The basic primitive colors of the Fjord Horse are brown dun, red dun and grey. In addition, white dun and yellow dun are also genuine colors of the breed. Incidentally, the wild horses of Central Asia, the Przewalski, and the Tarpan (the European wild horse) also share the primitive dun coloring. In 1980, at the annual General Meeting of Norges Fjordhestlag (the Norwegian Fjord Horse Society), the general assembly agreed upon and decided that these five colors shall be acknowledged as the genuine and typical colors of the Fjord Horse. A Fjord horse typically has large dark brown eyes. White dun Fjord Horses may have amber eyes. Fjords should not have blue tinted or "glass eyes." Some newborn foals may have light or blue colored eyes when born but darken in a few weeks after birth. As white Fjords with blue eyes (kvit in Norwegian) are not an acceptable color.
The brown dun (brunblakk
in Norwegian) is the most common color. It can be found in lighter or darker shades. The color of the body is pale yellow-brownish and can vary from cream yellow to nearly brown. The darker stripe of hair in the middle of the mane, forelock and tail is black or dark brown. The mane is covered with white hairs on both sides of the midsection as are the forelock and tail. The dorsal stripe is dark brown or distinctly darker than the coat color. The light-colored horses have whiter forelocks and whiter hairs on the mane's outside, called guard hairs. On darker individuals, the guard hairs may also be darker, almost brown. The darker guard hairs are not preferred but the overall quality of the horse must be considered and weighed against that trait if observed.
The red dun's (rødblak
in Norwegian) body-color is pale red-yellowish and can also be seen in lighter or darker shades. In some cases, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a brown and a red dun. On the red duns the darker stripe of hair in the middle of the mane, dorsal stripe and the darker hair in the middle of the tail are red or red brownish and are always darker than the color of the body, but never black. Mane and tail are noticeably light or yellowish. On the lighter shades of red duns, the forelock, mane and tail can be completely white. When they are foaled, the red duns can have light hooves, but the hooves may darken as they grow older.
The grey (grå
in Norwegian) has a body-color which can vary from light silver grey to dark slate grey. The darker stripe of hair in the middle of the mane, dorsal stripe and the darker hair in the middle of the tail are black or darker than the main color. The forelock and muzzle area are darker in contrast to the brown and red duns which mostly have a light forelock and muzzle area. On the darkest individuals, the mane and tail can be very dark. If one had used the same pattern in naming this color as in the naming of the others, "grey" should be called "black dun," but this term has never been used.
Uls or White Dun
The white dun (ulsblakk
in Norwegian) has the color of the body that is almost white or yellowish white. The darker stripe of hair in the middle of the mane, dorsal stripe and the darker hair in the middle of the tail are black. Mane and tail have a lighter shade than the body. White duns may have amber eyes.
The yellow dun (gulblakk
in Norwegian) is the rarest of the Fjord Horse colors. It has the color of the body that is yellowish white. The darker stripe of hair in the middle of the mane, dorsal stripe and the darker hair in the middle of the tail are darker yellowish than the color of the body. The forelock and the middle of the tail can be completely white; and, on such individuals, the dorsal stripe may also be indistinct.
Compare the colors:
Photo by Stefan Vorkoetter
Here are the five Fjord colors side by side. First, the front view.
Then, the rear view.
Photo by Stefan Vorkoetter
Njål Mark - Primitive markings
Of great importance in the description and identification of a Fjord Horse are the so-called primitive markings. These are the dark mid-section in the forelock, mane and tail, dorsal stripe and zebra stripes (the dark horizontal stripes on the legs, especially on the front legs). Some individuals can also have one or more dark stripes across the withers (grep or shoulder cross). This last marking is very seldom seen. Some individuals can have small brown spots on their body, for instance on their thigh (gaskin) or cheek. This is called Njåls-merke
, or the mark of Njål, after the founding father of the modern Fjord Horse. The stallion Njål (No. 166) was foaled in 1891 and had such spots on his cheeks.
The color of these markings differs according to the main body color. On red and yellow dun horses with a monochrome forelock, mane and tail, the dorsal stripe can be indistinct; and they may not have the zebra stripes at all. On exceptionally light shades of brown dun, the zebra stripes can be very weak or missing. The zebra stripes have a similar coloring as the other primitive markings. They are most prominent in the horse's summer coat. Foals lack zebra stripes when they are foaled, but the stripes may appear by the first shedding of the foal-coat. The stripes are most prominent and in greatest numbers on the front legs. In some cases, the zebra stripes are lacking on the grey and white duns. On these, the legs can be of the same color as the body, or they can be dark up to and including the knee and the hock.
Zebra Stripes - Other markings
White or flesh-colored markings are very seldom seen on the Fjord Horse; but a white star on the forehead has existed as far back as we have written records. The white markings are inherited as a recessive gene and that both parents must have these genes for the offspring to exhibit visible markings. A small white star is only acceptable on mares and geldings. The size of a white star on the forehead greater than the size of a US quarter is discouraged, however the overall quality of the horse must be considered when a star is observed. The trait should be noted and reported on the horse's registration. Flesh-colored marks are accepted on the penis of stallions. Both light and dark soles are accepted, but light hooves are only acceptable on red duns and yellow duns. Faint white stripes may appear on the hooves of older Fjords and are not to be confused with true white markings.