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An A-Z of UK Horse Breeds & Their Sizes

Relatively speaking, the United Kingdom is a small part of the world. Despite this, the diversity of native horse breeds is quite something to behold.

From the farms of Suffolk to the Shetland Isles, Exmoor to the Highlands, here’s an A-Z of UK horse breeds.

Cleveland Bay Horse

Originating in the 17th century, this horse takes its name from the Cleveland district of Yorkshire. A well-muscled horse, the Cleveland has strong legs which are also short in relation to the body.

A Cleveland Bay generally stands between 16 and 16.2 hands.

Clydesdale Horse

Often bay in colour, this draught horse originates from the farms of the Clydesdale Valley in the 18th century. It is believed that at the height of its breeding there were around 140,000 horses in the area.

A Clydesdale today stands between 16 and 18 hands.

Connemara Pony

Originating in County Galway, Ireland, the Connemara breed is known for their athleticism, good disposition and versatility. It’s because of this that they make for superb show ponies.

Connemara Ponies stand between 12.2 to 14.2 hands.

Dales Pony

Well known for their hardiness, courage, strength and intelligence, the Dales pony was extensively used in the British Army in both World Wars. Originating from the Yorkshire Dales, they are mostly black with incurving ears, long, broad and well-muscled quarters and a fine muzzle.

Dales Ponies stand between 13-14 hands.

Dartmoor Pony

This breed has lived in the South West of England for centuries and is known for having excellent stamina as a result of living on the moors of Dartmoor. Recognised colours include bay, black, brown, grey and chestnut.

Dartmoor Ponies stand between 11.1 and 12.2 hands.

Eriskay Pony

Considered a rare breed today by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, this Scottish pony has its origins in the Outer Hebrides and is known for its district grey colour and dense waterproof coat which protects it from the harsh Scottish weather.

Exmoor Pony

Deriving its name from the moors of Devon and Somerset, this pony is another with dwindling numbers, with The Livestock Conservancy designating them as ‘threatened”. Noted for its hardiness and strength for its relative size, Exmoor Ponies are mostly a variant of dark bay.

Exmoor Ponies usually stand between 11.1 and 12.3 hands

Fell Pony

A versatile breed of the mountain and moorland pony originating in Cumbria in the North of England. Because of their sturdy legs and strength, they became the worker breed of choice for fell farmers. Common colours are brown, black and grey.

The average height of Fell Ponies is 13.2 hands.

Hackney Horse

This elegant horse possesses good stamina and the capability to trot at high speed for long periods of time, making it the perfect carriage horse. These large and powerful animals are often solid in colour, ranging from many shades of brown to black.

The height of a Hackney Horse ranges from 14.2 to 16.2 hands.

Hackney Pony

Closely related to the Hackney Horse, this pony was also originally bred to pull carriages but are now primarily used as show ponies. The pony is characterised by its powerful shoulders, pricked ears and muscular arched neck.

Their height ranges between 12 and 14 hands.

Highland Pony

Native to Scotland, the Highland pony is one of the largest of the mountain and moorland pony breeds. These very hardy ponies rarely require shoeing and are very economical to keep. General colours range from a mousy light brown to grey.

Average heights range from 13 to 14.2 hands.

Irish Draught Horse

This horse carries the prestigious name of the national horse breed of Ireland. Initially bred as far horses, they are now mostly used as sports horses, in show jumping and eventing. Can be any solid colour including greys.

Average height ranges between 15.1 and 16.3 hands.

Lundy Pony

Developed on Lundy Island in the early 1900s by the island’s owner Martin Coles Harman by breeding new Forest Ponies with a Welsh Mountain B Stallion. They are characterised by their wide, deep chest, sloping shoulders and sturdy, sound legs. Typically dun, roan or bay in colour.

A Lundy Pony height generally never exceeds 13.2 hands.

New Forest Pony

Indigenous to the New Forest in Hampshire in the South of England, where equines have existed since the last ice age. Now used regularly as riding ponies, they are both narrow enough for children and strong enough for adults. Common colours include bay, chestnut and grey.

Their height ranges from 12 to 14.2 hands.

Shetland Pony

Originating in the Shetland Islands, northeast of Scotland, these ponies are best known for their height, or lack of it. Despite this, they are used for a range or purposes, from racing to leading harnesses. They come in almost every colour.

The average height of a Shetland Pony ranges from 7 hands to 10.2 hands.

Shire Horse

A tall breed of draught horse, the Shire has a very large capacity for weight pulling and in the past, certain Shire horses have held world records as the tallest and largest overall horses. The breed comes in many colours, however, they are mostly black, bay and grey.

Average heights stand between 16 hands and 17 hands.

Spotted Pony

This relatively small pony has maintained its very distinct spotted appearance for centuries. The leopard spotted pony is also quite rare with around 800 reported in Britain.

Their average height ranges between 8 and 14 hands.

Suffolk Punch Horse

Taking half its name from its county of origin (Suffolk) and the other because of its rigid nature, this horse has been an extremely popular horse for moving large objects. The Suffolk Punch is always a distinctive chestnut colour.

These average between 16.1 and 17.3 hands.

Thoroughbred Horse

While this name is often used to describe a purebred horse, it is actually a breed of its own. Thoroughbreds are best known as race horses. These horses are among the “hot-blooded breeds”, known for their agility, speed and boldness.

A Thoroughbreds height can range between 15.2 to 17 hands.

Welara

Originally bred in England in the early 1900s, the Welara stems from a combination of an Arabian Horse and a Welsh Pony. They are commonly used across a number of disciplines of riding.

The average height of a Welara is between 11.2 and 15 hands.

Welsh Mountain Pony & Cob

These are a group of four closely related horse breeds including both pony and cob types which originated in Wales.


– Section A Pony

The Section A Pony is the smallest of the four and is characterised by its small head and refined leg conformation in comparison to the section C and D Cobs.

A Section A Pony may not exceed a height of 12 hands.

– Section B Pony

The Section B Pony is a larger pony which is mostly used for riding purposes. This pony has all of the qualities of the Section A, combined with more athletic ability. They are commonly used for children to ride.

Section B Ponies have a maximum height of 13.2 hands. 

– Section C Pony Cob

This Pony of Cob type is a result of breeding a Section A Pony With a Section D Cob, resulting in a pony which has the power and impact of a cob. The Welsh Pony of Cob Type is often shown in jumping and harness events.

Its height may not exceed 13.2 hands.

– Section D, Cob

This is the largest of the four breeds and they are mainly used for riding for both children and adults. While colour can range massively in all Welsh Mountain Pony types, greys are much rarer in the Section D Cob. They are also the tallest of the four.

Section D Cobs stand at a minimum of 13.2 hands.

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