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Horse Breeds
First Posted July 14, 2009
Sep 26, 2010

Pottok Horse, Basque, Vasca (Spanish)

Pottok Horse

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Country of Origin: Basque Country (France and Spain)

The pottok, pronounced 'pot-ee-ok' (Basque: pottoka, ""little horse"), is a pony native to the Pyrenees of the Basque Country in France and Spain.

Pyrenean Tarpan part of the Konik Breed Type: In Poland-Pottok; In France-Navarre Pony; In Spain-Asturian; In Portugal-Garrano.


The pottok's origins may lie as far back as 10,000 years ago. Ancient cave paintings in the area show pottok-like horses. They are thought to descend from the Magdalenian horses of 14,000 - 7,000 BC. There are now only a few hundred left and all have owners, rather than freely wandering through the mountains. Their adaptation to mountain life and dark color made them ideal for use by smugglers. They were also used in mining work across France in the 19th and 20th centuries. The French Administration has recognized the Pottock Horse since 1970. A stud-book was created.

Pottok numbers have been severely reduced by habitat loss and crossbreeding. In the 20th century, piebald pottoks were bred, particularly for circus use. Stockier ponies for agricultural work were bred by cross-breeding with draught horses, also often with a large variety of coat colors. They have also been bred with Iberian horses following guidelines of pony clubs. This cross-breeding has left perhaps no more than 150 pure-bred mares in the French Basque Country. A reserve in Bidarray, Basse-Navarre has been started to protect the pony and its environment. There is much debate about how to increase numbers - whether to focus only on the pure-bred pottoks or to employ selective inter-breeding to build greater numbers of pottok-like ponies.

Physical Description

The Pottok is 11.1-13.2 hh, some may grow to as much as 14.2 hh. Colors include bay, brown, chestnut or pinto. The head is of straight line, or slightly dished, small, forward pointing ears, intelligent eyes, a short neck with a full mane, the body has a slightly slanting shoulder, broad chest, long back, short sloping croup, and a tail that is thick and deeply based. The legs are strong and the hooves are small but hard. The breed is sure-footed. The Pottock is well muscled. It has a lively temperament. They can be a powerhouse. The Pottok are easy keepers, tough and have excellent endurance.


Driving and riding.

Other Interesting Tidbits

There are pottok fairs held in Espelette, Labourd in November and January. Pottoks featured in the 1935 film Ramuntcho by Réné Barbéris with Louis Jouvet. Bayonne's rugby club, Aviron Bayonnais has 'pottoka' as its official mascot.

The Basque name of the Smurfs is pottokiak, probably for the connotations of smallness.

For More Information:

Pottok French Pony - An excellent, comprehensive website

Horse Breeds