Looking for information about the smallest pony or horse breeds?
You’ve come to the right place.
I’ll guide you through the five smallest, their history, and other helpful information.
Let’s get our journey started and look into these small horses.
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1. Shetland Pony
Shetland ponies have been around for a long time because of their robust and powerful physique.
Their main identifiable traits include sticking out small ears, a small head, wide eyes, and thick muscular necks.
As a result, they can carry enormous weight when compared to their overall size. It makes them suitable for farm work and riding lessons for children.
These ponies are also known for being intelligent, gentle, and brave. In some cases, these qualities can make for a rather bold and spirited animal.
Nobody quite knows how Shetland ponies first appeared, but these horses were domesticated early. Early inhabitants of the Shetland Islands used the ponies’ hair to build their fishing equipment.
We do know that small ponies existed in Scotland’s Shetland Isles as far back as the Bronze Age. These ponies were then crossbred with Celtic and Norse horses.
It allowed them to handle the harsh climates present in the Isles for centuries. In other words, this crossbreeding created an incredibly powerful and resilient pony breed.
People ended up using them for farm work, pull coal carts, and working in mines. In 1890, the Shetland Pony Stud-book Society first appeared to help improve the breed’s quality and standardize them.
Modern variations have kept all of their strength. Many experts even consider these ponies to be the strongest breed of horse.
Horse owners can expect this pony breed to come in one of two sizes: standards and miniatures. Standard Shetlands are between 34 to 42 inches tall, while ponies under 34 inches are miniatures.
2. Miniature Horse
Miniature horses have become increasingly popular over these last few decades.
Their adorable build and multi-purpose usage make them great companions or pets.
But there’s a common misconception about them not being horses because of their size. It couldn’t be further from the truth as they have all characteristics and instincts of larger horses.
As for their appearance, miniature horses can come in a wide array of colors and patterns. It’s another reason why they’ve become a hot commodity.
Training one isn’t difficult, either, as they’ve got a gentle nature for a horse. I’d be doing a disservice without also mentioning that they can pull times many their weight.
Miniature horses first appeared within 17th century Europe. The rich and powerful kept them as house pets, which made them a high-demand commodity.
Once the 18th century rolled around, people noticed miniature horses could be more than a pet. Their small stature made them perfect for work in smaller, cramped spaces like coal mines.
But this small size does come with a few issues, especially with their breeding. It can lead to difficulties and unwanted physical traits like overbites or underbites.
These dental deformities can result in overfeeding, causing colic, and laminitis. As every horse owner knows, these conditions are an absolute nightmare.
But even with these concerns, these horses remain a popular pet and companion. One of their most interesting uses is as a guide for disabled or blind people.
A miniature horse doesn’t fail to live up to its name. An adult one has a height range between 34 and 38 inches tall, making it a petite but delightful horse.
READ MORE: 7 Calm Horse Breeds
3. Noma Pony
Noma horses are endangered ponies originating from Japan.
Experts consider them to be one of the rarest breeds in our modern world.
Breeding efforts have increased their numbers, but they’re still significantly lower than most breeds. It hasn’t slowed down people from trying, though, as there’s still hope for a reemergence.
If you’re lucky enough to encounter one, several traits will stick out like a sore thumb. Nomas are known for their cylindrical body, tough hooves, and thin legs.
These characteristics have made them excellent at carrying large loads. Honestly, their strength is quite remarkable, considering the Nomas’s small stature.
Japan only has eight native horse breeds, and the Nomas is the smallest of the bunch. Their name refers to one of their original locations, Noma County, in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture.
Nomas are known to be a few centuries old, originating from 17th-century Mongolian horses. But their numbers have always been limited and reached a critically low amount of six at one point.
However, their numbers have started increasing over the years. It sadly hasn’t kept them from being one of the rarest breeds among equines.
One of the more exciting periods for Noma ponies was World War 2. Nomas were used as pack horses to carry heavy loads, such as war equipment, on their backs.
But their time as war horses was short-lived as breeding programs tried to create better ones. During this time, thoroughbred blood was introduced to the Noma and almost caused their extinction.
It also didn’t help that breeding more miniature horses were illegal in Japan for a short period. But a breeding society took on the goal to preserve them in 1978.
Their numbers have started growing steadily ever since.
As Japan’s smallest native horse breed, an adult Noma will have an average height of 40 inches tall. It certainly won’t be the largest horse that you’ve ever seen.
CHECK MORE: Kinds of Horses
Falabellas are known for being the smallest horse breed, which made them a shoo-in for our list.
But don’t let their size fool you into thinking they’ve got pony proportions.
This ultra-small breed sports horse features to make them adaptable and resilient. There’s no reason a Falabella can’t live in any horse habitat.
In some cases, they adapt to a harsh climate much better than a full-sized horse. Owners can expect them to deal with these conditions with a gentle and docile personality.
