When a large red Dalahäst (Dala horse) stood at the entrance to Sweden's pavilion at the World's Fair in New York in 1939, it got its international breakthrough and its status as a symbol of Sweden. Dalahästen, the red Dala horse has since then been a well-known symbol of both Sweden and the county Dalarna but how did this come to be?
In the 17th century, little wooden horses were sold at markets in small towns and villages in Dalarna, in central Sweden. A hundred years later wooden horses were carved by men working in the forests during long winter evenings and brought back to the village for the children to play with. This is how the little wooden horse from Dalarna became a treasured object. These simple wooden horses were later painted in bright colours inspired by the flower patterns painted on furniture and walls in the region. During this time, travelling salesmen selling traditional household items would also bring Dala horses to use as payment for board and lodgings. They also became an important source of income for poorer families. Even young children had to learn to carve wooden horses after returning home from school. The children of one such family started a small business at the ages of 13 and 15 in 1928. Their children and grandchildren are still producing the Dala horses and even today, the original is still made in the village of Nusnäs outside Mora. Here you can even visit the Dala horse factory and see up close how the production is done. Craftsmanship and tradition are constantly alive here and each Dala horse is still carved and painted by hand.
The Dalarna museum in Falun has the world's largest collection of Dala horses and in Avesta you can find the world’s biggest Dala horse standing tall at 13 meters.
In many Swedish homes, both in Sweden and abroad there is a Dala horse. Some keep it in the front, others let it collect dust in the cupboard.
But take it out and take a good look because the Dala horses have become trendy again and are going up in price.
In 2022, a new record was set for a Dala horse. It was a slightly different Dala horse with a rider on its back, and it was sold for a whopping SEK 367,530 at Dalarna's auction agency. It set the record for the world's most expensive Dala horse ever sold. The second most expensive one was sold in 2015 at the same auction house. It was a so-called Boda horse from the 19th century, hand-painted, grey-green with black spots. So take a good look in your attic, maybe you have the world's new record breaking Dala horse in your belongings, who knows?