WELSH PONIES AND COBS
Breed Organization Information
About the Breed
The original home of the Welsh Mountain Pony was in the hills and valleys of Wales. It was there before the Romans. Its lot was not an easy one. Winters were severe. Vegetation was sparse. Shelter, most often, was an isolated valley or a clump of bare trees. Yet the Welsh Pony managed not only to survive but also to flourish.
Led by proud stallions, bands of mares and their foals roamed in a semi-wild state, climbing mountains, leaping ravines, and running over rough terrain. This sort of existence insured perpetuation of the breed through only the most hardy of stock. Hence, the development of a pony with a remarkable soundness of body, a tremendous endurance, and a high degree of native intelligence.
Even an edict of Henry VIII (1509-1547) that all horses under 15 hands be destroyed did not eliminate the Welsh. Hiding in desolate areas where his persecutors were reluctant or unable to go, it continued to live and reproduce, preserving for mankind a distinctive strain of pony that today has generated enthusiasm among breeders and pony lovers all over the world.
Down through the years, the Welsh pony has served many masters. There is evidence to support the belief that it pulled chariots in vast sport arenas. It has worked in coal mines, on ranches, and on postmen’s routes. It has been pampered by royalty and served on the farms of the poor.
That the Welsh pony carries a trace of Arabian blood seems beyond doubt. It is likely that the “Arab-like” appearance has been in place since the Roman occupation. Arabian type horses accompanied the Romans from the African campaigns and were abandoned in the United Kingdom when the Romans withdrew in 410 AD. Also, some discreet infusion of Thoroughbred, Eastern and Hackney blood may have occurred from that date. The Welsh Pony, however, has maintained its own dominant physical characteristics over the years, demonstrating that the Welsh crosses well with many other breeds, and this is, to some breeders, an important aspect of its unusual versatility. The breeders of both fine light horses and smaller ponies have successfully crossed with the Welsh Pony. The Welsh has an unusually high capacity for transmitting his best qualities through carefully selected crosses. Exceptionally good show-type animals are often produced in this way. The breeder of Welsh ponies and cobs derives a wide variety of dividends from his efforts.
The Welsh Pony and Cob Society was founded in Wales in 1901 and their first studbook was published in 1902. The original classification for Welsh ponies was Section A, the Welsh Mountain Pony. With a great need for children’s riding ponies Section B, the Welsh Pony, was added in 1931. With Section A ponies as its foundation, the breed standard for Section B is the same as for Section A but ‘more particularly the Section B pony shall be described as a riding pony, with quality, riding action, adequate bone and substance, hardiness and constitution and with pony character.’
Over the years, evidence has been found indicating that native breeds in Wales existed prior to 1600 BC. Even Julius Caesar, upon his traveling to Britain in 55 BC, was enthralled by the Britons and their exquisite chariot horses. According to documentation in the 15th century, the Welsh Cob was part of the essential string of mounts for the British knight. A Welsh Cob or “rouncy” was used to lead the mighty fighting horses known as destriers. As the destrier’s natural gait was the trot, the Welsh Cobs had to cover great distances matching the warhorse stride-for-stride at the trot. To this day the forceful and ground covering trot of the Welsh Cob is legendary. During the crusades (1100 – 1500), the Arab stallions brought back to Wales by the Crusaders left their definitive stamp on the Welsh Cob. This blend of the Arab and native type is evidenced by the excellent Cobs of today. The Welsh Cob has made outstanding contributions to man both in war and peace. In 1485, Henry Tudor came to the throne of England only with the efforts of the Welsh Militia mounted on their swift and hardy Welsh Cobs.
Up until 30 or 40 years ago, the Welsh Cob was so valuable to the British War Office that premiums were paid to the best stallions. The War Office used the Cobs for the mounted infantry and for pulling heavy guns and equipment through rugged, mountainous terrain not easily surmounted by motorized vehicles.
In peace, the Welsh Cob (prior to motorized vehicles) was the quickest transport for doctors and businessmen. Quite often, the sale of a Cob was dependent on how quickly he could cover a predetermined distance without laboring. This also forged the way for many of the famous old trotting matches, such as were used to test the original Morgan Horse.
