Saturday, June 6, 2009
The Shetland Pony
Taken at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland in 2005
The Shetland pony is a breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands range in size from a minimum height of approximately 28 inches to an official maximum height of 42 inches (10.2 hands, 107 cm) at the withers. (11.2 hands for American Shetlands) Shetland ponies have heavy coats, short legs and are considered quite intelligent. They are a very strong breed of pony, used for riding, driving, and pack purposes.
Two women of the Shetland Isles with ponies, photograph ca. 1900
Shetland ponies originated in the Shetland Isles, located northeast of mainland Scotland. Small horses lived on the Shetland Isles since the Bronze Age, and while the roots of the ancient wild pony are unknown, it is believed that they are related to the ancient Scandinavian ponies; the islands were once physically connected to Scandinavia up until the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 8000 BC. People who lived on the islands domesticated the animal and later crossed the native stock with ponies imported by Norse settlers. Shetland ponies also were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, brought to the islands by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BC. The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into extremely hardy animals.
Shetland ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat, coal and other items, and ploughing farmland. Then, as the Industrial Revolution increased the need for coal in the mid-19th century, thousands of Shetland ponies travelled to mainland Britain to be pit ponies, working underground hauling coal, often for their entire (often short) lives. Coal mines in the eastern United States also imported some of these animals.
The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society of the United Kingdom was started in 1890 to maintain purity and encourage high-quality animals. In 1957, the Shetland Islands Premium Stallion Scheme was formed to subsidize high-quality registered stallions to improve the breeding stock.
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- I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.