The Dalahäst is a traditional wooden carved and painted statue of a horse. The Dalahäst (also known as the Dalecarlian Horse or Dala Horse) originated in the Swedish province of Dalarna.
|Classic Dala Horse||A bright red Dala horse with a harness in blue and white. This traditional style has become the most widespread in modern times, and has even come to symbolize Sweden in general.||3314.2, 2401.8|
|Black Dala Horse||A black Dala horse with a white and gold harness. Dala horses (also known as Dalecarlian horses) were originally carved in houses in the Swedish province of Dalecarlia.||140.0, 2775.8|
|Blue Dala Horse||A blue Dala horse.||-836.2, 2028.2|
|Green Dala Horse||A green Dala horse.||-3306.8, 3842.3|
|Orange Dala Horse||An orange Dala horse.||-810.2, 263.0|
|Pink Dala Horse||A pink Dala horse.||-258.7, 1510.0|
|Purple Dala Horse||A purple Dala horse.||608.6, 115.9|
|Red Dala Horse||A red Dala horse.||2344, -1972|
|Dead Dala Horse||A dead Dala horse. This Dala horse style can come in handy for teachers in biology class.||-4239.1, -822.0|
|Sverige Dala Horse||A Dala horse proudly sporting the national colors of Sweden.||-2921.9, -2048.8|
|Tan Dala Horse||A tan Dala horse.||-938.1, -4466.0|
|Emblem Dala Horse||A Dala horse reminiscent of the national emblem of Sweden.||-1852.1, -4325.5|
|White Dala Horse||A white Dala horse.||2533.9, -3337.1|
|Yellow Dala Horse||A yellow Dala horse.||1581.6, -4195.8|
It was in the small log cabins deep in the forests during the long winter nights in front of a log fire that the forerunner of the Dala horse was born. Using simple tools, generally only a knife, woodcarvers made toys for their children. It was only natural that many of these toys were horses, because the horse was invaluable in those days, as a trusty friend and worker who could pull great loads of timber from the forests during the winter months, and in the summer could be of just as much use on the farm.
The art of carving and painting the small horses quickly flourished in the 19th century, as economic hardship in the region inspired greater production of the small horses, and they became an important item of barter. Horse-making may have started as something to do during the long dark winter months, but soon the Dala horses were traded in exchange for household goods and their carving and painting blossomed into a full-fledged cottage industry. The rural families depended on horse production to help keep food on the table, as the skills of horse carving and painting were passed on from generation to generation. The wooden horses are painted in the kurbits style. This one is from around 1950.
The carving of Dala horses as a livelihood is thought to have started in the village of Bergkarlås in central Sweden, though the nearby "horse" villages of Risa, Vattnäs, and Nusnäs were also centres of horse-making. The villages were involved in the art of furniture and clock-making, and it is likely the leftover scraps of wood were put to use in the production of Dala horses. 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. The decoration of the Dala horse has its roots in furniture painting and was perfected over the years. According to a local tale, a wandering painter in the style of kurbits 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.
The earliest references to wooden horses for sale are from 1623. In the 19th century, Stikå-Erik Hansson from the village Risa in the parish of Mora introduced the technique of painting with two colours on the same brush, still used today. In the book "The Wooden Horses of Sweden," the author mentions that this famous Dala painter is buried in a small churchyard in Nebraska after having immigrated to the Midwest in 1887 at the age of 64.) He changed his name to Erik Erikson upon coming to America and is buried at Bega Cemetery in Stanton County Nebraska, outside of Norfolk.
While there were many horse whittlers in the early production of Dala horses, there were comparatively few horse painters. The large number of whittlers and a lack of distinguishing features makes it difficult to distinguish between different whittlers. Early painters very rarely signed their work, but they did have their own distinct pattern from which it is often possible to identify who painted a particular horse. In the 1930s (especially after the World's Expo in Paris 1937 and World's Fair in New York 1939 in which Dala horses were shown) mass production of Dala horses started. This marks the beginning of a new era for the Dala horse, transitioning from toy to a national symbol and popular souvenir.
The Dalecarlian horse of today is still a handcrafted article, made of pine, and its pattern is about 150 years old. At least nine different people contribute their skills to create each horse. The distinctive shape of the horse is due to the usage of flat-plane style carving.