Originally in the first British Stud Books (1902), the Welsh registry listed the Welsh Pony of Cob Type as Section B (12:2hh to 13:2hh), and the Welsh Cob as Section C (13:2hh to 14:2hh) and Section D (14:2hh to 15:2hh). In 1907, the upper height limit for the Section D was removed. In 1931, all Sections of Cobs were combined and labeled “C.” This encompassed all sizes of Cobs. In 1949, the Cob Sections were changed to the current standards – Section C as 13:2hh and under, the Section D being over 13:2hh without an upper limit.
Growth of Welsh Ponies in America
American breeders imported Welsh Ponies as early as the 1880s. George E. Brown of Aurora, Illinois appears to have been one of the first real Welsh enthusiasts, importing a large number of animals between 1884 and 1910. Principally through his efforts and those of John Alexander, The Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America was formed and certification for the establishment of a breed registry was issued by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in 1907.
It was the concern of early importers and breeders that a “purity of the breed” be maintained, and this subject was regularly discussed with the Welsh and English breeders who had established their own registry a few years earlier. Mr. Brown summarized this in a report to the members of the American Society: “With a correct standard fixed and uniformly adhered to, nothing can block the advancement of Welsh to front rank in their classes.”
Interest in the Welsh Pony took a drop during the depression years, but through the combined efforts of breeders, particularly those in the East, participation in shows and fairs continued. Beginning in the mid-1950s, “many new members joined the Society, more ponies were imported, and interest spread enormously.”
By the close of 1957, a total of 2,881 Welsh had been registered, and the surging growth of the breed began to require annual publication of the StudBook.
Over the next few decades, the Welsh became the fastest growing breed of pony in America. Registered Welsh spread throughout the 50 states and Canada with over 500 new owners recorded annually.
Today, over 34,000 Welsh ponies have been registered in America. Each of these are descended directly and entirely from animals registered with the Welsh Pony and Cob Society in Wales. Although the numbers of the Welsh Pony of Cob Type and the Welsh Cob are relatively small in the United States compared to their cousins the Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A) and the Welsh Pony (Section B), their numbers are increasing yearly with new foals born and importation from the UK.
Types of Welsh Ponies and Cobs
Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A)
(Height: not exceeding 12hh)
The centuries of harsh conditions the Welsh Mountain Pony has ensured their sound constitution, iron hard limbs and great intelligence which, combined with the legendary Welsh temperament, makes the ideal child’s pony of today. They can be seen ridden and driven all over the World – equally at home in the cold of Canada and Sweden or the heat of Africa and Australia.
The head of the Mountain Pony should be small, with neat pointed ears, big bold eyes and a wide forehead. The jaw should be clean cut, tapering to a small muzzle; the silhouette may be concave or “dished” but never convex or too straight. The neck should be of a good length and well carried with shoulders sloping back to a clearly defined wither. The limbs must be set square with good flat bone and round dense hooves. The tail set high and gaily carried. Action must be straight both in front and behind, quick and free with hocks well flexed.
Welsh Pony (Section B)
(Height: not exceeding 13.2hh)
The general description of the Welsh Mountain Pony can be applied to the Welsh Pony, with greater emphasis being placed on riding pony qualities while still retaining the true Welsh quality with substance. For generations these ponies were the hill farmers’ main means of transport, herding sheep and wild ponies over rough and mountainous country. They had to be hardy, balanced and fast to survive, which ensured that only the best were bred from. These qualities, combined with a natural jumping ability, and the temperament of their Welsh Mountain Pony forebears make the Welsh Pony second to none in whatever field his young rider may choose. Today the hold their own among top class riding ponies both in performance competition and in the show ring.
Welsh Pony of Cob Type (Section C)
(Height: not exceeding 13.2hh (Wales); 14.2hh (US))
The Welsh Pony of Cob Type is the stronger counterpart of the Welsh Pony, but with Cob blood. Their true worth as a dual-purpose animal has been fully realized in recent years, and their numbers have increased accordingly. Active, surefooted and hard they are ideal for so many purposes both for adults and children. Like all the Welsh Breeds they are natural jumpers and they also excel in harness – there are in fact few things that they cannot be used for.
