Name of breed: Dole Trotter, Dole Gudbrandsdal, Dølahest or Dole
Country of origin: Norway
Breed origin: The heavy Dole is thought to originate from Gudbrandsdal (hence the name) and can be found in a valley in central Norway where they are one of the oldest breeds of horses. It is likely that this harness breed shares some of its genetics with Friesians because they are similar in their conformation. There was the movement of equine breeding in the late 9th century through to the mid 11th century and through this, the breed was most likely influenced by Friesians, Fell and Dale Ponies.
There were two stallions in particular, Odin and Mazarin, who shaped the Dølahest breed. Odin was a Thoroughbred stallion (although some say he was a Norfolk Trotter) and was imported to Norway in 1834 and now all Dole Trotters today contain Odin’s bloodlines and can be traced back to him one way or another. Mazarin was an Arabian who was imported to Norway in 1934 and in 1849 another influential stallion, named Veikle Balder 4 (grandson of Odin) was introduced and is considered to be the foundation stallion of the heavier Dole type.
In 1872, the Dole Gudbrandsdal was split into two types of the draft – a class for heavier agriculture and driving horses, and a class for lighter racing and riding horses. In the 19th century, harness racing began to rise in popularity in Norway and breeders looked to create a horse suitable for that sport and the Dole Trotter (being a smaller, lighter, faster variation of the draft-type) was developed.
Distinguishing features: The Dole Trotter looks super similar to the Dales and Fell Ponies but the heads have a straight profile with a square muzzle and a large forehead. This leads to a short but muscular neck attached to a broad wither and a broad chest. The shoulders of the Dole have to muscular to pull anything with a long back and a slight slope in their croup that is also muscular and wide. All up, this is a very heavy breed built to pull with strength.
For a heavy draft the breed is quite small; ranging from 14.1 to 15 hands. They can come in any solid colour but can also have grey, dun and palomino and can also have feathers.
Modern-day Dole: When originally developed they were used as pack horses across the mountains but are now mostly found in farm work and heavy pulling jobs such as timber hauling. The light type of the Dole breed can be seen racing in harness or pleasure riding.
Image credit: Wikipedia, Pony and Horse International, Pinterest, Hest no. (am)