What Is the National Animal of Norway?

Often imagined as an idyllic place of beautiful landscapes, fjords, and folklore or as the source of harsh music genres like Black Metal, Norway remains a mysterious country to many. Taking a look at the animals Norway chose to see itself represented by can make the history and wildlife of this country a bit clearer.

What is the national animal of Norway? 

Norway has not only one but three national animals! Its royal national animal is the lion, which is depicted on the Royal Banner hoisted at 8:00 am every morning over the Royal Palace in Oslo. Norway’s national bird is the white-throated dipper, and its national horse is the fjord horse. 

Having a lion on the royal flag might seem a strange choice since there are no lions in Norway. Lions have been a beloved symbol for royals for a long time, though, because as the so-called “king of the beasts,” they stand for the power of kings, as well as for bravery and strength.

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Lion statue outside the parliament of Norway
Lion statue outside the parliament of Norway

Being so closely associated with royalty, it is no wonder that lions are found on a great many flags and coats of arms. It is, for example, also depicted on the Royal Banners of England and Scotland – both of which countries to which lions are not native, either. 

What Makes the White-Throated Dipper So Interesting? 

This tiny bird does, at first glance, not look very impressive. It is nevertheless a very resilient bird, and Norwegians proudly connect with the dipper’s ability to survive in a barren landscape. It is famous for building its nest behind waterfalls.

White-Throated Dipper
White-Throated Dipper

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It can also dive and swim short distances underwater. The white-throated dipper mostly eats aquatic invertebrates such as worms, mollusks, and even small fish and amphibians. Freshwater streams are where it finds most of its food, making Norway full of running fresh water, especially during the seasons when melting snow flows downhill, such an ideal habitat.

The dipper has its name from the repeated movement of dipping its head into the water. 

What makes the white-throated dipper, or European dipper, different from the American dipper, is its colors. The American dipper is dark black all over. In contrast, the European dipper not only has the white chest and throat that its name refers to but can, depending on the subspecies, be clad in feather in varying beautiful shades of dark, light, and chestnut brown. 

This bird is also well known for the noise its wings make while flying. It never pauses or glides, and the continuous beating of its short wings produces a whirring sound that differentiates it from other birds. 

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Did the Fjord Horse Originate in Norway? 

This depends on where you place the origin – at the beginnings of its species or at the start of selective breeding. 

The fjord horse is one of the oldest breeds of horse, and it even looks extremely similar to horses depicted in cave paintings done during the Ice Age, about 30,000 years ago. It is not sure where this breed originated. Still, researchers suggest closely related to the primitive wild horses of Asia, the Przewalski, and the European wild horse, the Tarpan. 

The first fjord horses migrated to Norway about 4,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations of bones at Viking burial sites have shown that the fjord horse has been selectively bred for at least 2,000 years or more. Since the Vikings originated in the countries that are nowadays Norwegian, Sweden, and Denmark, the fjord horse can therefore be classified as a Norwegian breed.

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The Vikings used this horse in war, which brought it into different countries where it then interbred with local horses. Therefore, it influenced the Icelandic horse and the Highland ponies. 

Norwegian Fjord Horse
Norwegian Fjord Horse

The fjord horse is known for being strong and durable – something that it has in common with the national bird of Norway, which shows which character traits Norwegians are especially proud of. It has long been used as a working horse on farms in hilly territories to pull heavy loads. During the winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, fjord horses were used to transport competitors to the different venues. 

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Today, the fjord horse is also used a lot in riding schools and in therapeutic riding programs. Its small size and calm demeanor make it an ideal horse for children and other beginners. 

Fjord horses are easily recognized by their “punk rock” hairstyle – they have a black stripe in the middle of their manes and very light hair at the sides.