A Falabella horse was first registered in 1940 by Argentine Julio Falabella. The Falabella family managed to develop the breed by crossbreeding Welsh ponies and Shetland ponies.
In most cases, they’ll have a cob-type look of those two breeds. The Argentinian breed also picked up a strong influence from Iberian horses within the region, especially Criollo horses.
Another interesting tidbit about Falabellas is their bodies are proportioned perfectly. It allows them to breed naturally.
Most Falabellas are used for driving carts for smaller children. Anyone looking for a house horse would do well with a Falabella, as well.
Falabella horses will usually find themselves in miniature horse registries. After all, this cute horse breed ranges from 21 to 34 inches in height.
It makes them more petite than most miniature horses.
Our final small horse breed, Guoxia horses, is native to China. They’re known for their tiny head, short neck, straight back, and small ears.
As for their coat colors, there are a few different variations. Guoxia horses can have roan, gray, or bay coat colors, which provides a bit of variety.
These horses are rare and have gone through a period of critically low numbers. It also essential to note that they’re one of the few China horse breeds considered purebred ponies.
Sadly, horse experts know very little about the Guoxia horse. But many believe the breed popped up in China more than 2,000 years ago.
Most Guoxia horses come from Tyanyang, Debao, and Jinxi counties in China. These origin locations have made them good in a harsh climate, like a mountain’s rocky environment.
The name, Guoxia, translates to “under the fruit tree,” which highlights their association with orchards. They would stand under fruit trees while farmers would pick the fruit and placing it in baskets.
Guoxia ponies would then carry those baskets back to the farmer’s home. It’s a rather cute way of providing a horse breed with its name.
However, their story isn’t filled with only cute anecdotes. Many people feared the ponies were extinct for a long time until 1981, when some did reappear.
The rare Guoxia horses will have a maximum height of 40 inches or 10 hands. It makes them the smallest breed native to China.
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Smallest Horse Breed FAQs
HOW ARE PONIES AND HORSES DIFFERENT?
The main difference between ponies and horses is their height. Horses are considered to be equine that reach at least 14.2 hands. Meanwhile, ponies are equines that are less than 14.2 hands tall.
WHAT IS THE WORLD’S BIGGEST HORSE BREED?
Shire horses are considered the largest horse breed in today’s world. Horse owners can expect them to between 17 and 19 hands tall while weighing a whooping 1,800 to 2,400 pounds.
I hope our discussions about the smallest horse breeds piqued your interest. If you want to discuss them further or have a question, please leave a comment below. I’ll make sure to answer each one as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading!
- “Everything You Need to Know about Miniature Horses.” The Spruce Pets, www.thesprucepets.com/meet-the-miniature-horse-1886135.
- “Falabella Horse.” Equine World UK, equine-world.co.uk/info/about-horses/horse-pony-breeds/falabella-horse. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- “Guoxia.” Www.petmd.com, www.petmd.com/horse/breeds/c_hr_guoxia. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- Guoxia Pony Info, Origin, History, Pictures. www.horsebreedspictures.com/guoxia.asp. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- “History of the Falabella Miniature Horse.” Falabellainternational.com, falabellainternational.com/history.shtml.
- “How Are Ponies and Horses Different?” Www.wonderopolis.org, www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-are-ponies-and-horses-different.
- https://www.facebook.com/thespruceofficial. “Learn about the Spunky, Versatile Shetland Pony.” The Spruce Pets, 2009, www.thesprucepets.com/meet-the-shetland-pony-1885871.
- Kawsar, Iffat. “Falabella Horse: Most Interesting Facts for Horse Lovers.” The Vet Expert, 20 Sept. 2020, www.thevetexpert.com/falabella-horse-most-interesting-facts-for-horse-lovers/. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- “Meet the Magnificent Shire Horse.” The Spruce Pets, www.thesprucepets.com/learn-about-the-shire-horse-breed-1886127. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- Noma Horse. www.theequinest.com/breeds/noma/. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- Noma Horse – World of Horses. www.worldofhorses.co.uk/breeds/noma-horse/. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- “Noma Horse Highland – Imabari, Ehime.” JapanTravel, en.japantravel.com/ehime/noma-horse-highland/1787. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- “Shetland Ponies, about Shetland Ponies – the Breed and Stud-Book.” Www.shetlandponystudbooksociety.co.uk, www.shetlandponystudbooksociety.co.uk/about-the-breed. Accessed 27 June 2021.
- The Miniature Horse: More than Just a Smaller Horse! INSIDE THIS ISSUE…. , 2012.
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My name is Ben Roberts, and I absolutely love animals. So, naturally, I love writing about them too! I have three dogs and one old cat, plus experience with horses. Each one of them provides me with a new adventure every day. And the best part is they’re all best friends. Well, except the cat when he gets a little annoyed. FIND HIM ON: TWITTER.
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