Did Vikings Ride Horses? (Interesting Facts)

Horses have been around for over 30 million years.

They are the only animal that is domesticated and ridden by humans. Vikings too? It’s a question that has come up time and time again – did Vikings ride horses?

The answer is yes, they most certainly did! There are many Viking references to equines in the Sagas, poems, tales, etcetera.

These include stories of heroic deeds involving these animals as well as their everyday use for transport or work purposes.

Horses were used in battle during times when cavalry was needed on the battlefields- this would be before the widespread use of firearms.

And here are the types of horses that they probably used back in the day.

Pack and farm horses

These ones need to be tough. They need to be strong, able to work in many conditions, and do not need much food or rest.

The breeds that are used for this kind of work are different than the other in other places that look better but do not work as hard.

War horses

The Vikings probably didn’t carry a lot of cavalry on their ships. They used bigger ships with flat flooring on the bottom of them.

The breeds that are good for this are from Norway, from where they live in areas with lots of uneven footing and rough terrain.

What did the Vikings do with their horses?

Horses can walk, trot and gallop. They were not good for the Norsemen in Medieval Europe because they could not do what they needed to do when they were in bad weather or on difficult terrain.

They also need to be sturdy and able to persevere, but the rider will also need something else.

In the old days, when people explored, they rode horses. The problem is that the animals were not easy to ride. They made our limbs hurt.

If we went on a long journey, many would be too sore to go on.

There was a horse called the Iceland Horse that helped us with this problem because it was easier to ride and at times could carry heavy things like equipment or food for a long time

Scientific evidence

A thousand years ago is a long time. It can be difficult to know exactly what happened in the past.

But the prestigious Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research has said that they found a way to know more about horses a thousand years ago.

They believe that most likely, Northmen were responsible for breeding Ambling Horses.

A breed in Medieval England, who knew how to walk, trot or gallop, developed a genetic mutation that enabled them to develop two different gaits- the ability to amble or pace. This involves one gene, called the gait-keeper.

The ride on the horse that moves slowly is like sitting in a comfortable seat, just like how people sit on elephants. It is also like when someone sits behind a bike driver.

The slow movement makes it easier for someone to ride over rough terrain for long distances. This was what the Norsemen needed because they rode horses all the time.

A group of scientists found that the mutation was in two horses from England between 850 AD and 900 AD.

All Icelandic breeds in the 9th to 11th centuries had the gait-keeper gene. 10 out of 13 specimens showed that gene.

This suggests that it is a genetic mutation that was developed in Medieval England and then spread throughout the Icelandic Pony population which lived in a location surrounded by seas, mountains, and fjords.

It is hard to tell whether the horses were bred to be good for riding. It is likely that they were because they can still do other things too.

But it’s possible that there are more horses like them somewhere else, too. That is less likely because traits like this haven’t been found in other places around then.

FAQ’s

Did Vikings ride horses in battle?

Vikings did not primarily use the animal for battles, but they did use them for travel and draft work.

What breed of horse did Vikings ride?

The Viking’s original horses were the Icelandic breed.

Did Vikings bring horses to America?

Some people think that at one time, some Vikings went to Asia across the land bridge connecting Alaska with Siberia. One of the most fascinating discoveries was the Yukon horse (Equus lambei).

Yukon horse is absolute evidence that the horse evolved to its modern form on North America Continent.

Did Vikings have cavalry?

Yes, Vikings had cavalry.

They used archery, siege weapons, and cavalry to defeat their enemies. Cavalry was different than archery because the Vikings would approach their enemies with boats that were too small to carry anything else but themselves.

How did Vikings transport horses?

Vikings usually used boats to transport the animals.

These boats can have oars or sails for power. They would sometimes load the boat on the beach and then take it off with a ramp. One time, there was a boat that had 1,500 horses in it and they were going to attack Alexandria.

Where did the Vikings get horses?

The animals have existed in Iceland since 870 BC. The first ones that could move in a different way appeared in medieval England and then were taken to Iceland by the Vikings.

No European or Asian horse from this time period carrying the mutation for these gaits was found.

Conclusion

Many types of horses have developed ambling gait. But Icelandic breeds were some of the first to develop it. They are also known as “pioneer breeds.”

The Vikings might have appreciated them too because they liked Iceland Ponies.

The Norwegian Fjord, Danish Jutland, and Shetland ones had many good qualities too, but Iceland Ponies introduced a pattern that is still appreciated by riders all over the world.