Dala Horse: The Story Behind This Iconic Swedish Souvenir

Buy a Red Swedish Dala Horse for Your International Friends - How to be Swedish

It can be found in every Swedish souvenir-shop. One of the most iconic national symbols of Sweden: The Dalahäst (Dala horse). It is mostly colored in red, decorated with kurbits pattern, twisting plants and flowers. I have one on my desk, right next to my Swedish flag and table-midsummer pole.

Those sweet little horses usually find their new homes in shelves of people who either have been to Sweden or know someone who has.

As a real Swede, you should consider the Dala horse as one of the most typical Swedish things anyone who has some kind of connection to Sweden can have in one’s Billy shelf

Origin of the Dala horse

Sweden is full of trees. Many years ago wood-workers from the Swedish province of Dalarna were having a break from wood working, sitting on a tree trunk, being bored. They decided to do something entertaining, (back then they didn’t have a mobile phone and thereby no access to Facebook or Aftonbladet.se) so they looked around and since they were not very creative they looked around for inspiration. What they saw was nothing but wood and horses, when all the sudden one guy said, let’s make wooden horses. So they did and took them home to the children.

Later when the children grew up and had no use for the horses anymore, they took them to Gamla Stan (old town) in Stockholm and sold them to Sweden tourists.

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Huge Dala horse

The world’s largest Dalahäst is 13 meters high and can be seen at the junction of Swedish national roads 70/68 in Avesta. The tree it’s made of must have been really huge, right?!

Why is the Dala horse red

Some say one guy was not too skilled with the knife, therefore the red color – ouch.  But that’s just not true. It’s because after being taken home from the woods, the horses were decorated with Dala red, yes, the same color Swedes use to paint their wooden houses in. There’s a lot of that color in Sweden, so why not using it for everything?! Although, strangely, I haven’t seen a Volvo in that color yet…

Dala horse as a present

If you, as a new-Swede, ever receive a present from an old-Swede, chances are high, you might get a Dala horse. If you already have one you’ll probably just get flowers or a bottle of wine instead.

If you don’t own a Dala horse yourself already, consider giving away one to someone who at some point expressed that he or she likes Sweden.

More gift ideas for Sweden fans

2 thoughts on “Dala Horse: The Story Behind This Iconic Swedish Souvenir”

  1. I have 3 Dalarna horses, given to my mother by my Swedish aunt, both long gone now and I am in my 60’s, but they are BLUE not red.

    • Yes, some are blue, yellow or even black or white. Most commonly the color red is associated (or bought) though. I imagine everyone enjoys an old traditional dala horse, rich of family history, whatever color it is. :)


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