dark brown horse from the side running with green in the background

Origin: Norway
Native name: Dølahest
Withers height: 145-155 cm
Colour: Black, brown, chestnut, grey, buckskin, dun, palomino. May have white markings.
Type: Middle sized working horse
Number of breeding mares in Norway, 2018: 238




Not at Risk Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct



The Dole horse originated in Gudbrandsdalen and Eastern Norway in general. The breed was established in 1857 and arose in the middle of the 19th century when the need arose to breed a horse especially suitable for work in agriculture and forestry and for the transport system. The Dole horse is today used as a sports and leisure horse for driving and riding, but is also used as a workhorse in agriculture and forestry. It is known for being strongly built, it has good usability and a calm and good temperament. The Dole horse is a healthy, functional, a medium-heavy horse with good working abilities.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Food (LMD) is the highest authority for all livestock breeding in Norway. The Norwegian Genetic Resource Center was established in 2006 as an advisory and executive body to LMD. The Norwegian Genetic Resource Center coordinates competence and activities within the conservation and use of national genetic resources, and has the task of monitoring status and contributing to the efficient management of the genetic resources in livestock, useful plants and forest trees in Norway. The responsibility for this work on horses is assigned to the Norwegian Horse Center, which has an advisory and executive function for the breeding organizations. The Norwegian Horse Center reports to LMD, and in addition, annual key figures to the Norwegian Genetic Resource Center.

Brun häst ser rakt mot åskådaren i grönt landskap
Image: NIBIO

In 2011, an action plan was drawn up for national horse breeds which included Dole horse, Fjord horse and Nordland /Lyng horse. The purpose of the action plan was to structure and give direction to the measures that were considered necessary to ensure the management of the breeds. In 2016, LMD established a professional committee for the national horse breeds that will advise LMD on the work with the national horse breeds based on the current action plan for national horse breeds. The subject committee consists of representatives from the breeding organizations, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the Norwegian Genetic Resource Center and the Norwegian Horse Center.

The National breeding association for Dole horse was founded in 1947, and is the responsible breeding organization for the breed. Registration and pedigree registration of Dole horse is performed by the Norwegian Horse Center by agreement with the National breeding association for Dole horse. The Norwegian Horse Center also functions as the National Center for Dole Horses and performs tasks for the breed by appointment. There are about 3,800 Dole horses in Norway today.

In breeding of Dole horses, it is open to limited opportunities to use animals of other breeds in the conservation work. It is permitted to cover type-approved cold-blooded stallion mares with breeding-approved Dole stallions and have the offspring registered as a Dole horse. Stallions of northern Swedish breed can be presented for selection, if they are selected they can with a limited quota be used on Dole mares.


Research activities that focus on characterizing the breed is ongoing. Characterization is an important part of the conservation work as this provides information about whether the breeds have unique characteristics we may need in the future. Since the breed is part of our cultural heritage, it is also important to ensure historical knowledge about its development and significance for humans, as by securing knowledge about the breed we can also ensure knowledge about our own societal development.

Tre hästar i en grön omgvning går lugnt mot åskådaren
Image: NIBIO



Based on a systematic study carried out by NordGen, up to 2019, 15 easily accessible studies were included that include Dole horses. Most of the studies focused on molecular genetic diversity within the Dole horse and a selection of other breeds. These are studies that look at the genetic structure of the Norwegian horse breeds, relationships between Norwegian and Mongolian horse breeds, breed delimitation, polymorphism in the myostatin gene and athletic performance, genetic kinship to Estonian horse breeds and the occurrence of mutation in the DMRT3 gene associated with specific gaits as tölt known from the Icelandic horse. Several other studies have examined genetic variation based on pedigree information. These include the development and breeding of Dole horses, the use of probability for the origin of genes to investigate genetic variation, pedigree structure, the use of kinship matrices to avoid inbreeding, and a cluster analysis based on kinship data. A few studies have examined phenotypic traits, while no studies have been made that characterize the breed’s socio-cultural significance. Therefore, there is still a need to characterize the Dole horse, both in the form of in-depth molecular genetic studies, but also in relation to phenotypic characteristics, genetic variation and socio-cultural significance. This type of knowledge will make us stronger in the conservation work.

Date published: February 15, 2021

Images: NIBIO, Norsk hestesenter


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