The Kerry Bog Pony is a mountainous breed of pony, originating in Ireland.
The Kerry Bog Pony was originally a feral breed, residing in peated bog lands in Co. Kerry. This is where the breed gained their name and it is thought that they were descended from the Irish Hobby Horse breed. There are records, however, dating back to the 1600’s of horses residing in bogs in Kerry, where they lived a feral existence.
Originally, the Kerry Bog pony was used for draught purposes, historically used by locals to carry loads of peat and kelp back to nearby villages. The Kerry Bog Pony is more than capable of this time of work, due to its low weight to height ratio and unusual footfall pattern. It is this pattern that enables the breed to navigate soft grounds such as boglands with ease.
The breed was almost wiped out once upon a time for a number of varied reasons.
That was until the tireless work or a local farmer, John Mulvihill, who search for the remaining Kerry Bog specimens in the country. He then sourced over 20 ponies and brought them from the bogs back to his stables, where he tested them and then used them to rebuild the breed. Out of the twenty ponies, only one was a stallion. He sired over 140 foals between 1995 and 2012.
The farmer, in 1995, then had blood-typing performed on the breed, which identified their DNA markers. This proved the Kerry Bog pony to be a unique breed that formed its own population from other breeds. The breed was first recognized by the Department of Agriculture as a breed in the early 2000’s. By 2011 the population had climbed to in excess of 330 registered ponies.
Standing from 10 to 12 hands tall, the Kerry Bog pony is a small breed.
They, as mentioned above, have a low weight to height ration which allows them to manoeuvre wet ground conditions. They also have better grip, due to their hind feet tracking outside their front feet. They also have a steeper hoof angle than other breeds.
Kerry Bog ponies are renowned for their hardiness and ability to thrive in harsh conditions, such as their native boglands. They are easy to keep and can survive in an almost wild-like lifestyle, with little-to-no maintenance. They can thrive on low nutrient plants such as heather, moss and even kelp.
A strong and muscular breed, which is why they were used for draught purposes, the Kerry Bog pony have small ears, large eyes and a thick, dense winter coat. They are found in a variety of solid colours, with white markings also common. Pinto variations are not accepted by the Irish registry, however. Historically the breed was used for draught work, though now they are kept as pets, used for driving and riding programmes.
A native Irish breed almost wiped from existence if it were not for the hard work of one dedicated breeder, thankfully the Kerry Bog Pony survives and thrives to this day.
Picture Credit - The Kerry Bog Co-operative society.