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British Shetland Ponies

British Shetland Livestock

Use of British Shetland Ponies:  The British Shetland pony hails from the Shetland Islands off northern Scotland. Small equines have inhabited the islands since the Bronze Age. It’s believed British Shetland ponies are related to a cob type of Tundra pony and a mountain pony type from southern Europe crossed with an Oriental horse.

Shetland Islanders used their stout, short-legged ponies to pull carts of peat and seaweed. Shetland ponies came into high demand when the law banned children from coal pits; their docile and willing dispositions allowed them to adapt to the underground environment. The Shetland pony became the first pony to have its own breed society when fanciers formed the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society in 1890.
Photo courtesy June Brownrich


British Shetland Breed Profile


History of British Shetland Ponies:  The British Shetland pony hails from the Shetland Islands off northern Scotland. Small equines have inhabited the islands since the Bronze Age. It’s believed British Shetland ponies are related to a cob type of Tundra pony and a mountain pony type from southern Europe crossed with an Oriental horse.

Shetland Islanders used their stout, short-legged ponies to pull carts of peat and seaweed. Shetland ponies came into high demand when the law banned children from coal pits; their docile and willing dispositions allowed them to adapt to the underground environment. The Shetland pony became the first pony to have its own breed society when fanciers formed the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society in 1890.

Conformation:  According to Britain’s Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society, today’s height for a British Shetland pony is a minimum of 28 inches to a maximum of 42 inches; these sizes are also historically accurate. The Shetland Pony Society of North America says British Shetland ponies in the U.S. ideally are no more than 44 inches tall with a 46-inch maximum height. British Shetland ponies on both sides of the Atlantic are cobby and broad with small, elegant heads and tiny ears. They have short backs with rounded barrels and strong hindquarters, as well as strong legs with shorter-than-normal cannon bones in relation to their size. British Shetland ponies have long, thick manes and tails and a dense double winter coat to withstand harsh weather. They come in every color except spotted. Intelligence mixed with a strong pony character are hallmarks of this ancient breed.

Special Consideration/Notes on British Shetland Ponies:  There are few purebred British Shetland ponies in North America at this time, though interest in the breed is growing. The Shetland Pony Society of North America registers British Shetlands, though not all SPSNA-registered Shetlands are of British origin.


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