A Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse is a traditional carved, painted wooden horse statuette originating in the Swedish province Dalarna. In the old days the Dala horse was mostly used as a toy for children. Nowadays the Dala horse is not only a decorative home accessory but it has also become a symbol of Dalarna, as well as Sweden.
The first Dala horse was made by wood workers when they were out in the forest working together with their horse. In front of the fireplace in the log cabin, they were made as toys for their children. The earliest references to wooden horses for sale are from 1623, by the 19th century the art of carving and painting the small horses flourished. Soon the Dala horses were traded in exchange for household goods with rural families depended on wood horse production to help keep food on the table.
Did you know that many early Dala horses were not painted at all? But in the beginning of the 19th century painting them in a single color, white or red, became common practice. According to a local tale, a painter came across one of these Dala horses in a farm he was decorating. When asked by one of the children why that horse was not as beautifully painted as the ones in the decorations, he painted the Dala horse in the same style. This tradition was then carried on in order to raise the market value of the Dala horses.
Today you’ll find the Dala Horse as a decorative item, printed on fabrics for the home, as jewellery and even on iPad cases. It must be one of the most popular symbols of Sweden. And it all came by in a log cabin, more than 400 years ago…
Picture from Nordingården Blog