WF in Iceland

The start of WorldFengur

In the year 2000, a co-operation agreement between the Farmers Association in Iceland and FEIF was signed. The goal was to provide common solutions to common challenges, such as providing one workable IT environment and calculating an international BLUP breeding evaluation.

Only one year later, in 2001, WorldFengur was opened for public use at the World Championships in Austria. Jens Otto Veje, who at that time was the breeding leader of FEIF and as such one of the founding fathers of WorldFengur, performed the formal opening of WorldFengur at that event.

In order to support and standardise registration work done in WorldFengur, the FEIF Registration Group (FRG) was established. The first chairman of the FRG was Clive Philips from Scotland. Since then, Kati Ahola (Finland), Inge Kringeland (Norway), Mike Edwards (Great Britain) and Kristín Halldórsdóttir (Germany) have led the group´s work and, together with other members of the group, such as Kim Middel (Netherlands), Hallveig Fróðadóttir (Iceland) and Annette Knutsen (Denmark), have supported the WorldFengur project in many ways.

In order to support the practical side of things – building, maintaining, extending and promoting the program – the WorldFengur team has been at work constantly. Key figures on the team have been BÍ´s IT programmer Þorberg Þorbergsson, BÍ´s chief registrar Hallveig Fróðadóttir, FRG chairman and WorldFengur registrar Kristín Halldórsdóttir, WorldFengur registrar Kim Middel and WorldFengur´s former managing director Jón Baldur Lorange.

In the year 2005, one of the initial and most important goals of the WorldFengur project was achieved, when the international BLUP breeding evaluation was calculated and published in WorldFengur for 190.000 horses from 11 different countries. The latest BLUP evaluation includes BLUP calculations for over 452.887 horses from all over the world (figures from 2020).

Guðni Ágústsson, minister of agriculture with his wife and Jón Baldur Lorange, project manager of WF at the opening of WF at the WC in Austria. (Bændablaðið, 4.09.2001)

Two of the founders and early workers of WF, Jón Baldur Lorange and Kristinn Hugason former breeding leader of Iceland who prepared the road for WF.

Basic data

The data entered in WorldFengur consists of basic information (name, colour, age) on each horse, with information on the pedigree which can be traced all the way back to ancestors born in Iceland. Furthermore, WorldFengur contains information on breeders, owners, offspring, breeding evaluations, photos, videos, horse names, horse colours and results from sports competitions and breeding assessments.

The backbone of the database is the unique identification number (FEIF ID-number), together with the UELN number of each horse.

More than 100 registrars in 22 countries are responsible for registering the horses into WorldFengur. Every FEIF member association gets free access to WorldFengur for all its individual members, a total of approximately 65.000 people.

The latest development has been the release of the first app version of WorldFengur, AppFengur, which was launched in 2018 to facilitate the use of WorldFengur for smart phone users.

Ever since the beginning of the 20th century horses in Iceland have been registered into a Studbook. Only horses that passed a certain mark average at breeding assessments were entered in the Studbook with a studbook number.

This system was in place until 1987, when it became practice to give horses a unique life number.  A decision to register all horses in Iceland, regardless of their breeding assessment results, was made 1989, which led to the development of a digital database called Fengur (1991).

In the beginning, it contained about 8.000 horses bred in Iceland. Soon after that, users of Fengur were present with its sequel, the program PC-Fengur (1994) on floppy disk, which in turn was followed by Íslandsfengur (1998) on CD-ROM and VeraldarFengur (1997) as the first internet-based version of the database.

Participants of the second WorldFengur Registrars’ meeting in Stockholm 2005

Support and special features

The results from all international breeding shows are entered in the database on-line, which means that any user who is not attending a breeding show can still follow the assessments through the internet. The marks for each trait can be looked up for each assessed horse, together with the judges´ comments.

The BLUP breeding evaluation is calculated for each trait, using both the results from the horse´s own assessment, as well as those of assessed relatives. The BLUP is available in WorldFengur for almost all horses. A verified pedigree of breeding horses is extremely important, since the BLUP calculation relies on correct pedigree information. The calculation of a BLUP based on results from sport events is next in line – and only a few steps away!

WorldFengur corner at the World Championships 2015 in Herning, Denmark

WorldFengur contains a data-sharing DNA database, in which DNA profiles from laboratories all over the world are stored. A co-operation between DNA laboratories was established as a part of the WorldFengur project in order to make this possible. This co-operation enables and facilitates parentage testing of horses located in different countries.

Lab results of parentage testing can be registered manually for all users to see; also, a program is embedded in WorldFengur that automatically checks ancestries, if DNA profiles have been registered in WorldFengur for a horse and its parent(s); the results of this automatic check are immediately published in WorldFengur.

The “virtual mating” feature is an important tool for breeders who want to select a stallion for their broodmares based on traits included in the breeding goal and breeding assessment of the Icelandic horse. Based on the BLUP of both stallion and mare, a virtual BLUP value is calculated for potential offspring, showing the expected BLUP score for each individual trait in the breeding goal, as well as the inbreeding co-efficient. This way, breeders can see which traits a certain stallion is expected to improve – or not.

When a foal is born, the breeder is requested to choose an appropriate Icelandic name. In WorldFengur, a list of over 9.700 Icelandic horse names is available that includes the meaning of each name in Icelandic, English, German and French, as well as a voice recording of its pronunciation. All names are sorted in 19 different groups in order to help breeders find the appropriate name for their foal.

In WorldFengur, users can look up useful information on horse colours with hundreds of photos as examples, as well as genetic information in five different languages on horse colour inheritance. Also, the virtual mating feature in WorldFengur offers a list of colours that a breeder might expect from a particular mating.

The paddock function in WorldFengur enables users in countries where this is allowed to keep track on their horses and to update information on topics such as a horse´s fate, castration or sale. Through the paddock function, users can upload up to 8 photos for each of the horses that are registered in their name.

Videos from the Landsmót, the most important horse event in Iceland, are accessible through WorldFengur if users or associations purchase access to them. Videos of both breeding assessments and sports competitions, dating as far back as the very first Landsmót in 1954, have been added to WorldFengur. The most recent videos date from the last Landsmót held í Iceland.

The WorldFengur program has been translated into nine languages: besides Icelandic, the languages English, German, French, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish are available.

Photo: Guðni Th. Jóhannesson the president of Iceland visited the WF Team at WC 2017. From left Kim Middel, Þorberg Þ. Þorbergsson, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Hallveig Fróðadóttir, Kristín Halldórsdóttir

Towards the future

In next few years it will be important to continue developing WorldFengur in order to meet all demands due to new technology and new challenges, included making necessary adjustments due to changes in national and international regulations.

We must recognise that the website has not yet been updated in accordance with the latest technologies, and act on it. The key to it all will always be threefold: to serve breeders, breeding associations and Icelandic horse enthusiasts in general. By entering WorldFengur – you enter the mystic world of the Icelandic horse. Enjoy!

Text: Jon Baldur Lorange
Photos: Kristín Halldórsdóttir, Team WorldFengur