Name of breed: Kerry Bog Pony
Country of origin: Ireland
Breed origin: As its name suggests, the Kerry Bog Pony originated in Kerry, a county in the southwest of Ireland. DNA testing has revealed that it shares ancient roots with breeds from northern Europe such as the Icelandic horse and Shetland pony. This is hardly surprising, as the Kerry Bog Pony is similarly small, tough and full of character. Until machinery began to take over traditional Irish farming practices in the 1960s, these ponies were used for all sorts of jobs including seaweed harvesting, transporting fresh milk to the creameries and – the penny drops – carting turf. Turf is a product of Irish peat bogs and to this day it is cut, laid out to dry, then taken off the bog to be used as fuel for cooking and heating.
Given the importance of the Kerry Bog Ponies to the families they served, it’s hard to imagine the breed dying out. But like so many working horse breeds, it was on the verge of extinction by the late 20th century. A survey in 1992 found a mere 20 mares and six stallions remaining. In the end, the breed was saved by its perfect suitability as a children’s pony.
Distinguishing features: Thanks to its history as a working animal, the Kerry Bog Pony has incredible strength and endurance, with strong bones and a compact, muscular body. The cannon and pastern are short, the hooves are upright and the neck is strong. Height varies from 102-117cm and many colours are seen, although bay and chestnut are the most common. The breed is known for its intelligent head and large, gentle eyes.
Modern day Kerry Bog Pony: Nowadays, these ponies are popular with children thanks to their fun-loving yet calm character and their willingness to give anything a go, from ridden classes to cross country. They are also well-loved by adults, especially as driving ponies.
Image credits: Heather Moreton, Horse Sport Ireland, The Kerry Bog Pony Cooperative Society. William Micklem.