. This tale of strength and endurance serves as a testament to the important role of horses in Viking society.
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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