Native outer Hebrides Eriskay becomes park's first pure-bred pony in 20 years

By Culture24 Staff | 13 August 2009
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A picture of a foal with its mother on grass

Aran (above) became the park's first pure-bred pony in 20 years when he was born last week

A rare specimen of one of the only surviving original native ponies from the Scottish Hebrides has become the first pure-bred foal in 20 years to be born at the country's Palacerigg country park.

The pony, named Arran by rangers after his birth last week, belongs to the Eriskay clan, an extremely rare breed used by Norse and Celtic settlers for tasks including cart-pulling and as a method of child transport throughout the Isles.

A picture of a white pony in a field

The pony was used by Norse and Celtic workers

They gained a reputation as industrious labourers with refined people skills. Eriskays were said to be active, honest and workmanlike and sensible and intelligent with a pronounced level of confidence and affinity with humans.

However, according to the Eriskay Pony Society website, the equine example was overtaken by larger rivals in the middle of the 19th century, and by the 1970s there were only 20 recorded in Scotland.

A picture of a white pony in a field

Eriskays have been used as showhorses

The Eriskay is still classed on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's critical list, but dedicated efforts to save the species by establishing breeding groups throughout Britain have increased the worldwide count to around 420 ponies.

A picture of a white horse with its foal

The breed is still classed as extremely rare

It is notable for a dense, thick grey coat suitable for surviving winters north of the border, and has been used in showjumping and for therapeutic horseback riding because of its friendly temperament.

Palacerigg is the Trust's only conservation centre in Scotland, featuring dozens of endangered varieties of animals including North Ronaldsay sheep, Bagot goats, white park cattle and Tamworth pigs.

Find out more about Palacerigg Country Park on the North Lanarkshire Council website

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