Posts tagged with "Swedish Dala horse"

What Does the Dala Horse Symbolize?

swedish dala horseIf you’re familiar with Sweden at all, you’ve likely seen the Dalecarlian or Dala horse before. It’s one of the most popular images of Swedish folk art, often carved from wood or appearing in prints and patterns. Unfortunately, however, no one can say for sure what the original meaning or story behind the horses is.

Swedish woodcarvers have produced wooden horses for centuries, typically as toys for children. References to wooden horses for sale date back to the 17th century. These early horses typically weren’t painted like the more modern Dala horses. Painting the horses a solid color became common in the 19th century, with further painted decorations coming later.

There is one popular tale about the origin of the Swedish Dala horse, although it cannot be verified. The story goes that in the winter of 1716, while King Charles XII waged war, soldiers were quartered in many private homes. However, food was scarce for all. One soldier carved a horse, painted it, and presented it to the child in the home he was staying. In return for the toy, the child’s mother gave the soldier a bowl of soup. They repeated this exchange, and soon, other soldiers began craving horses to barter for food. Thus, the Dala horse is said to have helped the Swedish army survive the long winter.

A Brief History of Dala Horses

Swedish Dala Horse |

The little wooden horses of Sweden were originally carved by men that worked in the forests during the winter. When they returned to their villages, they gave the horses to children as playthings. This was in the 17th century during which the horses were also sold at market in small towns and villages in the Dalarna region, in central Sweden. The horses were painted in bright colors that were inspired by the furniture in the region. Eventually, even young children learned to carve wooden horses, and, in 1928, one family founded a business producing the Dala horses. They are still producing the horses today in the village of Nusnäs in Dalarna.

The colorful wooden horse debuted internationally at the world fair in Paris in 1936, where it garnered enough attention that the Swedish committee at the fair decided to showcase the horses at the next fair. In 1939, at the New York World’s Fair, a Dala wooden horse became notable around the world. That was because an enormous painted Dala horse was placed outside the Swedish pavilion, which caused excitement throughout the crowds of visitors. In the year following the exhibition, it’s been said that more than 20,000 Dala horses were shipped to New York and the Swedish Dala horse immediately became a symbol for Sweden.