HISTORY OF THE BRITISH SPOTTED PONY



The spotted coat of the British spotted pony was his natural camouflage when he roamed the heaths and forests of ancient Britain. Stoneage man painted him on the walls of his caves, and they appear in many illustrated manuscripts, old paintings and drawings down through the centuries. Because of their unusual coat colouring the spotted pony was highly prized and it is documented that they were sold for enormous sums of money and were widely used in peace and war. In a parchment roll dated 1298 there is listed all the horses purchased for Edward 1st campaign at Falkirk. It describes a spotted Welsh cob from Powys purchased from Robin Fitzpayne. He is one of the most expensive on the list. In a fifteenth century manuscript of the chronicles of Sir John Froissart there is an illustration of a little chestnut spotted cob.

Due to our Celtic origins, and our subsequent worship of the horse goddess Epona we have our ancient fertility rites and dances, which have been passed on down through time and are still enacted by our Morris dancers and mummers in their plays throughout the country villages to this day. One of the characters in the mummers plays is the spotted hobby horse who represents spring growth and fertility. He would dance down the village streets and any fair maiden he could catch and touch was supposed to become pregnant. We know that somehow the spotted pony was linked with these ancient rites.

The spotted pony was feral in the British Isles, and possibly was a well known colour amongst the Welsh hill ponies. We have many instances of spotted ponies in the old Welsh stud books and Gwynfe Hero, a spotted Welsh cob foaled in 1916, features in some of our oldest pedigrees.

There have been some importation's of European blood down through the centuries. While the Roman army brought with them their elite officers mounts some of which were known to be spotted Spanish horses of great elegance. Also there were many gifts of fine horses sent between the royal families of Europe, and we snow from paintings and documents many were spotted. There is a mid nineteenth century print of a lady believed to be Queen Victoria driving a beautiful little Welsh-type spotted pony with a spotted Dalmatian dog running behind. Another recorded import (again of Spanish decent) was some Danish Knabstruppers in the early 1960's. Some stallions were also imported by Chipperfield's Circus for liberty work and some found their way into private hands. Some of our modern day stallions carry this blood through spangled Leopard who was by Flashlight of Derriott out of a Knabstrupper mare. Sparside buttons is an outstanding stallion of this old line. fairy King who was Welsh bred was the greatest progenitor of many of our ponies and he features through his son, Fairy Prince, in many of our oldest studs pedigrees. He strongly influenced the Dantsley, Domino, and Ypsitty studs who have in their turn sold stallions to many small studs throughout the UK and abroad.

The British Spotted Horse and Pony Society was formed in 1947 to keep a register and preserve them, and in 1976 the society split and the ponies under 14.2 hh were looked after by the British Spotted Pony Society. The bigger ones were entered in the British Appaloosa Society registers.

After the last war there was a great awakening of interest in the spotted pony and many were exported to Australia, America, Canada and Holland, France and Germany. The studbooks relate the constant loss of some of our best mares and stallions to the demand from abroad. During the 1960's and early 70's subsequently the British spotted pony has become a rare breed with about 800 animals currently registered in the society's studbooks.


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