|First Posted: July 1, 2009|
Apr 23, 2011
One of the oldest breeds of equid in Great Britain is the Highland Pony. This breed is native to the northern areas of Scotland, known as the Highlands, and the islands which lie off the western coast of Scotland. Some maintain that the Highland Pony is descended from the ancient wild horses that migrated from Asia in the Ice Age. The breed is known for its great strength and docility. The mainland type - sometimes called the Garron - has traditionally been used as an all-purpose pony by the Crofters, tenant farmers. It is also used by deer hunters as a sure-footed carrier of game from the steep, rugged mountains. On the islands, the Highland Pony is smaller than that on the mainland.
The Highland Pony is of two basic types: that bred on the mainland of Scotland in the Highlands known as the Garron and the smaller pony bred in the Western Isles. The Garron was bred for increased size in the nineteenth century to be used for hauling timber in the forests. It stands between 13.2 and 14.2 hands. The head is carried high with eyes set apart and relatively close to the muzzle; the ears are short. The neck should be arched with a long mane. The quarters are powerful and well-built and the body is full. The tail reaches nearly to the ground. The most prominent color is dun, although gray, bay and chestnut are also seen. Occasionally, a dorsal stripe is present.
The Highland Pony is one of the oldest breeds in Britain and is part of the group known as the mountain and moorland ponies, which includes breeds from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. In the 1800s, the need for a larger pony led to the infusion of blood from other breeds, largely Arabian. This increase in its size was attempted so that the Highland Pony could pull heavier loads. It was used especially in the forests for hauling logs.
The ultimate origin of the Highland Pony is probably the ancient northern European pony. However, the quality of this breed's conformation and temperament were greatly influenced by substantial infusions of Arabian blood over many centuries. For instance, the McNeil clan, of the island of Barra off the Scottish coast, bred Highland Pony mares with Arabian stallions. This produced ponies with excellent temperaments, a handsome appearance and greater speed, qualities which the Arab is famous for imparting to other breeds.
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