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THE WELSH PONY AND COB SOCIETY
HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
(Published by the Welsh Pony and Cob Society on their website)
The Welsh Pony and Cob Society was founded in 1901 and published the first volume of its Stud Book the following year. It contains four Sections: The Welsh Mountain Pony, under 12 hands (Section A), The Welsh Pony, under 13 hands 2 inches (Section B), The Welsh Pony of Cob Type, also under 13 hands 2 inches (Section C) and the Welsh Cob, exceeding 13 hands 2 inches with no upper height limit (Section D).
Welsh Mountain Ponies are believed to be descended from the Celtic Pony and to have existed in the mountains of Wales for over a thousand years, enduring great hardship and often persecution. As a result of this hardship, these ponies have developed a hardiness of constitution and an intelligence which has made them one of the finest foundations for horse breeding in the World. Today the Welsh Mountain Pony is acknowledged to be the world’s most beautiful pony.
For many generations the Welsh Pony (Section B) was the main means of transport for shepherds and hill farmers. With the increased popularity of children’s riding ponies, around 1930, this breed has developed along these lines whilst retaining adequate bone and substance, hardiness and constitution, combined with the usual kind temperament which is such an outstanding characteristic of all Welsh breeds.
From references in early Welsh literature it is apparent that the Welsh Cob was well established as a breed by the 15thcentury. The Welsh Cob is the ideal family horse, being strong enough to carry an adult and quiet enough to carry a child. Courage, activity, intelligence and a natural ability to jump make them ideal hunters for rough or hilly country. They take readily to harness and their success in International Driving Competitions has made them world renowned.
The Welsh Ponies of Cob type share all the characteristics of their larger brothers. With the increasing popularity of trekking, for which they are ideally suited, they are much in demand and their future seems assured.
The merits of the Welsh breeds are well known world wide, consequently they are in great demand for crossing with other breeds and a Welsh Part-Bred Register is contained within the Stud Book. This is for horses, cobs and ponies with a minimum of 12.5% registered Welsh blood and these animals can been seen competing successfully in jumping, eventing, driving and riding competitions or in the hunting field.
The first written references to ponies and cobs in Wales appeared in the laws of Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), ruler of Deheubarth, written in the year 930. As a result of these laws, Wales was the only nation in Europe to have a National Literature (as distinct from Latin) and this literature mentions three types of horses and ponies in Wales:
* the Palfrey, i.e. the riding pony
* the Rowney or Sumpter which was the pack horse
* the Equus Operarius or working horse, the light able bodied working horse that pulled the sledge or small gambo i.e. Cob rather than Shire horse.
Several references and descriptions of ponies and cobs are found in Welsh literature of the 15thand 16thcentury and these will be described later.
Available evidence tends to show that the Welsh Mountain Pony has existed, in all fundamental respects very much as we know it now, since prehistoric times. For hundreds of years they ran wild throughout the country and became such a nuisance to the hill shepherds and others engaged in agriculture that they brought unto themselves considerable persecution. King Henry VIII (1509-1547) considered that only animals capable of going to war were of any value and ordered the destruction of all stallions under 15 hands and mares under 13 hands. Fortunately some animals escaped slaughter by escaping into the hills of Wales and, like many other persecuted races, managed to survive and increased its intelligence and inherent virtues, a characteristic which it passes on when used as foundation stock for the breeding of other kinds of horses and ponies.
Welsh Ponies and Cobs have a decidedly ‘Arab like’ appearance in their make up and although alien blood has been introduced within the existence of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society, from the references to the type of animals existing over many centuries, it is more likely that the ‘Arab like’ appearance has been here since the Roman occupation, these accompanied the Romans from the African campaigns and were abandoned wholesale in the United Kingdom when they withdrew in 410 AD.
Some discreet infusion of Thoroughbred, Eastern and Hackney blood may have occurred from that date, but the greatest measure of improvement has been brought about by the intelligent and careful selection within the breed itself.
About the year 1700 AD farmers began to realise that ponies and cobs could be an asset when grazed on the Welsh hills with sheep and cattle and a market gradually developed for the ponies along these lines and for the cobs to do light farm work. The demand for these animals increased and hundreds changed hands singly or in droves in the big autumn Fairs, more people took an interest in their breeding and the stallions were more carefully selected.
In 1901 a number of landowners, farmers and enthusiasts formed the Welsh Pony and Cob Society and the first volume of the Welsh Stud Book was printed. Members amounted to about 200 (compared to the present day 8,000) and the animals very soon became world famous with surprisingly large numbers e.g. 100 to 200 being exported around the year 1920 to countries as far as the USA and Australia.