The P word

Ponies are a powerful breed of horse, characterized by robustness, strong nerves and rich long hair. This is how Wikipedia describes them in 56 languages – just not in Icelandic.

Islandponys müssen in Island Pferd genannt werden / © Foto: Georg Berg
Icelandic ponies must be called horse in Iceland / © Photo: Georg Berg

In Iceland, only the Icelandic horse is known and called Hestur, which simply means horse. Only purebred animals are recognized, without foreign blood crossing, whose lineage can be traced back to Iceland without any gaps. The importation of horses is prohibited to prevent disease. Therefore, horses that were born in Iceland and have once left the island cannot be imported back into Iceland. The Customs Directorate of Iceland goes one better and additionally defines in a leaflet: “It is forbidden to import used saddlery and bridles. Used bridles include snaffles, halters and whips made of leather.”

In translation programs that were certainly not fed by Icelanders, Pony is thrown out as Smáhestur. Smá means “a little” and this can only be taken as an insult by Icelanders in connection with their noblest creature.

Therefore, the advice to all visitors to Iceland: do not get involved in discussions. The Icelandic horse is big. Period.

Wondrous Iceland Stories

Magical, mystical, whimsical. On our trip through Iceland, we experienced overwhelming nature, enjoyed the benefits of geothermal energy and tasted many an outlandish dish or of the beer that was only legalized in 1989. In Iceland there are leader sheep, but under no circumstances ponies. Instead, the descendants of the Vikings today have heated sidewalks, still seething volcanoes and a lot of creativity, which in the long dark months is the best recipe against the onset of winter depression. Other Moment Mal episodes are about hairy beer bottles, petrified trolls and wishing stones. Fermented, cruelly stinking Greenland shark contrasts with rye bread baked in hot earth. The whales that regularly appear off Húsavík are a popular photo motif during whale watching.

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