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Horse Breeds & types

Article – General Interest for students

Some ‘types’ of horses are often thought of as being a specific breed when in fact they are a type and from mixed breeding. In the same way we see this in the canine world. There are dogs which are a specific breed and others we categorise as a type – which are of mixed breeding. The terrier type for instance.

Examples of horses which are of mixed breeding which are by some, confused with pure breeds, are the Palomino, Cob, Polo Pony, Hunter etc. Some of these terms and descriptions of types are used for competitioins in showing classes. Such classification may well have caused subsequent confusion for some. It is important to know and understand the difference between a ‘Type’ and a ‘Breed’.

Scroll down for specific breeds and types – and more will be found on the links at the foot of this page.


The Palomino

The Palomino is a colour – not a breed. It will be found in many pure bred horses and in crosses too.

The following are extracts from an article by the British Palomino Society: The history of the Palomino horse in this country dates back to 1945. This is when the Golden Horse Society of Great Britain was set up. This society did not have the large following that was hoped for. This then inspired the founders of the British Palomino Horse and Pony Society to gather in 1950. The Society’s main aim is to improve the quality of the Palomino at the same time maintaining a high colour standard.


Body colour should be gold (ideally two shades lighter or darker than a newly minted gold coin) with dark skin and both eyes dark.
The mane and tail should be white and contain no more than 15% dark hairs.
The eyes should be hazel or dark.
Facial markings are limited to a blaze, snip or a star.
Any white socks must not exceed above the knee and the hock.
Because the golden coat is not the result of a special ‘Palomino Gene’ producing horse and ponies of this colour can be difficult. However we have found four known crosses through our personal breeding:

Palomino > Palomino = 50% chance of a Palomino foal
25% chance of a Cremello (Albino) foal
25% chance of a Chestnut foal
Palomino > Chestnut = 50% chance of a Palomino foal
50% chance of a Chestnut foal
(This mixture produces the richest and most desirable colour)
Palomino > Cremello(Albino) = 50 50% chance of a Palomino foal
50% chance of a Chestnut foal
Chestnut > Cremello(Albino)= Palomino 100%
(Most consistent although can produce undesirable colours)

Palominos have appeared in stories and facts from earliest history and are to be seen in paintings of all periods.The Palomino is in a great demand because of good looks, kind nature and ideal use for ridden activities.
Palomino is purely a colour, not a breed, and can be found in many pure breeds and their crosses.
They do not breed true and the colour can come from almost any colour combination, depending on the recessive gene present.
Palomino to Palomino will not, unfortunately, guarantee a golden foal! Cremello to chestnut almost certainly will.
Palominos registered with the Society are inspected after their foal year and, once passed, are eligible to be shown in classes affiliated to the Society. Most of them also compete in many other types of classes also. They can be seen taking part in every sphere of ridden activities.
Do please contact the Society or visit their website for more information.

The Suffolk Punch

History of the Suffolk Punch Horse

The Suffolk Punch is one of the oldest heavy horse breeds in the world. The Suffolk Punch was first developed in the 16th century for use as an agricultural draught horse.
All Suffolk Punch horses can be traced back to a single stallion belonging to Thomas Crisp, foaled in 1768. In the 1960s numbers of the Suffolk Punch horses decreased so much that the breed was threatened with extinction, but numbers have risen thanks to new breeders.

The Suffolk Punch Height
The Suffolk Punch Horse stands 16hh to 16.2 hh for mares and 17 hh to 17.2hh for stallions.

The Suffolk Punch Horse may be any shade of chestnut. The breed has a large head and slightly dished face, short neck, compact muscular body and short legs. They are bred to have no feathers to make them easier to maintain on the clay soils of Suffolk.
The Suffolk Punch Horse is known for it docile, gentle temperament.

Uses for the The Suffolk Punch
Used in Agriculture for pulling carts and log extraction. They have smaller feet than some of the other draught horses. The breed along with many others was used as a Warhorse in the First World War. Although broad they also make an excellent weight carrying riding horse.



The Cob – a Type of horse not a breed.

