Origins of the Highland Pony
The Highland Pony was the original pack horse of the crofters in the mountainous areas of Scotland, in the north of Great Britain. It was used (and still is) for carrying down deer from hunting expeditions in the hills. The breed is possibly decended from the North European horse, and cave paintings at Lascaux in France, which are estimated to be 50,000 years old, depict horses which look remarkably similar to the Highland in both coloring and conformation. Some Highland Ponies still retain the ancient markings of zebra striping on the legs and the majority of them have eel stripes along their backs. There are two different types - the Mainland Pony, which is the bigger of the two and the Western Isles Pony, which is lighter and more active, possibly because of infusions of Arabian blood in the past.
Characteristics of the Highland Pony
The Highland Pony is a strong-looking, heavy set pony with a big body, strong legs and hard, round feet. It stands between 12.3 and 14.2 hands high, with the Western Isles pony being smaller and more refined than the Mainland Pony. The coloring is varying shades of dun, from cream to chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, bays, blacks and greys are also found.
Uses of the Highland Pony
Nowadays, the Highland pony is still used for packing, and is also a popular choice for trekking and hunting. It is an excellent driving pony, and can add substance when crossed with the thoroughbred to produce a quality riding animal.
Although still very rare in the US, Highland Ponies are now being imported into this country (including two geldings imported by comedian, Robin Williams) and they are gaining a growing following. The Highland Pony Society of Great Britain now has a special page on their Web site which includes a listing of contact names, addresses and emails of Highland Pony enthusiasts in the US and Canada. You can also add your name to the list and get in touch with others with similar interests.
If you are interested in Highland Ponies and would like to get more information, you can check out the Highland Gazette.