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Lorna Holden on Paebal at British Trec Championships

Lorna Holden on Paebal at British Trec Championships

A rare breed of Scottish pony looks to be making a comeback after becoming dangerously close to extinction.

The Eriskay pony stands between 12 and 13.2hh and originates from the Hebridean islands.

It was once found throughout the area and was used by crofters to carry peat and seaweed until the middle of the 19th century.

An Eriskay pony playing polo at Blair RST

An Eriskay pony playing polo at Blair RST

However, in the early 1970s numbers of the ancient breed became very low with just 20 mares and a single stallion left.

A conservation initiative was launched and with the help of the last remaining stallion, Eric, the numbers have gradually risen.

Some 40 years later, there are now 420 ponies across the United Kingdom.

Eriskay ponies cross the river Spey at Newtonmore on the 2015 Eriskay Trek

Eriskay ponies cross the river Spey at Newtonmore on the 2015 Eriskay Trek

“This has happened over the past 30 years very gradually through the work of a lot of people on the island and the mainland,” Mary McGillivray, the Eriskay Pony Society breeding advisor, told H&H.

“There are now breeders the length and breadth of Britain.”

However, the Eriskay pony is still listed as critically endangered on the latest version of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s watchlist.

“Their genetic position is still very precarious and there are less than 300 breeding mares,” said Mrs McGillivray.

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The ponies, which are usually grey but can occasionally be bay or black, are good weight-carriers.

“We had our annual trek in Inverness-shire in May and the ponies covered 17 miles with adults riding them — they are very hardy and strong,” added Mrs McGillivray, who owns five Eriskay ponies herself.

“They have a great affinity with humans. They are such fun ponies to own.”

For more information on the breed and to get in touch with the Eriskay Pony Society visit: www.eriskaypony.com