The Cob – this is a type of horse. It is not a breed.  A true breed is one which can show it’s lineage back through many generations to specific horses within that breed line.

Here we provide information on the types of horses (rather than breeds) and some of this was drawn from the horsemart web site giving descriptions often used today to describe types of cob, showing and general characteristics. However, it is important to note that we have corrected some text from that site which described cobs as breeds. They are NOT a breed but a type of horse and are always of mixed breeding. They cannot therefore prove lineage back more than a couple of generations as far as we are aware. The ONLY cob which is a specific and true breed is the Welsh Cob – The Section D of the Welsh breeds.

Cobs are usually of stout build with strong bones, large joints and steady disposition – they have good feet, thick manes and tails, are good doers (do not require much food to keep weight on). A number of cob types are popular in the UK.  Many are very good looking animals with pretty dished faces and big kind eyes.
Most have some feathers, thus showing their strong connection with their Draught Horse ancestry. Many however, have them trimmed to make them appear less heavy in appearance – especially the show cob. Size wise they may be anything from a large pony height to a big horse.
They generally make an ideal first horse owing to their more passive and amenable natur and easiness to feed. A good looking cob is hard to beat and worth it’s weight in gold.

New terminology is today creeping into the UK leisure horse world. Some cobs may be heard to be described as the Irish Cob and the “Coloured Cob” or “Gypsy Cob,”. The latter are known in the USA as the Gypsy ‘Vanner’ horse. This American term is creeping into the language mainly of those who are new to horses in the UK. The term Gypsy cob is often found to be the trendy term being used to describe coloured cobs. This type of traditional or “Gypsy” cobs are often seen in “coloured” horse classes. Originally a favourite of Romany travellers, who used them to pull caravans, (see below) they are now used for driving, dressage, showing, and even jumping with great success.

Their temperament and hardiness means they are generally more amenable, are good doers therefore need less attention to maintain a good well covered condition through the cold of the winter months.

Working Cob classes are sometimes held at horse shows, where the horses must jump a series of fences and then demonstrate their paces on the flat in a manner similar to the requirements in British Working Hunter classes.


Show cobs in the United Kingdom are overseen by the British Show Horse Association (BSHA), formerly known as The British Show Hack, Cob and Riding Horse Association.
Traditionally cobs are exhibited with manes hogged, legs trimmed, and pulled tails and may be ridden astride or sidesaddle.

The rulebook of the British Show Horse Association (BHSA), states:

“The Cob is a type rather than a breed. A short-legged animal exceeding 148cms (58 inches or 14.2 hands) with a maximum height of 155cms (61 inches or 15.1 hands), it has bone and substance with quality and is capable of carrying a substantial weight…Cobs should have sensible heads, (sometimes Roman nosed) A full generous eye, shapely neck crested on the top, with a hogged mane and well defined wither. The Cob should also have clean, strong hocks and all the attributes of a good hunter”.

In general terms, cobs are generally larger than ponies, standing 14.2 hands or taller, but are relatively small and compact, usually with somewhat short legs. It is said that good show cob should have “The head of a lady and the backside of a cook!”.

Cobs are described in three ways for showing: Lightweight (minimum of 8½” bone), Heavyweight (minimum of 9” bone), or Maxi Cob exceeding 155 cms.
The classes where cobs are shown also have a similar breakdown:

  • Lightweight Cob – mare or gelding 4 years old and over, exceeding 148cms, but not exceeding 155cms, capable of carrying up to 14 stone (196 pounds).
  • Heavyweight Cob – mare or gelding 4 years old and over, exceeding 148cms, but not exceeding 155cms, capable of carrying more than 14 stone.
  • Maxi Cob exceeding 155cms – to be judged as Cobs. Judges must pay particular attention to type (i.e. short legged animals of Cob type). Preferably to be shown hogged.

It was only in 2008 that the Maxi Cob class was introduced by popular demand, which has proved hugely popular with, in 2009 a qualifying series being added with a final at the Royal International Horse Show. At the 2010 AGM, Sue Philips was delighted to announce a Maxi Cob of the Year was to be held at HOYS in 2011.

