- Written by Roseanne Staab Roseanne Staab
- Created: 01 May 2017 01 May 2017
...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
This week I have a wee scunner-of-a-pony and it’s all bag pipes and tartans, sans haggis, as we look at a rare breed of pony known as the Eriskay, out of Scotland, UK.
This is an ancient breed, with blood stock going back to Norse breeding and the Celts. Drawings by the Picts on ancient stones appear to be similar in feature to the Eriskay Pony. (1)
It is related to other northern pony breeds, such as the Faroe and Icelandic.
The island of Eriskay, an ancient, Gaelic, wild area, is located within the Hebrides Islands.
This is an archipelago off of the west coast of Scotland, and there are two groups of the islands, and inner and an outer set. Eriskay Island is situated in the Outer Hebrides. (2)
There was once a large population of these ponies, but during the 19th century, crossbreeding diluted the pure stock.
Crossbreeding was done to increase the size of the animal, and it was implemented so much that the original blood stock was completely reduced down to approximately 20 total animals, in the 1970's. (3)
It is a very rare pony in modern times, with a status marked as “critical,” to extinction.
The UK-based “Rare Breeds Survival Trust” keeps close watch on them, and noted that as of 2006, there were 300 or fewer breeding mares, and 4 purebred stallions to account for.
By 2009, the numbers rose to around 420, world wide.
The true Eriskay Pony could be the last surviving stock of all Hebrides Islands Ponies.
There are now two breed registries, the “Comann Each nan Eelean,” founded in 1971, which disallows all crossbreeding.
The second registry is the Eriskay Pony Society, founded in 1986, and it aims to produce ponies with desirable qualities, and they feel this promotes breed survival. (4)
“Holy Isle,” one of a number of islands located in the Firth of Clyde, off of Scotland’s west coast, has a small number of feral ponies living in a herd.
Holy Isle is considered a sacred site, with water spring and hermitage for monks in ancient times.
The Eriskay Pony is thought to have been preserved, due to this remote, wild location, off from mainland Scotland. (5)
The animal is small, durable and hardy, and is well-noted for its waterproof coat, so as to with- stand harsh winter weather.
They sport a “Pangare` ” coat-trait of pale hairs around the muzzle, eyes, and the underside of the belly, like “horsey-high-lights.” (6)
They shouldn’t have any “eel stripes” or dorsal, or horizontal stripe markings, or other such primitive markings.
The Eriskay Pony comes in at 12HH to 13.2HH and is gray in color.
While a few ponies are bay or black, black must be as, “ Black as the coat -tails on the Earl of Hell.”
White markings, along with any chestnut, piebald or skewbald coloring is frowned upon by breed standards. (7)
The dense, winter coat makes them noteworthy, as it is considered waterproof, adding to their durable quality for outside keeping.
The conformation profile is poor, in my opinion, looking primitive with short, stocky necks that tie-in low onto the shoulder.
They have wide faces, and some are attractive, but the croup is goosy and slanted.
They were used on the farm in olden times, and also by “crofters,” an ancient, agricultural land tenant.
Crofts, or fences, could once be seen in medieval times, and the crofters’ wagons hauled produce, and also peat, from bogs. (8)
The Eriskay Pony is now used for children, since its temperament is calm.
They are also used in western and other driving, and are successful at showing in combined-driving events in Europe.
If I lived in the Hebrides Islands, I, too, would want to save this ancient breed of pony, even though few of them are flashy.
As they say over there, “ Lang may yer lum reek,” or, “ I wish you well for the future.”
And many Scots say, “We’re a’Jack Tamson’s bairns,” or, “ We’re all equal in the eyes of God.”
But, “ A pritty face suits the dish-cloot,” which translates as, “ A pretty face suits the dish cloth,” meaning, if you’ve got a pretty face, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. (9)
Closing for now with some Scottish desserts, (which Roseanne thinks dessert should be eaten at the beginning of dinner,) or in other words, I don’t have room to finish my peas, but I do have enough room for cake.
How about a “Clootie Dumpling” of flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruits, suet, sugar and milk?
I don’t know about suet, so I’ll go with an “Edinburgh Fog,” also known as “Old Smokey,” a tip of the hat to Victorian-times and the thick coal smoke that hung over the cities during the wintertime. (10)
It takes double cream, sugar, macaroons, almonds, and the booze of your choice, like a Drambuie, rum or brandy. Mmmm, that’s my kind of dessert.
Sipping mine to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”
1-8: Internet/Wikipedia, Eriskay Pony Society
9: Internet, Scottish-at-Heart.com
10: Internet, Traditional Scottish dessert recipes