Bosnian Pony - Ponies & Breeds
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The former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the home country of a small horse known as the Bosnian pony, or Bosnian mountain pony, a country rather difficult to travel, with great differences in altitude and vegetation. The existence of fertile valleys and rough mountains with meager soils are partly responsible for the variation in size found in these ponies. They are a breed that belongs to the greater native population of Balkan ponies, and as such arguably the one most thoroughly bred.
The region has been exposed to Turkish invasions and occupation in former times, and its horses therefore historically to a certain amount of oriental blood, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which makes these horses the most attractive and highly-bred.
Bosnian ponies bred in the fertile Romanja evolved as taller, stronger horses of about 14 hands, in Herzegovina with its summer droughts, a smaller strain of about 13 to 13,2 hands resulted. The ponies are often fairly long, but where the oriental blood crops out more dominantly, they are shorter-backed. The prevailing color is brown and bay, but basically, all solid colors can be found.
Traditionally, these ponies were used as mountain pack horses, to a lesser degree as riding ponies. In 1908, an official stud for the mountain ponies was established, which was dissolved only six years later. Then the Bosnian pony received recognition again in 1929, with the establishment of a new stud. The best mares in the country were acquired, which showed no oriental blood, plus a few stallions. It took until 1932 to obtain the stallions that became the foundation sires of the breed as we know it today. Those were Misko, Barut, and Agan/Aslan. Misko was a smaller, strong-bodied, but refined type, the other two taller and somewhat coarser. All three served until 1945. Misko's and Barut's offspring was widely distributed, while Agan became more of a broodmare sire. Misko proved himself as the greatest sire of Bosnian ponies.
After 1945, pure breeding was determined as the official goal. The main stud was Borike, and better husbandry led to an increase in size.
The performance, the accomplishments of the breed are legendary. The Austrian-Hungarian artillery reportedly invaded the region with heavy draft horse teams - and left with the ponies of the region pulling their guns. Their endurance is exemplary. In 1893, a long-distance ride took place from Bihac to Sarajewo, about 140 miles, which the winner covered in a little under 30 hours and a half - which takes on meaning when the kind of terrain is being considered! Bosnian ponies were put to the test in 1958 on a 10-mile ride, carrying over 220 pounds in rough, mountainous country, with the winner doing this in 1 hour and 11 minutes and the last coming in after 1 hour and 37 minutes.
The years of the civil war in the region put an end to all officially regulated breeding there. The surviving horses are exposed to indiscriminate crossbreeding. However, many of them were imported by Germans. Although many of those were never registered in Germany, and of those that were, many were just registered as "riding ponies" with various studbooks, Bosnian ponies still exist in Germany and other European neighboring countries in sufficient numbers to enable breeders to uphold the breed. Between 1970 and 1991, about 3,000 of these ponies were shipped to Germany, so that the breed may possibly be saved from extinction after all. Their reputation was a poor one in the beginning, partly because the imported animals were at first probably what the Bosnians wanted to get rid of, but what survived the beginning years has every chance for its own niche of the market of small horses. With the foundation of the "Interessengemeinschaft Bosnische Gebirgspferde" in 1993, Bosnian ponies took a giant step in that direction.
The real challenge however is not going to be inbreeding, but the salvation of these ponies' hardiness, frugality, and endurance, something that cannot be done on the rich pastures of Germany. So the plan ought to be to maintain the bloodlines, advance the breed in regard to correctness, a good mind, riding points, but ultimately to reintroduce it to its homeland, once that becomes stable again, politically and economically. Only in the rugged mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in similar country, can the breed maintain its original qualities.
Raiko - a Bosnian Pony.
Article ©HorseShowCentral.com Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photos ©Oelke or Oelke Archive.
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