|First Posted: July 24, 2009|
Sep 30, 2010
Zhemaichu, Zemaituka, Zhumd or Zhmudka Pony
The Zemaituka is an ancient breed of Lithuanian Pony, now extremely rare and in danger of extinction. The exact history of the Zemaituka is not known, but they are believed to be closely related to the Konik, from Poland, and are probably descended from the Tarpan. Cross breeding with other breeds that were native to Russia and crosses from Poland have influenced the Zemaituka Pony.
In the 19th century Arabian blood has influenced this breed. The heads often reflect the Arabians. There are two different types of Zemaituka. The Arabian influence has produced a more refined, better quality saddle horse for riding. The second type with less Arabian influence is a heavier type more suited to draft work. After WWII the two types were merged to produce a strong all purpose horse that can be used for riding or draft. Known since the 16th century, this is a native Lithuanian breed of the forest type. It has been cross bred with a number of breeds, however it has remained much the same type of forest horse, and is still used for agriculture work and other farm work. It is an easy keeper and takes a minimum amount of care. The Zhemaichu are exported to western Europe. Their massive, clean solid build and high adaptability make Zhemaichu stallions suitable for use in the development of a new meat-producing breed in the Altai. These same qualities, combined with their sporting potential, make the Zhemaichu valuable material for breeding medium-sized horses for large-scale equestrian sport and tourism.
Old Type Zhemaichu and New Type Zhemaichu
The old Zhemaichu type was small in size (up to 144 cm in height); it had a small straight or somewhat dished face head with a wide forehead. The neck was well muscled, the trunk undersized, the withers not too high, the black flat and solid, and the legs clean and firm. Their small height and consequently insufficient strength were the main deficiencies.
These ponies have an attractive head with large, kind eyes and mobile ears. The neck is broad and muscular and they are deep in the chest. The shoulders are rather straight, they have a compact, short, straight back, a sloping croup, and a low-set tail. Their legs are usually short and muscular but can have poor hocks, although the feet are well formed with very hard horn. As far as colors, they are often mouse dun or dun with a dorsal stripe and black points which is a clear indication of their ancient origins. They can also be black, brown, bay or palomino, and stand between 13.2 and 14.2 hh. They can survive in freezing temperatures and on little forage. They are easy keepers. Zemaituka have great stamina and endurance. They are calm, quiet, agile and athletic and are being crossed with lighter framed, larger breeds to produce excellent sport horses. The modern Zhemaichu formed in the post-war years by pure breeding with the selection of large individuals with high work endurance, and through limited crossbreeding with North Swedish stallions, is taller (152-154 cm), has a somewhat extended trunk (157-160 cm) and a very massive body with a girth of 188-190 cm, as well as clean legs with a cannon bone girth of 10-20 cm. The new intra-breed type has retained the characteristic exterior features of the old Zhmudka.
The Zhemaichu is used for utility purposes and as a sporting horse. It is also used in steeple chasing. The breed was used as a cross with the Trakenher because of its steeplechase ability. As a trotting draught horse the best time shown in 2 km draught tests was a pull of 50 kg is 4 min 42.6 sec. It is also being crossed with the Altai for meat producing purposes.