Welsh Pony Cob (Section D)
(Height: exceeding 13.2hh)
The general character of the Welsh Cob is the embodiment of strength, hardiness and agility. The head shows great quality with Pony character. Boldwelintrz.jpg (24578 bytes) prominent eyes, a broad forehead and neat, well set ears. The body must be deep, on strong limbs with good “hard wearing” joints and an abundance of flat bone. Action must be straight, free and forceful, the knees should be bent and then the whole foreleg extended from the shoulders and as far forward as possible in all paces, with the hocks well flexed, producing powerful leverage. The Welsh Cob is a good hunter and a most competent performer in all competitive sports, in recent years they have had great success in the International driving world. Their abilities in all spheres are now fully recognized throughout the world.
The Welsh Part-Bred
Although the animals entered in all four sections of the StudBook vary in size and substance, all show evidence of their common ancestor, the Welsh Mountain Pony. The best inherit the strong constitution, good bone, courage, activity and equable temperament that has led to their worldwide renown.
It is therefore not surprising that they are in such demand for crossing with other breeds, and there is a Welsh Part-Bred Register for horses, cobs and ponies whose breeding shows not less than 25% of Registered Welsh blood. The large Welsh Part-bred has proved an enormous value in most equine disciplines – show jumping, eventing, dressage and driving.
Significant Welsh Cobs and Ponies
Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A)
The famous gray stallion, DYOLL STARLIGHT (foaled 16th May 1894), bred by Mr H Meuric Lloyd (Dyoll is Lloyd read backwards), the Lloyds of Danyrallt and Cynghordy being one of the oldest Welsh families. DYOLL STARLIGHT began a dynasty of siring beautiful ponies. Amongst his sons and daughters were GREYLIGHT (exported to Australia), BWLCH QUICKSILVER (owned by Mrs. Pennell), BLEDDFA SHOOTING STAR, GROVE KING COLE, GROVE STAR OF HOPE, LADY STARLIGHT etc. DYOLL STARLIGHT had a magnificent show ring record, winning first prizes each year at the Royal Show from 1898 to 1901. When he was retired in 1912 (aged 18) he was placed at the Royal Welsh Show and awarded a silver medal. Mr Lloyd?s health began to fail in 1919 (he died in 1922) and STARLIGHT went to spend the rest of his days with Lady Wentworth at the Crabbet Park Arab Stud, where he sired the noted WENTWORTH SPRINGLIGHT amongst others of note. It was a condition of sale that STARLIGHT should not be sold from Crabbet but it is thought that he was sold with mares to Spain about 1925, and died there at the age of 35 years.
Another stallion to have had a tremendous influence on the Welsh Mountain Pony was COED COCH GLYNDWR (foaled 1935, died 1959), who had two strains of DYOLL STARLIGHT on his dam?s side.
Welsh Ponies (Section B)
The two most influential stallions to this lighter type of pony were CRAVEN CYRUS and TANYBWLCH BERWYN.
CRAVEN CYRUS (foaled in 1927) by KING CYRUS (Arab) out of IRFON LADY TWILIGHT (foaled 1913) by DYOLL STARLIGHT. The most influential present day line of this family via DOWNLAND LOVE IN THE MIST (STAR SUPREME x CRAVEN SPRIGHTLY TWILIGHT); STAR SUPREME being a son of LADY CYRUS (foaled 1941) daughter of CRAVEN CYRUS. STAR SUPREME and LADY CYRUS were bred by Mr A.L. Williams of Blanetwrch where CRAVEN CYRUS spend his last days.
