Wednesday, 10 August 2011

D for Dalecarlian Horse (ABC Wednesday)


For ABC Wednesday 

A Dalecarlian horse (Swedish: Dalahäst) is a traditional carved and painted wooden horse from the Swedish province of Dalarna. The earliest references to wooden horses for sale are from 1623. Originally it was a children’s toy and usually unpainted; in the early 19th century it became common to paint it in a single colour, and later also to decorate it in the traditional  kurbits style (a kind of folk art from this part of the country). Today the colourful wooden horse is a symbol not only for Dalarna but for Sweden in general; it is a very typical souvenir for tourists to bring back home.

Dalecarlian horses come in different colours and sometimes with distinguishing features depending on where they are produced. The most common kind is bright red with kurbits style harness.

Mine (above) has the name Mora is painted on the front: that’s the name of the town in Dalarna where it was made and/or bought. I seem to remember I got it from my parents when they had been away on a holiday trip without me (leaving me to stay with my grandparents). The clock (a model of a longcase clock also called a Mora clock) was most likely bought on the same trip, and from my photo album I can date that as coming into my possession at Christmas 1961 (when I was six years old).

However, what inspired me to this blog post was some works of contemporary art that I found recently on an outdoors wall at a hotel/restaurant in town:




This is just so not how we are used to seeing our sturdy carved wooden horses. I found the mix of Dalecarlian horse and ‘Wild West’ quite amusing. But I guess to see the fun of it you really have know the original. Our traditional wooden horses are always standing so very steadily on their four stout legs – there is not even a hint of movement in them. To see them galloping about really messes with the mind!


  1. There's such movement in the first painting that I can imagine it must have been a bit of a shock to the system. I wonder if I can do a posting of any examples of things portrayed in a way that is contrary to the normal way of seeing them? Must have a think.

  2. The mural photos remind me of circus horses. Great movement and colour.

  3. i am amazed you still have it that long, i have nothing at all from my past since I am a get it and give it way in a few years. the horse and clock are beautiful and I really like that wall painting.

  4. Interesting paintings, any explanation for them?
    I like your little wooden horse, things carved from wood always feel so good.

  5. I like the folk art and the sturdy little horse. Wonderful how the artist has taken that into the paintings and the horses break free.

  6. These horse paintings, they look like someone did graffiti all over them, but I think that is the way the artist made them, how interesting. Doe he specialize in paintings that look like graffiti I wonder? Your horse and clock are very loverly. The horse reminds me of the song by Suzanne Vega called "Wooden Horse", about Caspar Hauser. A very haunting ballad. "He came out of the darkness holding one thing...a wooden horse..."

  7. Ginny, I had never heard that song, but I found it on YouTube now and listened to it. How very interesting - it also includes the line "what was wood became alive". I wonder if the artist might actually have had that song in mind when painting these. I don't know anything about the paintings, I just saw them when passing and stopped to take photos.

  8. What a fascinating post. i loved the horse murals - stunning

  9. Those paintings are magnificent!

  10. fascinating! ABC Wednesday brings knowledge from the horse's mouth - so to speak!
    Thanks so much
    Denise ABC Team

  11. I love the paintings but the stylised Dalecarlian horse is such a contrast that left to my own devices I probably wouldn't have made a connection.

  12. I think you've probably gotta be Swedish born and bred to quite "get" it, that's why I felt the post here needed an introduction. (Had my blog been in Swedish, it would have been enough just to post the pictures.)

  13. Beautiful and colorful horses!! Reminded me of our own "Bankura Horses" in terracotta!! standing on stout feet :) and the wall paintings are marvelous more like that of the world famous painter from India "M F Hussain"

  14. my hometown area of Binghamton, NY has 6 carousels of carved orses.
    great post
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  15. Interesting post! We have a few of these in our home and I agree, it is a strange thing to see them portrayed as "real" horses.


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