- Published: 10 July 2008
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Carol Pratt, age 9, of Prescott, Ariz., for her question:
WHERE DID THE SHETLAND PONY ORIGINATE?
The Shetland pony is one of the smallest of ail horses. It stands from 32 to 46 inches high and originally came from the Shetland Islands of Great Britain.
The original Shetland ponies were short aned stocky. People in the Shetland Islands used them to pull coal carts in the mines because they were strong and required little food.
Shetland ponies were imported to the United States as children's pets. But horse breeders decided that a lighter, flashier type of pony would be more popular. To gain these characteristics, they bred the Shetland with the Hackney pony.
Today, many Shetlands have so much Hackney blood that they are no longer suitable for children. But their slender legs, fine and delicate heads and silken manes and tails make them popular show animals.
Some Shetlands still make excellent pets for children. However, they are intelligent and crafty animals and must be trained by experts.
The Shetland Islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean near the North Sea. The islands are Great Britain's most northerly European possession. They lie about 50 miles northest of Scotland's Orkney Islands and 210 miles west of Norway.
Over 100 islands make up this group, but people live on fewer than 20 of them. Some islands hve only lighthouse keepers and a few shepherds.
The islands have an area of 552 square miles and a population of about 20,000. These people are of Scandinavian origin and their language still contains Icelandic words.
Many Norse customs still survive in the Shetland Islands. Ancient stone towers stand on the islands. The county seat, Lerwick, is on Mainland, the largest island.
The Shetland Islands have a wild, colorful beauty. Their rugged coasts rise from the ocean in deeply cut cliffs. Lonely lighthouses stand on hills that overlook the sea.
Many tourists visit the Shetland Islands in summer when daylight remains almost around the clock. In winter, there is little daylight.
The famous small, shaggy Shetland ponies, the long wooled Shetland sheep and an unusually small breed of cattle inhabit the islands.
The islands contain peat, copper and iron deposits.
The main occupations of the Shetland people are weaving, knitting, fishing and raising cattle, sheep and ponies. Farmers raise oats, barley and vegetables. Knitting hosiery and shawls is an important home industry.
There once was considerable whale hunting off the Shetland Islands, but not today.
One of the most beautiful of all herding dogs is the short Shetland sheep dog that stands from 13 to 16 inches high. It was originally bred to herd the small livestock of the Shetland Islands. Sheep raisers in the western United States today often use the Shetland because it can cover large areas without getting sore feet.