The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. Icelandic horses weigh between 330 and 380 kg and stand an average of 13 and 14 hands (132 and 142 cm) high. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. The breed is still used for traditional sheepherding work in its native country, as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.
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Developed from ponies taken to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records throughout Icelandic history; the first reference to a named horse appears in the 12th century. Horses were venerated in Norse mythology, a custom brought to Iceland by the country’s earliest settlers. Selective breeding over the centuries has developed the breed into its current form. Natural selection has also played a role, as the harsh Icelandic climate eliminated many horses through cold and starvation. In the 1780s, much of the breed was wiped out in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption at Laki.