Why Are Shetland Ponies so Small?
The little Shetland pony originated on the Shetland Islands, where a harsh climate and lack of food favored a small, tough animal. These ponies are descended from normal-sized horses brought to the Islands a thousand years ago.
The Islands – rugged, with long, cold winters – do not grow enough food for big horses with large appetites. As the horses adapted to their hard life, they grew smaller in size. By breeding only the smallest horses, people in the Shetlands have developed even smaller Shetland ponies. Some are only 32 inches high.
For its size, the Shetland is the strongest of all horse and pony breeds. It can pull twice its own weight under circumstances where a draft horse can only pull approximately half its own weight, as well as many being able to carry up to 9 stone – 130 pounds (59 kg).
Shetland ponies are found worldwide, though mainly in the UK and North America. In general, UK ponies tend to preserve more of the original characteristics of the breed and are often stockier than their American cousins.