Horse Isle 3: Big Book of Breeds
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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Gotland   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The Gotland (also known as 'Gotlandruss' and 'Skogruss') is an ancient Swedish pony breed, that is known for its characteristic mealy coat.

Gotland ponies have roamed the island of Gotland since the Stone Age, though it is not known how they got there. These ponies had no known interaction with humans until 1000 BC, when the Goths, who arrived at the island 800 years earlier, used them to pull chariots. As the Goths expanded their civilization into Europe, they brought Gotland ponies with them, and it is safe to assume that these Gotland ponies influenced many European breeds.

There aren't many records of Gotland ponies and their deeds prior to the 18th century. We do know that they roamed freely in the forests of Gotland, because they received the nickname "Skogruss," meaning "horse of the forest," and because one document from the 13th century mentions them roaming in forests. In addition, a document written by Bishop Joran Wallin in the 18th century describes ponies that roam the forests of Gotland.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the residents of Gotland used Gotland ponies on their farms to perform light draft work. They also allowed their ponies to roam freely in the forests and pastures that were public lands at the time. However, things started to go poorly around the 1850s, when forests and pastures were divided, and public lands were sold to private hands. Many forests and pastures were fenced, and could no longer serve as grazing lands for Gotland ponies. Being unable to reach these pastures, Gotland ponies started to graze on crops, thus destroying the fields. Furthermore, some ponies also tore down fences when going from one field to another. Because of the damage that the ponies caused, the residents on Gotland decided to get rid of the ponies by capturing and exporting them to various European countries. Consequently, by the beginning of the 20th century, less than 200 ponies were left on the island.

The situation got even worse during World War I, when the shortage of food drove people to hunt most of the leftover ponies. As a result, the numbers of Gotland ponies plummeted even more, and the breed was on the verge of extinction.

Fortunately, the Gotland was saved by a group of farmers who decided to capture and breed the ponies that were left. Together with the Gotland Agricultural Society, they enclosed several Gotland mares in a large pasture, and allowed them to roam freely. Every year they introduced a Gotland stallion to the herd, and gradually the herd grew. This successful breeding program still takes place today on Gotland island.

Today, the Gotland is a popular breed whose future looks bright. In addition to the wild Gotland ponies who roam in Gotland island, there are also many Gotland ponies in other countries, primarily in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. Gotland ponies often serve as mounts for children, but also for driving events, and trotting races.

When it comes to their conformation, Gotland ponies have a short head with small ears and large eyes, a short neck that can be thick, a long back that is often straight, and an overall muscular body. In addition, their manes and tails are often thick, and their legs can have little feathering.

Gotland ponies are usually bay or dun in color, but the colors of black, brown, and chestnut also occur from time to time, as well as buckskin, palomino, and smoky-black. However, double-cream diluted coats are unacceptable for registration, and therefore it is not recommended to cross Gotlands who are heterozygous for the cream (C) allele. The coat of Gotland ponies is usually mealy (pangare) and lacks white markings. In addition, the coat is almost always solid, though in extremely rare cases it can have a splashed-white pattern. Gotland ponies stand between 11.2hh and 13hh.

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