Maxi Cobs are treated a bit differently from other divisions. The highest placed animals qualify for the Maxi Cob final at the National Championship show. Winners of these classes are not eligible for open Cob Championships.  The Maxi Cob must we assume, be an animal which has some heavy horse within it’s breeding – Shire/Clydesdale etc)

Popular uses of the cob include driving, showing and recreational riding. Cob-type breeds have become increasingly popular for Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), as well as for riders who seek horses who are responsive but with a calm temperament, shorter stature and steady, comfortable gaits. They generally make an ideal first horse owing to their more passive and amenable nature

Other Cob Types & coloured horses.

Within this section we include the fact that there are associations and societies for coloured horses and particular types of cobs – organisations set up in the same way as that for Palominos.

The Coloured horse and Pony.

A mare produces a foal with a mixed coloured coat because as a rule it is a mixture of breeds – the specific colour genes have been passed on to the mare and on to the foal which produce this mixed colour coat. A few true breeds do in fact breed skewbalds or piebalds but most breeds are solid colours.  The coloured horse and larger pony was in the past mostly of a more substantial body mass and less refined in most ways than the true breeds.

Today however, we do see some very refined and lightweight coloured horses. This means they have a more refined blood in their breeding – such as warmblood (e.g. any of the European fine breeds) or Arab or Thoroughbred back down the line in their breeding.

The coloured horse has become more popular in recent years and although it does not have a stud book which shows lineage going back many years, it does have it’s own association.  A group of people set up a Society for coloured horses and ponies to enable showing classes to be put on specifically for coloured horses.  In days gone by, coloureds were not so popular owing to the fact that they were a mix of breeds and therefore thought of as not so well bred.It was difficult for a coloured horse to compete in classes against single colours and pure breds.  To counteract this and to promote the coloured horses and ponies of this country the ‘Coloured Horse & Pony Society’ and the British Skewbald and Piebald Association were formed.

Another ‘Type’ of Cob

The Gyspy Horse / Pony.

In past times – up to the early to mid 1900’s, the true Romany gypsy roamed across England moving from one area to another following the seasonal farm work.  The work they followed was things like crop picking (fruit, hops, potatoes, turnips etc. etc). The families lived in horse drawn caravans.The horses the Romany chose had to be up to the job of pulling their van all day.

It had to be sturdy and strong, easy to feed and easy to keep weight on through the Winter months when no work was to be had and therefore no money to buy animal fodder. It had to have good strong feet and limbs with a good coat, mane, tail and feathers for protection against all weather. 

The gypsies invariably tried to breed their own horses when they could – it was cheaper than buying one, and some continued to do it even though they no longer travelled the land, and some of course still breed horses – it is in their blood.  The old fashioned gypsy type described above became known as just that – a gypsy type.  Today people have found this horse to be a really useful leisure horse because it is easy to keep.  Some time after the two coloured horse associations above (CHAPS and BSPA) were set up, another group set up a society which has no colour restrictions, and which promotes the Gypsy cob type – The True Gypsy Cob Association (TGSA).

The above 3 associations/societies do not have stud books in the same way as the breed societies which require detailed and proven lineage.  To register with CHAPS, BSPA OR TGSA there is no requirement to show lineage going back several generations to a specific horse or horses of a specific breed.  Usually it requires that the horse or pony to be registered with them, represents the required standard chosen by the heirarchy of the organisation for ‘looks’  (if that can be used as a description of a horse or pony).  As with all breeds and societies you need to check their specific requirements if you require exact details.

Finally, the last but by no means the least of the cobs – this one alone is classed as a true breed.

Welsh Section D

History of the Welsh D section
Note: ‘Section’ relates to the breakup of the sizes within the Welsh Pony breed

The ‘Welsh Section D Pony’, or ‘Welsh Cob’ as it is also known, is the largest of the Welsh mountain ponies. By the fifteenth century the section D was well established as a breed and was used mainly for farm work and as a means of transport. Welsh Cobs were also used by the army for pulling guns and equipment. The section D, or welsh cob was bred from the Welsh Mountain pony, with crosses to the Spanish horse, Trotters and Arabs between the 11th and 19th centuries.

