Bog pony revival takes new stride
SAVED from the jaws of extinction, one of the country's oldest equine breeds is making a comeback.
Although numbers had dwindled to less than 20 in the1990s, the Kerry bog pony now has a foundation stock of 279 mares and 39 stallions.
The breed is being showcased at a sale in Glenbeigh, Co Kerry, this weekend, where breed enthusiasts will be able to show off their ponies and partake in some horse-trading to buy a few more.
Ann Crowley,secretary of the Kerry Bog Pony Cooperative Society, said things were looking so bad in the 90s that the Department of Agriculture had to intervene and offer incentives to conserve and regenerate the breed.
"The Kerry bog pony is now classified as a 'rare breed' under the supplementary measures of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS)," Ms Crowley explained.
"There was only one stallion, 'Flashy Fox', left and there was a programme put in place to identify bog ponies.
"This involved taking DNA samples from ponies that were thought to have come from Kerry bog pony stock."
A sure-footed animal, the pony was traditionally used for bringing turf out of the bog.
"It was favoured for this because of its strength and because it didn't cause a lot of damage to the bog. However, when farming became more mechanised they began to die out," Ms Crowley said.
The height of the bog pony revival was in 2005 and 2006, when their popularity increased as did prices, and a purebred mare could fetch €3,000. But prices have since fallen to between €1,200 to €1,500.
"We believe it's important to keep the breed going and to encourage people to breed them to a very high standard, as close to the original type as possible," Ms Crowley said.