The Døle Horse is the largest of the four
native breeds of horses in Norway. This horse is an all around
breed also known as Gudbrandsdals Horse or the East Country
Horse denoting the area in Norway where the breed was originally
The Døle Horse
breed is an old breed. In his writings from the 1530's, Archbishop
Olaus Magnus mentioned the breed. As early as the 1850's the
breed type was established.
The first official horse show was held
by the Ministry of Agriculture in Lillehammer in 1857. These
stallion shows are still held in the Lillehammer area to this day
and are still held by the Ministry of Agriculture. The shows held
today are three-day events.
In Norway, only stallions
that are "prized" at an official horse show can be
used for breeding. If the stallion is not prized, the offspring
cannot be registered, unless home bred under certain rules of
On the first day of the show, all
the stallions' legs are x-rayed. The x-rays are examined to insure
proper bone structure and bone mass. They are also measured for
height and they are weighed. The stallions are judged on their
abilities to perform in the area of driving and they are shown
at halter. In Norway, they do not use halters. They show the stallions
with a bridle. The horse's temperament is also judged. While the
show is going on, there are about 30-40 3-year old and 10-15 4-year
old stallions around the outside of the arena, waiting their turn.
Stallions who were not prized as a 3-year old may be shown as a
4-year old. The stallions enter the arena one at a time. They enter
the arena at one end and exit at the other. Unlike here, in the
USA, where there is only one judge; in Norway there are 4 judges.
All of the judges are judging the same stallion at the same time.
It takes about 15 minutes per horse.
Only stallions who excel
in all these areas are "prized". Four-year old prized
stallions are then sent to a testing facility for a month. There
they are tested on their abilities in riding, driving, and log
hauling. All of the testing is done by the same person who is
a qualified riding and driving instructor. A stallion who does
not pass this round of testing loses his certification. Stallions
are then retested at 6 and 9 years of age. Again, if they do
not pass, they lose their certification. This gives a certain
amount of control over pedigree and insures the quality of breeding
The first stud book was published in 1902,
but many of the pedigrees can be traced back to about 1865.
All of the registered Døle Horses are blood
typed and DNA tested. This was started in the 1980's. All of the
horses who are more than 4 years of age have a microchip.
The Døle horse was primarily used for farming
or logging. They were also used by their owners to pull light carts
or carriages. This created a desire to have a horse that carried
itself in a refined manner. It's confirmation and disposition are
a result of this.
The Døle continues to be appreciated for
the versatility and distinctive character of breed. In Norway,
Døle and Fjord horses are still used in forestry for thinning out
and transporting logs over short distances. They cause less damage
to the forest floor and require narrower roads in general than
tractors and logging rigs.
In recent years there has been a renewed
interest in the traditional use of the Døle horse. The Døle horse
is often found in riding stables and riding schools. They are a
versatile horse breed. They can be used for riding and driving
as a sport. The Døle horse is often used in riding classes for
people with disabilities and for lower classes of dressage or jumping.
The Døle horse is often used in these activities for up to 20 years.
The Døle horse population as of the year
2000 was about 4,000. About 175 foals were registered that year.
Black, bay, chestnut, and sorrel are the
predominate colors, but there are also duns, dapple grey, and palominos.
White is considered an undesirable color for a Døle horse. Markings
such as a blaze, star, or socks are frequently seen. There should
be a profusion of mane and tail. Spotted or paint coloration was
last seen in the breed in the 1970's. No spotted stallion was ever
prized. The coloration was carried in the mares and very few were
bred. It was eventually bred out.
Norway has a unique tradition when it comes
to their Døle horses. For more than 130 years, on or about June
15 to September 1, groups of mares are released on the free range
mountain pastures with studs chosen by the breed association. The
mares are grouped according to which stud the owner wants the mare
Because the mares are bred in these pastures,
they foal later than they do here in the US. There are many times
when the mares foal while in the mountains. The horse owners are
not worried about predators because of the stud's ability to defend
his herd. The last case was in 1998. A stud named Haugvar protected
his herd from an attacking bear. he was found the next day with
deep gashes in his rump and hind legs, very weak, and having a
hard time breathing. After close examination, they found his wind
pipe was restricted by bear fur he had pulled from the animal during
Yearling and 2-year old stallions are also
released in summer pastures. This teaches them good social behavior.
It also helps them develop their agility and coordination. Grazing
in these pastures, they do not get fat, but they do develop muscle.
The first Døle horse was brought to the
US by a Norwegian lady named Marte, who grew up near Brumundal
Norway. When she married a man, Robert, from Doyon, North Dakota,
she couldn't leave her sorrel gelding, Silver (Vollaug Silver
N-96-2165) behind. Silver had been her constant companion for the
last two years they were in Norway. They had done many things together,
including watching over a herd of about 200 cows in one of the
mountain pastures. They had to keep the cows and bulls in their
area. There were other milk cow herds about 3 miles away. The only
barrier between them was a river. Marte and Silver took many walks
along that river to make sure everyone was on their own side and
returning them home if they were not. They also had to keep a herd
of reindeer out that tried to move in. Dealing with the reindeer
was at times upsetting for Silver. As Silver and Marte were chasing
the reindeer, they encountered several areas of marshy land. The
reindeer could run through them, but Silver had to go around.
the US, Silver and Marte made their home at Tangle Tree Ranch
near Doyon, ND. After the first winter, Marte and Robert started
taking Silver to shows in the US. The first show was the North
Dakota Horse Classic at the North Dakota Winter Show in 2002.
They showed him in the parade of breeds and were surprised at
the interest the people had in the breed. The most asked question
they got was, "Is the horse a stallion?".
That got the wheels turning and in the spring
of 2003, Bob and Marte imported 3 more Døle horses. One stallion
and 2 mares. This brings the total number of Døle horses in the
western hemisphere to 4. The stallion is black. One of the mares
is bay and the other is a dun. The mares are due to foal at the
end of April and at the beginning of May.
The North Dakota Winter Show isn't the only
place Silver has been. he has been to the Minnesota Horse Expo,
the Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead, MN and the Grand Opening parade
at the Horse Park in Fargo, ND. Silver and the stallion, Svarten
(Skogstad Svarten N-00-2065), svarten is Norwegian for black, have
been to Sod Buster Days at Fort Ransom, ND, Horsefest at Taylor,
ND, and many events held by the North Dakota Draft Horse Association.
For their trip to the North Dakota State Fair, they were accompanied
by the dun mare. Svarten won Reserve Champion.