Shire

One of the largest horses in the world is the ancient Shire of Great Britain.  Its precise origin is unknown.  It may have had ancestors among the heavy horses of the Bretons at the time of the Roman invasions.  Probably it also traces back to the Great Horse ridden by armor-clad knights of medieval times. …

Shetland

No one knows for sure when the Shetland Pony first arrived on its native islands, but it was unquestionably thousands of years ago.  Its ancestors may have included ponies and small horses of Celtic, Norse, and even Oriental roots. However the Shetland Pony came about, isolation on the Shetland Islands with their frequently inhospitable climate…

Poitou

For centuries, the Poitou region of France was famous as a center of mule breeding. The area even boasted special breeds of horse and donkey developed exclusively for the purpose—the Poitevin horse, known for its heavy build, and the Poitou donkey, prized for its tall stature and large joints. When the horse and donkey were…

Percheron

Named for the La Perche region of France, the Percheron has existed in some form since ancient times. Some suggest that its earliest ancestors were Boulonnais horses used by the Romans under Julius Caesar to invade Brittany. Others trace the breed’s roots to the Black Horse of Flanders. Whatever combination of heavy breeds went into…

Mule

A mule has a jack (male donkey) for a father and a mare (female horse) for a mother.  The result is an intriguing blend of equine characteristics that rarely occurs in the wild, but has occupied a special place in human life since ancient times. Mules were first bred in the Middle East, where they…

Morgan

The Morgan horse is truly an American breed.  Its founding stallion was born at West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1789, the year that George Washington took office and American government under the Constitution began. This stallion, Figure, was a small horse of uncertain ancestry.  Thoroughbred, Arabian, Barb, and Welsh Cob have all been mentioned as possible…

Miniature Donkey

The Miniature Donkey appears to have originated somewhere in the vicinity of the Red Sea.  This area later became part of the Roman Empire, and it was through the empire that the donkey traveled to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia with which it has been so closely associated.  Although the Miniature Donkey, or Miniature Mediterranean…

Icelandic Horse

Genetic testing has revealed a common heritage between the horses of Iceland, the Shetland Islands, and the Faroe Islands between the two.  All of them are linked to the horses of Norway.  Undoubtedly, Viking travelers and settlers carried their native ponies with them wherever they went. Isolation later shaped each breed into a unique entity,…

Friesian

The spectacular Friesian horse of the Netherlands has been around since anyone can remember.  It was long the valued steed of the soldier, beginning in Roman times and continuing on through the Crusades.  But it was not just a warhorse.  Its immense power and strength made it a good draft animal for farmers, as well….

Connemara

The only native pony breed of Ireland is both ancient and legendary.  No one knows for certain how it came to the northwestern coast of the Emerald Isle.  Most likely Celtic tribesmen brought it sometime in the fourth century B.C.  On the other hand, the Connemara might have traveled with the Vikings around 795 A.D….