THE Kerry bog pony population has been given a boost by a 'Flashy Fox' who has sired more than 140 foals, bringing the breed back from the brink of extinction.
Just two decades ago, only 20 of the bog ponies existed -- and Flashy Fox was the only stallion.
And the future of the rare Irish breed looked so bleak that the Department of Agriculture had to intervene and offer incentives to conserve and regenerate the animal.
The pony was later classified as a 'rare breed' under the supplementary measures of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme. Since then, Flashy Fox has sired more than 140 foals and both he and his father Dempsey Bog have played the biggest part securing a healthy future for one of the country's oldest equine breeds.
Dempsey Bog is now in the US, where it's hoped he'll continue to help populate that side of the Atlantic with the pony.
Flashy Fox's mother Purple Heather is now 30 and continues to be a standard bearer of the breed. Breeders of the Kerry bog pony from all over the country will gather in Glenbeigh, Co Kerry, on Saturday where their ponies will be DNA tested to establish their purity.
It's the latest event planned by the Kerry Bog Pony Co-operative Society, whose work has ensured the breed is listed as third most popular Irish breed after the Connemara pony and the Irish draught horse.
"When we started, there was only a handful of stock but now we have over 160 members of the society all over Ireland and we're also trying to spread the breed in America and Europe and a new branch of the society is opening in England," said society president John Mulvihill.
A sure-footed and strong animal, the pony was traditionally used for bringing turf from the bog. However, as farming became more mechanised they began to die out.
The height of the bog pony revival was between 2005 and 2006 when their popularity increased as did prices, and a purebred mare could be expected to fetch €3,000. Prices have since fallen to between €1,200 to €1,500.
Physically, the pony is quite stocky and has a strong body and neck. The breed is hardy and has a long, dense coat, especially during the winter.
Stallions grow to approximately 11.2 hands, while a fully grown mare will not exceed 10 to 11 hands. A strong whole colour is deemed the most desirable and chestnut, grey, brown and black are the most common. Piebalds and skewbalds are not allowed. The Kerry Bog Pony Society is now in the running for a community award that will be presented by RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan at the Dromhall Hotel, Killarney, on Sunday.