Newly recognized breed has old roots
Research shows that the small but growing population of Terceira Ponies has a lot in common with the Lusitano and other breeds from the Iberian region.
Originating on the island of Terceira in the Azores, the Terceira Pony was recognized as a breed only last year but it has been popular for agricultural and social activities for centuries. Currently, the Terceira Pony population numbers about 100.
Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Azores undertook a study of the Terceira Pony population. In addition to analyzing DNA of 52 Terceira Ponies, the researchers took 28 body measurements of 30 animals to construct a phenotype for the breed.
They found that the average Terceira Pony stands 128 centimeters tall at the withers (about 12 and a half hands) and his withers height, croup height and body length are approximately equal. In addition, the DNA analysis showed that the ponies have a level of genetic diversity similar to that of the Lusitano and other breeds originating on the Iberian peninsula.
The researchers note that preserving genetic diversity, which enables populations to adapt to changing environments, needs to be a primary consideration when planning future breeding strategies because the Terceira Pony studbook will be “open” for the next three years, allowing breeding with horses of different origin and phenotype.
Reference: “Morphological and genetic characterization of an emerging Azorean horse breed: The Terceira Pony,” Frontiers in Genetics, February 2015
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #454, July 2015.