Monday, February 23, 2015

No law banning the import of horses to Iceland until 1882

Catherine Hapka, author of Elska, Horse Diaries, ends her book with "More About the Icelandic Horse."  She states that "Even today, Icelandics are the only breed of horse in Iceland.  In fact, it is forbidden by law to bring horses into the country...This law has been in existence since around the year AD 900...."

Accck!!! I don't know how many times I have read statements like this on farm websites or in magazine articles.   Bjőrnsson and Sveinsson in their 400-plus page book The Icelandic Horse state: 
"As far as is known, importing horses into Iceland was not forbidden until 1882, when a law was passed banning the importation of foreign farm animals.  Outside Iceland, many people seem to believe that Icelanders banned the import of horses in the Commonwealth period, but both historians and specialists in legal history agree that there are no sources to confirm that belief."

The authors go on to explain that horses weren't imported because there was no need and there was decreased ship traffic between Iceland and Europe after the 1200s.  In the 1920s, a Norwegian Fjord stallion was brought to an island off the coast of Reykjavik to breed to some mares but the offspring were not regarded as good enough to continue the experiment.  Both sire and offspring were sent abroad and not brought into Iceland proper.

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