Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Dala Horse

A cute wooden figure generally painted in bright red with details in white, green, yellow and blue, the beautiful Dala Horse (Dalahäst in Swedish) has been part of Swedish folklore for centuries. It was during the long winter nights in the cottage deep in the forest, when the weather prevented any outdoor work, when some men began to carve these wooden little toys, likely only with a knife, in the Swedish province of Dalarna (Hence its name). Since this humble origin, the Dala Horse has become a symbol of all swedish handicrafts and ambassador of swedish culture world wide.

Is in the village of Nusnäs, in Dalarna, where for the most of the people the real Dala horse is produced. Over 250,000 Dala Horses are produced there every year. According to a legend, in the winter of 1716, a soldier kept quartered in a private home created the horse as a gift for the house´s children.

A wonderful picture by "modern moonlight" in

A craftsman giving a piece of wood the shape that will become a Horse, with a single knife, like in the old days

By 1800 horse making quickly flourished, and many rural families developed a dependence on horce production in order to gain resources for surviving. The decoration of the Dala horse (the first horses were not painted or were only one colour) has its roots in furniture painting and was perfected over the years.
Today, Nusnäs is still the center of Horse production, being the most renowned the Nils Olsson and Grannas Olsson (founded in 1922) workshops.

The Dala Horse with modern and regional variations (picture by

Giving a stock of little horses their remarkable color

The wood from which the figures are carved comes from the slow-growing pine forest around Lake Siljan, ideal for carpentry and carving. The trees to be made into horses are marked out while still standing in the forest. Only the best timber will be selected for carving into horses. The trees are felled and sawed into pieces of a suitable size for the blanks that will eventually be made into Dalecarlian horses.
The blanks are sawed and carved by hand. Because of this, no two horses are exactly alike.

World´s largest Dala Horse, made in concrete and located in Avesta, Sweden

The Dala Horse, a symbol of Swedish Handicraft, born in a lonely log in the middle of the forest, for the rest of the World to enjoy and admire.


Owen said...

Never heard of a Dala Horse before... but that's why we blog, so we can expand our universe... the young lady who is painting them looks like she's having fun finger painting, or hand painting... I hope the paint is natural products, not too toxic... for her sake, she looks like a nice person...

Alberto Oliver said...

Yes she is having more fun covering herself in "red falun" paint rather than doing it with the toys. It supposed to be absolutely free, the paint, as Swedes are close to maniac when it comes to environment and health. I could spend the rest of my life making wooden handcraft, in a log in the middle of the forest.

leks said...

This is very interesting,never heard of the Dala Horse either and that paint,do they have it in other colors too? Im alergic to common pigments so it would be cool if there is affordable,non toxic alternative on the market?! Thank you.

Alberto Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alberto Oliver said...

Hi leks, thanks for reading. Yes, there are many other colors and variations. From vary traditional to more progressive experiments from contemporary artist. There are also roosters and other animals. According to manufacturers, they are absolutely non toxic and the same way i said to Owen, Swedish laws are very strict and severe when it come to environment and health.

Check this link:


Katie said...

I have been researching Swedish symbols of culture. Love your information on the Dala Horse. It will be incorporated into my tattoo representing my swedish heritage!

About how much does a small authentic Dala Horse cost?

Alberto Oliver said...

It is fine to see that it has been helpful for you. A cool tatoo it shall be. An authentic one?? hhmm, depends, a real one from Nusnäs should be not that expensive, depending on the size of course, and if you are planning on ordering one for being shipped (as I suppose you will), why don´t you check:

But for being honest, nothing would compare with going personally to Sweden after your very own one.
Regards and good luck ;)

Katie said...

Okay, will do.

Yes! As a college student it is a high priority of mine to study abroad there!

Thanks for the response.

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