Shetland ponies originated in the Shetland Islands, located northeast of mainland Scotland. Small horses lived on the Shetland Islands since the Bronze Age, and while the roots of the ancient wild pony are unknown, it is believed that they are related to the ancient Scandinavian ponies; the islands were once physically connected to Scandinavia up until the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 8000 BC. People who lived on the islands domesticated the animal and later crossed the native stock with ponies imported by Norse settlers. Shetland ponies also were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, brought to the islands by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BC. The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into extremely hardy animals. Shetland ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat and other items, and ploughing farmland. Then, as the Industrial Revolution increased the need for coal in the mid-19th century, thousands of Shetland ponies travelled to mainland Britain to be pit ponies, working underground hauling coal, often for their entire (often short) lives. Coal mines in the eastern United States also imported some of these animals. The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society of the United Kingdom was started in 1890 to maintain purity and encourage high-quality animals. In 1957, the Shetland Islands Premium Stallion Scheme was formed to subsidize high-quality registered stallions to improve the breeding stock.
The Shetland pony is a breed of pony (a type of small horse) that is very strong for its size. Shetlands range in size from a minimum height of approximately 28 inches to an official maximum height of 42 inches (10.2 hands, 107 cm) at the withers. (11.2 hands for American Shetlands) Shetland ponies have heavy coats, short legs and are considered quite intelligent. They are a very strong breed of pony, used for riding, driving, and pack purposes.
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Shetland".