Hem > Lantrasdjur > Finnhorse
Finnish name: Suomenhevonen
Other names: Finnhorse, Finnish Universal, Finskt kallblod
Weight: average 535 kg
Height: 130 -148 cm (small horse), 150 – 170 cm (other types)
Colour: majority chestnut, other bay, palomino and black
Type: multipurpose horse, average height, and sturdy conformation: pony, work, trotting, riding
Offspring: 1127 (2020)
Number of breeding females: 1840 (2020)
Not at Risk – Vulnerable – Endangered – Critically Endangered – Extinct
The oldest single horse bone found in Finland is dated to the Bronze Age. According to the latest research, the earliest family roots of the Finnhorse are directed to the east. Over the centuries, the Finnish horse population has been influenced by both east and west (Kantanen & Bläuer 2013; Kvist et al 2019; Sild et al 2019).
The small and resilient horses of the Hakkapeliitta (Finnish cavalrymen during the Thirty Year’s War 1618 to 1648) were already well known, and the horse has also been a significant means of transport in Finland. In agriculture and forestry, the importance of horsepower became considerable at the end of the 19th century.
The first studbooks for a Finnish horse were established in the 1890s, when efforts began to breed it as a pure breed. The breeding objective was an all-round work horse for both agricultural and transport needs. The Finnish horse breeding leadership was contested by the regional agricultural society, called Uudenmaan ja Hämeen läänien maanviljelysseura, the horse breeding association, known as Hippos, and the state (Solala 2021). In 1907, the Finnhorse’s current studbook was introduced throughout Finland. The state maintained the stallion studbook, and the mare studbooks were carried out by special horse breeding federations. In 1918, the mares were also transferred under state administration. Gradually, the horse’s performance characteristics were also included in to the studbook, and the appearance of the horse was no longer the only criterion for evaluations. In the early 1970s, The Finnish Hippos began to be responsible for the Finnhorse’s studbook.
During the Second World War, especially during the Winter War, the mobility of the Finnish army was on the horse. Finnhorse took care of maintenance in all service branches, and the cavalry moved on horses. In the Winter War, 7,204 horses were killed or disappeared, 14,573 in the Continuation War and 472 in the Lapland War. During post-war reconstruction and in the payment of war reparations, the Finnhorse’s work input was also important. According to the Agricultural Census, there were as many as 400,000 adult horses or foals in Finland in the post-war years.
The work horse era ended in Finland at the end of the 1960s. The number of tractors exceeded the number of horses, and the change in the taxation of forestry work made the use of horsepower unprofitable. The Finnhorse population collapsed in the late 1960s. The breed was going to end up in ruin. However, at the end of the traditional working use of the Finnhorse, the trotting races offered the breed a new opportunity as a sport horse. The number of Finnhorse individuals was at its lowest in 1987, when there were only 14,000 left.
Today, the number of Finnhorse is only a fraction of the golden age of the 1950s. In 2020, the Finnhorse population was 19,000, of which 1,840 were breeding mares and 1,127 foals born. The Finnhorse as a breed is not endangered. Finnish Hippos maintains the Finnhorse’s studbook. The Finnish horse’s studbook has four breeding directions: trotter, riding horse, pony type and work horse. Suomenhevosliitto represents the Finnhorse in all its uses.
The work horse is currently endangered, as the use of horses in agricultural and forestry work has decreased significantly. There are only 500 individuals left. The Finnhorse is one of the best work horses in the world as it has a traction capacity of up to 200% compared to its own weight. Suomen työhevosseura aims to promote the use and appreciation of Finnish work horse and to revitalize its breeding and future use e.g. in tourism and recreational services. The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) has opened the Finnhorse genome as the second horse reference genome in the world which can be used in research in cold-blooded horse breeds. This reference genome was constructed from a work horse called Tähden Piirros, owned by Kauko Tuominen.
As trotters, 3,000 Finnhorses compete on racetracks every year. The biggest race event of the year, Kuninkuusravit, has been held since 1924, and both the King and Queen are selected during the competitions. The most successful Finnhorse racer is a euro millionaire and five-time winner Viesker. Finnhorses also compete annually for the Finnish championship in mónte.
Due to its nature and structure, the Finnhorse is also ideal for horse riding schools, as well as for the different riding sports. In Suomenratsujen kuninkaalliset event there are competitions in dressage, show jumping, and eventing. Suomenratsut is an association founded in 1973 that promotes the use of Finnhorse in horse riding.
Mission of Suomenpienhevosyhdistys is to strengthen the position of pony type Finnhorse by sharing information on its versatility and by promoting its use. The association organizes not only coaching and courses, but also the annual competitions in dressage, show jumping and eventing. To promote breeding, the association rewards pony type Finnhorse that have been successful in breed evaluations. The association was established in 2000.
The gene banking of Finnhorse genetic resources has so far focused on cryopreservation of semen. The goal is to freeze 100 portions from 25 stallions. In the future, embryos may also be included in the gene bank.
The breeding objectives of the Finnhorse breed, which has a wide range of characteristics, have always been changed to match the intended use of the horse. Today, the Finnhorse is bred as trotting, riding, pony type and work horse. The Finnhorse serves as both a hobby horse and a racehorse. The all-round horse is also suitable for social pedagogy and traditional work horse use. Finnhorse was declared as the Finnish National Horse on the 100th anniversary of the breed in 2007.
Genetic characterization can be used to investigate the genetic variation, inbreeding, pedigree and kinship and relationship with other horse breeds. NordGen’s literature review on Nordic livestock breeds showed that the Finnhorse was the most studied Nordic horse breed (Kierkegaard et al. 2020) along with the Icelandic horse. According to the review 53 articles were related to the characterization of Finnhorse. Of the studies, 22 dealt with the characterization of the phenotypic traits: body size and growth, performance, crib-biting, fertility, feeding and physiology. Almost as many studies were found on breeding or gene mapping. The genetics and genomics of the Finnhorse have been studied by microsatellite and SNP markers, as well as by mitochondrial and whole genome sequencing. A total of nine studies dealt with genetic diversity within the breed or the relationship of the Finnhorse to other breeds. On the other hand, the Finnhorse was discussed in only four studies examining the social, cultural or economic significance of the horse. However, the Finnish horse is currently on focus in research, and in 2021, for example, a doctoral dissertation in the field of history on the birth of the Finnish horse breed appeared (Solala 2021).
The Finnish universal horse is the only native horse breed in Finland.
Ancestry of each Finnhorse today leads to one of the four founder stallions: Jaakko, Kirppu, Eino and Uljaanpoika.
Two Finnhorse mares, Jina and Jena, were the world’s first foals that were diagnosed for sex as preimplantation stage embryos.
Date published: December 6th, 2021
Image at the top of the page: Kirsti Hassinen / LUKE
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