General Appearance of the Welsh Sec D
The Welsh Section D, Welsh Cob stands over 13.2 hh and has no upper limit.
The Welsh Section D, Welsh Cob is of similar appearance to the section C pony. The breed has a quality head, long neck, strong shoulders, deep girth, muscular back and quarters. The section D can be any solid colour but is less common in grey.

The Welsh section D horse is intelligent, kind, strong, brave and willing. Some can be quite bossy.

Uses for the Welsh Sec D
The section D cob makes an excellent riding, driving and trekking pony. The section D cob also makes a good hunter. They also are often crossed with TB’s to make them a bit quicker for competitive work like eventing. They are just a good all-rounder.

Welsh Section C

History of the Welsh Pony – C Section

Note: the ‘Section’ title relates to the break up of sizes within the Welsh breed.

The Welsh Pony Section C is similar to the other Welsh mountain ponies, but is generally stronger and thicker set due to its cob blood. This cob type welsh pony has existed since the Middle Ages, however after World War II, numbers dropped until only three Section C stallions existed – a stallion and his two sons.

The Welsh C Pony of Cob type can reach a height of 14 hh.

General Appearance of the Welsh Sec C
The Section C Welsh Pony is similar in appearance to the section D mountain pony, but us referred to as a welsh pony of Cob type. The breed has a quality head, long neck, strong shoulders, deep girth, muscular back and quarters. The Welsh pony can be any colour except piebald and skewbald.

The Welsh Section C mountain pony is intelligent, kind and brave.

Uses for the Welsh Sec C
The Welsh section C pony makes an excellent pony for general riding, driving and trekking.



Welsh Section B

History of the Welsh Pony Section B

Note: the ‘Section’ title relates to the break up of sizes within the Welsh breed.

It is believed that the Welsh mountain pony has existed since prehistoric times, evolving from the Celtic pony and traditionally being used by farmers in the hills of Wales.
The Welsh Pony (Section B) is slightly larger than the section A mountain pony. A section in the Stud book was opened for Welsh Ponies under 13.2 hh.

General Appearance of the Welsh Sec B
The Welsh Pony has a small pony head, long neck, long sloping shoulders, deep girth, muscular back and quarters. Welsh ponies can be any colour except spotted patterns such as Pinto or Appaloosa.
The Welsh Section B Pony is intelligent, kind, brave and spirited yet has a calm temperament.

Uses for the Welsh Sec B
The Welsh Mountain section B pony makes an excellent child or small adults pony, with superior riding qualities when compared to the section A.



Welsh Section A

History of the Welsh A sec
Note: the ‘Section’ title relates to the break up of sizes within the Welsh breed.

It is believed that the Welsh mountain pony has existed since prehistoric times, evolving from the Celtic pony. The section A is the smallest of the four types of Welsh ponies. The hardy nature of the Welsh pony means they are equally comfortable in any climate. The Welsh Pony and Cob Society were formed in 1901 and the first Welsh Stud Book for ponies up to 12.2 hh was produced.

General Appearance of the Welsh Sec A
The Section A pony has a small head, large eyes, sloping shoulders, short back and short legs. Welsh ponies can be any colour except spotted patterns such as Pinto or Appaloosa.

The Welsh Section A Pony is intelligent, kind, brave and spirited yet has a calm temperament.

Uses for the Welsh Sec A
The Welsh Section A Pony is an excellent child’s pony.



The Shetland Pony

History of the Shetland

The Shetland has inhabited the Shetland Islands off of Northern Scotland for over two thousand years, although the exact origins of the breed are unclear.
The harsh conditions in the Shetland Isles have developed the pony into what is widely regarded as a particularly hardy variety of horse.
Shetland Ponies were traditionally used as pit ponies and also used for pulling carts of peat. Due to the isolation on the Shetland Islands there has been very little change to the Shetland breed in its long history.

