No matter where you travel in Sweden, you’ll come across small wooden figurines known as Dala horses (dalahästar). Their bright red colour, stumpy legs and garish floral decorations are, for many foreigners, high kitsch and rather ugly; the Swedes, however, adore bright colours (the redder the better) and love the little horses – it’s virtually an unwritten rule that every household in the country should have a couple on display. Two brothers from the town of Nusnäs, Nils and Jannes Olsson, began carving the horses in the family baking shed in 1928, when they were just teenagers. Though they were simply interested in selling their work to help their cash-strapped parents make ends meet, somehow the wooden horses started catching on – Swedes are at a loss to explain why – and soon they were appearing across the country as a symbol of rural life.

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