World’s oldest painted Dalahäst
While excavating in Falun in central Dalarna in July 2020, Swedish archaeologists accidentally found what may be the world’s oldest painted Dalahäst. Archaeologist Torbjörn Holback found it in the mud, and after cleaning it could see it was originally painted with a red color, typical for the town of Falun.
Swedish National Archaeologist Mia Englund explained, “The wooden Dalahäst from Falun is currently in a conservation studio (it is a long process to save/stabilize wooden objects) in Stockholm. And work with the archeological report continues. The wooden horse is painted in a red color but also has details in a darker and a lighter color. We do not know what type of wood it is made of yet.”
If you have a Dalahäst that you think is old, first look for bandsaw marks underneath and between the legs. Bandsaw marks indicate the use of a Swedish bandsaw, dating it after 1920. No marks indicates a much earlier Dalahäst that was perhaps cut out with a hand held crossbow saw and then hand carved. The recent Falun Dalahäst appears to have no bandsaw marks and has been estimated to originate in the early- to mid-19th century.
The Dalahäst has a well documented history from about 1920 to the present, but its past is not as clear. …

- A Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse (Dalahäst) is a symbol of Dalarna, a county or province in the middle of Sweden.
- The oldest unpainted Dalahäst is from 1560. Horse carving was thought to have started in the village of Bergkarlås in central Sweden, though the nearby "horse" villages of Risa, Vattnäs and Nusnäs were also centers of wood horse-making.
- The earliest references to wooden horses for sale are from 1623.
- In 1773, Swedish King Gustav III wrote a proclamation that allowed the Dalarna valley people to build and paint furniture without having to belong to a guild. 
- According to a local tale, a wandering painter using the style of kurbits came across one of these Dala horses at a farm he was decorating and painted it in the same style since the children wanted their horses painted, too.
- The first preserved painted Dalahäst is painted in black and was found in a pantry in a mansion in Falun in 1820.
- In the 19th century, Sitkå Erik Hansson (born 1823) from Risa in the parish of Mora, introduced the technique still used today: painting with two colors on the same brush. This famous Dala painter is buried in a small churchyard in Nebraska, USA, after having immigrated to the Midwest in 1887 at the age of 64.
- The distinctive orange-red color originally came from Dalarna copper mine processing.
- The New York 1939 World Exhibition made the Dalahäst a global celebrity.
- Nils Olsson Dalahästar, Nusnäs, Sweden, currently produces 500 Dalahäst per day!


Caption: This may be the world’s oldest painted Dalahäst, Falun, Sweden.