Ponies - Breeds, Show & Rare Ponies
Pony Breeds are listed Below; click on each for breed history, photos, and breed association links.
A Pony Breed Means What?
All Ponies can be called a horse, because both horse and pony belong to the same species.
The world today has many breeds and/or types of horses; in referring to some of them as horses and some as ponies, varying aspects and standards are applied by scientists, breed associations, or the general public.
We at Horse Show Central do not wish to even try to stipulate whether any given breed should be called a horse or a pony. If various breeds are considered ponies but are called horses by the respective association or registry, the reader is likely to find such a breed included on both, our horse page list of breeds and our pony page list of breeds. This is so because we at HSC wish to honor the breed association's preferences while we also wish to display breed lists in such a way as to allow readers searching for breeds to easily locate the breed on this site. HSC does most certainly however, endeavor to present truthful information, including scientific, genetic, historical, and modern day information regarding each breed or type, and then to direct readers to official association/society websites.
The term "pony" has various origins, and so ponies mean different things to different people. While it was and still is loosely applied in certain fields of equestrian activities (the cowboy often referred to his horse as his "pony", irrespective of type or height, and polo pony is another example, irrespective of type or height), there are breed and horse show associations which refer to anything under 14,2 hands as a pony, and every animal above 14,2 hands as a horse. In hippologistic and scientific contexts, however, the phrases "horse" and "pony" carry different meanings, as each expresses different conformation types, which also are tied to certain behavioral traits. Within these parameters, horses may be above 15 hands and still be ponies, and there are horses under 13 hands that must be called a horse, in both instances due to that animal's type.
Pony Breeds vs Horse Breeds
Two things are important to note here regarding horses and ponies:
1) The different conformation types stem from different ancestral, prehistoric horses. Even among the post-glacial wild horse subspecies that all modern horses go back to, the pony type was represented, as was the type we associate with "horse conformation". Generally, primeval horses of the northern regions were of pony type, those adapted to southern, warmer regions of horse type.
2) Whether a horse is called a pony or a horse is never meant in a demeaning, or an upgrading way, neither emotionally, nor economically. There are high-value animals, and there are those that might be considered of lesser value in both categories.
Scientifically, there are a number of factors that distinguish ponies from horses, although some breeds fall into a gray area -- because most breeds represent a blend of pony and horse traits, it is not always the case that the traits associated with either pony or horse are so dominant that a breed can confidently placed in either category.
The pony is found throughout the world and there are many distinctive breeds. Pony breeds and their outcrosses have influenced riding and harness horses the world over, but individual pony breed registries have also been maintained, with as much breeder's delight in breeding superior animals.
Pony Breeds and Pony Conformation
Among the characteristics associaton with ponies as "type" are:
Rounded forms, a compact build with good muscling, short legs in comparison to the body, heavy mane and tail, including thick forelock, and a roof-like top of the tail; short cannon bones, well-developed joints; the head has a broad forehead, a light dent on the bridge of the nose when viewed from the side, medium-sized muzzle, big, round eyes protected by a protruding lid, short, wide-placed ears. The body is barrel-like, with a broad back, a well-rounded rib cage, a strong loin, a dropping hip and a low tail set. The withers are not very prominent.
Although all colors are found among today's breeds of ponies, the original color of the ancestral pony was a peat brown, as is still expressed in the Exmoor pony; part of this prehistoric color package are a "mealy mouth" and lighter-colored areas around the eyes, at the belly and flanks, and inside the legs. Mane and tail are black, of course.
What does not meet the eye is that in typical ponies, the joints are constructed differently from horses, providing more lateral stability, but not quite as much forward freedom as in the joints of the horse types. Another anatomical peculiarity of ponies is the form and placement of the teeth: The incisors of the pony are more like a nipper, meeting straight up and down, whereas those of the horse type meet more at an angle. Thus the pony can graze down deeper. The pony's molars are larger and set evenly in the jaw (which is stronger, heavier than that of the horse) like the spokes of a wheel. The pony is typically an easy keeper; it can survive on hard grasses and bark, which it is able to grind sufficiently due to its strong molars, and it has a digestive tract capable of utilizing coarse feed high in fiber and low in nutrients.
Ponies are somewhat shorter-strided, but more of an all-rounder, while the horse is more of a specialized runner. The pony's moves are flat, while the horse moves with more knee action.
In most modern breeds, breeders have tried to combine traits from the pony and the horse. Traits like flat movements (short, broad cannon bones), well-expressed joints, compactness -- well-sprung ribs, muscling, strong loins, highly efficient digestive tract -- are all characteristics which they took from the pony, If the region they lived in had a wet and cold climate, and if they were too poor to supplement their horses, they also had to rely on those characteristics that allow ponies to prosper under those conditions, thus implementing more pony traits in their breed. In one way or another, the pony contributed to most, if not all, of today's breeds. More often than most breeders realize, color is linked to certain conformation and other traits, so if in any given breed a brown or bay color was preferred and selected for, it automatically meant that other pony characteristics were perpetuated, too.
The pony is used for a wide variety of purposes in today's world, ranging from riding, driving, and work with many varied disciplines within the competitive arenas and for pleasure. Ponies represent Mother Nature's recipe for an all-rounder.
Article by Hardy Oelke. For information regarding the Sorraia horse, the Vale de Zebro Wild Horse Refuge, and the Sorraia Mustang -- visit www.sorraia.org
Jansen, Forster, Levine, Oelke, Hurles, Weber, Olek, "Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse", 2002, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Return to the Horse Breeds main page.
The following links will take the reader to pages pertaining to pony "types" that are listed on the horse breeds page:
Haflinger, see horse section
Hucul Horse - Carpathian Pony
Icelandic pony, see Icelandic Horse
Miniature Horse, see horse section.
Norwegian Fjord, see horse section
Polish Konik, see horse section
Pony Breeds of the World --
The following links will take the reader to pages pertaining to BREEDS of PONIES, called pony:
American Shetland Pony
Camargue Pony - Camargue Horse
Kerry Bog Pony
New Forest Pony
North Iberian Pony
Pony of the Americas - POA
Welsh Mountain Pony
Welsh Pony & Cob