Herding horses: a model of prehistoric horsemanship in Scandinavia – and elsewhere?
By Anneli Sundkvist
Pecus: Man and animal in antiquity. Proceedings of the conference at the Swedish Institute in Rome, September 9-12, 2002, edited Barbro Santillo Frizell (The Swedish Institute in Rome. Projects and Seminars, 2004)
Abstract: This article discusses a possible system of horse keeping, used in prehistoric Scandinavia, with focus on the Late Iron Age. The system, here referred to as that of free-roaming horses (Sw. utegångshästar), are still in use in several parts of the world and known from historic Scandinavian sources. The idea of the free-roaming horse system is to keep a surplus of horses under natural conditions, which means that the animals are left to themselves during the major part of the year, and in most cases, their lives. The systems leaves few, if any, traces in the archaeological record, but different sources indicate that there are many horses hidden behind the few stalls in Iron Age byres. However, there is ample evidence in archaeological and written sources that, when put together and illuminated by modern examples from different cultures, provide fruitful information about how great men and women kept their horses c. 1500 years ago.