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Henry County Historical Highlights

The meaning of wooden horses to the Swedish culture

Submitted photo

Visible from the highway outside of Swedesburg is the 14-foot tall red horse, a symbol of Sweden, which stands beside the Swedesburg Museum.
Submitted photo Visible from the highway outside of Swedesburg is the 14-foot tall red horse, a symbol of Sweden, which stands beside the Swedesburg Museum.

Standing beside the Swedesburg Museum is a 14-foot tall red horse, a cherished symbol of Sweden.

For centuries, horses have been valued working companions for people in Sweden. As a result, carved wooden horses were used as decorations, gifts and toys. These wooden horses became known as Dala horses thanks to the people from the Swedish province of Dalarna, who turned painted, carved horses into a cottage industry before the middle of the 19th Century.

These wooden horses were sometimes used as payment for goods and services. They were also tucked into many emigrant trunks before they left Sweden forever.

The 1939 World Exhibition in New York served as a breakthrough for marketing Dala horses internationally. A nine-foot-tall painted Dala horse was placed outside the Swedish pavilion there, where it attracted much attention. From that time on thousands of these painted horses have traveled out of Sweden as cherished souvenirs as well as sentimental keepsakes.