TANYBWLCH BERWYN (foaled in 1924) by SAHARA (Barb) out of BRYNHIR BLACK STAR by BLEDDFA SHOOTING STAR. BERWYN is represented via his sons and daughters COED COCH BERWYNFA, COED COCH ERLEWYN sire of TANFFYNNON TWM SHANCO (a noted sire in Mid-Wales), COED COCH SIABOD a Royal Welsh Section B Champion before being exported, TANYBWLCH PENLLYN grand-dam of CLAM PIP, BRYN GWYN grand-dam of TREHARNE TOMBOY etc.
CRIBAN VICTOR (foaled 1944) provided a useful outcross, he was sired by CRIBAN WINSTON and gained his height from his dam CRIBAN WHALEBONE, of Cob parentage. CRIBAN VICTOR spent most of his active life at the Gredington Stud and left a great mark on Section B ponies throughout the Stud Book.
The main expansion of Section B occurred in 1958/1959 when progeny of FS2 mares were born, i.e. four very influential sires that between them laid a very firm foundation.
(i) SOLWAY MASTER BRONZE (foaled in 1959)
(ii) BROCHWELL COBWELL (foaled in 1959)
(iii) DOWNLAND DAUPHIN (foaled in 1959)
(iv) CHIRK CARADOG (foaled in 1958) and his full brother CHIRK CROGAN (foaled in 1959)
Welsh Ponies of Cob Type (Section C)
At the turn of the century when the Stud Book was founded, there were several good sires between 12 hands and 13 hands 2 inches and these were classified into Section B of the Welsh Stud Book. Typical among these was KLONDYKE (foaled 1894), bred and owned by John Thomas of Tre?rddol in Mid-Wales. KLONDYKE was purchased by Mr. W.S. Miller for his famed ‘Forest’ ponies during the years 1906-1910. KLONDYKE was also the sire of TOTAL (foaled 1904), a chestnut stallion and sire of the Ceulan Stud’s first pony SEREN CEULAN (foaled 1908) Section C Champion Royal Welsh Show in 1928, and dam of CEULAN COMET Champion Section C Royal Welsh Shows three times 1931-1933 before being exported to Australia.
Just after the Second World War, Section C of the Welsh Stud Book had dwindled to dangerously small numbers. Only three stallions existed; WELSH PATRIOT (foaled in 1939) owned by Mr. A.L. Williams, his sons, WELSH ECHO (foaled 1944) also owned by Mr. Williams, and TEIFY BRIGHTLIGHT (foaled 1949) owned by Peter Davies and Son.
Notable amongst the sires were:
LYN CWMCOED (foaled 1960) by COED COCH MADOG, Section A from PIERCEFIELD LADY LILIAN (a famous line of Section C ponies), bred and owned by Viscountess Chetwynd. SYNOD WILLIAM (foaled 1969) bred and owned by Mr and Mrs. Cerdin Jones. NEBO BRENIN (foaled 1971) who has headed the progeny competition on several occasions, bred and owned by Mr & Mrs. Geraint Jones.
Welsh Cobs (Section D)
Four sires that have had a tremendous influence on the Welsh Cob breed are:
TROTTING COMET (foaled 1836), brown, 15 hands 2 inches by FLYER out of a chestnut Cardiganshire trotting mare about which very little is known.
CYMRO LLWYD (foaled 1850), dun, sired by an imported Arab from a very fast Welsh trotting mare, he is largely responsible for the many creams and duns gracing our show rings today. The noted LLANARTH BRAINT has over a dozen lines of CYMRO LLWYD blood in him. ALONZO THE BRAVE (foaled 1866), bay, 15 hands 3 inches. He was of ‘Hackney’ parentage, but the Hackneys of those days were much heavier and hard working than the present day animal bred for the show ring. TRUE BRITON (foaled in 1830)(best known affectionately in Wales as “ceffyl du Twm Masiwn,” or the black horse of Tom the mason). TRUE BRITTON was sired by a Yorkshire Coach horse called RULER, his dam was called DOUSE. Rumour has it that she was ‘an Arab mare bought from the Gipsies’, but her painting by Sawrey Gilpin RA (1803) tells a different story. She looks a true ‘Welsh’ Cob, and if she had a longer tail it could well be a painting of the 1977 Royal Welsh Show Champion mare!