Shetland Height
Shetlands are always measured in inches and never referred to by hands, with a miniature Shetland being a maximum height of 34 inches and a standard 42 inches.

General Appearance of the Shetland
The Shetland pony has a small broad head, sloping shoulders, short back and legs, full mane and tail. Shetland ponies are commonly black, bay, brown, chestnut grey, including piebald and skewbald. Spots are not permitted in the breed lines.

Shetland Temperament
The Shetland pony is known for being headstrong, cheeky and independent, but gentle, sociable and generally good tempered at the same time.

Uses for the Shetland
The Shetland pony is able to carry considerable weight for it size but is mainly used a children riding pony – especially and often more suited to the lead rein owing to their strong will. Shetland ponies also make an excellent driving pony.



The New Forest Pony

History of the New Forest Pony
The New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Breeding Society were formed in 1960 and published its own Stud Book.

The New Forest Pony inhabits the forests of Hampshire. Ponies were first recorded as roaming the New Forest in 1016 and have occupied the forest ever since. A number of other breeds have been introduced to the New Forest pony in order to improve the breed. These include an Arab horse owned by Queen Victoria, and later Highland, Fell, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Thoroughbred and Welsh stallions were brought in to the bloodline; however since 1930 no outside blood has been permitted.
Commoners have the right to graze their ponies on the forest. Only registered and specific stallions have been allowed to run out on the forest. This has maintained the blood lines.

General Appearance
The New Forest Pony has a long head, short neck, sloping shoulders, a short back and strong hindquarters. The New Forest Pony can be any colour except piebald, skewbald or spotted. New Forest ponies are not allowed to have blue eyes but white markings on the head and legs are permitted. They are known for being very calm.

New Forest Ponies are intelligent, willing, docile and friendly. They are easy to train.

Uses for the New Forest Pony
The New Forest Pony is a good general riding pony for both children and adults. Newforests are great jumpers



The Irish Draught Horse

Origin of the Irish Draught horse

The Irish Draught Horse was created by crossing the Thoroughbred horse with Irish mares. The Irish draught horse has been traditionally used for agricultural work, carriage driving and hunting.
The agricultural recession in 1879 caused a decline in Irish Draught Horse numbers so in 1904 the Department of Agriculture Committee on Horse Breeding introduced a subsidy scheme to approved stallions of Irish Draught and Hunter type and this resulted in the Irish Draught Horse that is known today.
The Irish Draught Horse Society was formed in 1976 and the Irish Draught is today valued for producing competition horses and hunters.

The Irish Draught Horse is 15 to 17 hh.

Irish Draught horse Appearance
The Irish Draught Horse has a short thick neck, long body and powerful hindquarters which make it an excellent jumper. The Irish Draught Horse is usually bay, grey, brown or chestnut.

The Irish Draught Horse is sensible, alert and willing.

Uses for the Irish Draught Horse
The Irish Draught Horse is primarily used for hunting and riding. Irish Draught-Thoroughbred crosses make excellent competition horses, particularly in jumping events.



The Hackney Horse


The Hackney horse was bred from Norfolk and Yorkshire Trotters and also has Arab and Thoroughbred breeding. The first Hackney horse as we know the breed today, was recorded in 1760. They were used mainly as harness horses, later the Hackney horse was crossed with ponies to create the Hackney pony, and there are now separate stud books for horses and ponies. The Hackney Horse is well known today for its distinctive movement, an easy, rhythmic canter, and a free, generous walk. Some Hackney’s however won’t canter because they are bred for trotting and are difficult to canter and often buck and rear when asked.

General Appearance
The Hackney horse has a small head, long neck and compact body, straight shoulders, short legs and tailed carried high. The Hackney pony is of similar conformation but just proportionately smaller. Both the Hackney Horse and the Hackney Pony can be bay, dark brown, chestnut or black.

The Hackney horse and Hackney Ponies love to please. They are easily maintained and have great stamina.

The Hackney horse or pony is most commonly used for driving

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