Comparing Shetland, Greek, and Caspian Pony Breeds: Detailed Characteristics and Differences

Pony breeds come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, each with its own unique set of characteristics. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at three popular pony breeds: Shetland Greek, and Caspian Pony Breeds.

These breeds are known for their small size, versatility, and trainability, making them popular choices for a variety of equestrian disciplines.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the characteristics and differences of these three pony breeds, including their history, conformation, and suitability for various equestrian activities. Whether you are a seasoned horse owner or a pony enthusiast, this article has something for everyone.

Table of Contents (Horspedia)

Core Differences between the Shetland, Greek, and Caspian Pony Breeds

This article will comprise some of the core differences between the Shetland, Greek, and Caspian Pony Breeds Shetland equines, Greek ponies, and Caspian pony Breeds.

Below you’ll find tables summarizing some core features of each breed for easier understanding like the origin of the pony, the average height of the pony, the color, the character.

Additionally, we will present information about how well these pony breeds interact with humans and other animals, their physique, physical looks and strengths, and features like muscle and bone structure and also how much weight they can carry.

Shetland Ponies | What are their Most Prominent Characteristics

Shetland ponies are native to the Shetland Islands in Scotland and are known for their hardy, robust nature. They have a thick, short mane and tail and come in a variety of colors, including black, bay, chestnut, and grey.

In the table below you’ll find some of the most common traits and characteristics of the shetland ponies.

OriginNorthern Scotland – Shetland and Orkney Islands.
HeightAverage 9.3hh, should not exceed 10.2. The smallest recorded specimen was 6.2hh (26in).
ColorAny, including piebald, skewbald, and dun. Black and dark brown are the most common.
CharacterVery gentle disposition, with great courage and character. Easy to train, sure-footed and adaptable, it makes an ideal first pony for a child and is also excellent for driving and light carting. 
PhysiqueFor its size, it’s considered the strongest of all breeds, capable of pulling twice its weight (twice the power of heaviest horses). Head small and sometimes with a concave face. Eyes large and kindly, ears small, muzzle small with open nostrils.

Abundant mane, with thick tail often long enough to sweep the ground. Very heavy winter coat, summer coat fine and sleek. Back short, strong, and deep through the girth. Legs very hard, with short cannon bones and small feet, and straight, light action.
Shetland Pony Characteristics

More About The Shetland Breed | History of the Shetland Breed

The Shetland pony is an ancient breed of ponies. The earliest remains found in the Shetland Islands have dated about 500 BC when the pony was domesticated.

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Shetland Pony Breed
Shetland Pony

The breed has remained unchanged apart from cross-breeding with the now-extinct, small, black Lofoten pony of Norway, which was brought to the Shetlands by Norse settlers about 1,000 years ago and was also adapted to island life.

Uses of the Shetland Pony Breed

The Shetland breed is extremely hardy, having bred for millennia in a cold, exposed land with no trees and very little shelter.

It is used by the Shetland islanders for all purposes, and in the mid-19th century was much in demand as a pit pony to work in the coal mines of northern England.

Strength of the Shetland Pony Breed

The Shetland’s strength is legendary. A nine-hand Shetland is recorded (in the year 1820) as having carried a 170-lb man 40 miles in one day.

The Reverend John Brand, writing in 1701, was also impressed with the Shetland’s strength.

Some not so high as others prove to be the strongest, yea there are some whom an able man can lift in his arms, yet will they carry him and a woman behind him eight miles forward and as many backs.

Conflicting Origins of the Shetland Pony Breed

Theories about the origins of the Shetland conflict, one authority claiming that it came down from the Tundra during the Ice Age, crossing the frozen Norwegian Sea before the retreat of the ice fields from the British Isles that the island isolation and inbreeding of the following millennia caused the pony’s size to be reduced from an original height of around 13.2hh.

Another theory is based on recognizable “Shetlands” which appear in Old Stone Age paintings in the caves of the Dordogne and Altamira.

It proposes that Shetlands may have been the first equines brought to Britain by the human agency since one of the earliest waves of human immigrants came to Britain from the Biscay area, and suggests that Shetlands were probably a dwarf variety, split off from the main body of ponies of Exmoor type.

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This second theory seems more acceptable since ponies would have had a hard time on the Tundra during the Ice Age and it seems more probable that a northward rather than a southward move into the tough conditions of the Shetland Islands would have stunted the ponies’ size.

American Shetland Pony Breed | Characteristics and Overview

In the table below you’ll find some of the most common traits and characteristics of the American Shetland pony breed.

OriginThe United States.
HeightUp to 11.2hh.
ColorAll colors.
CharacterHighly intelligent, gentle, and adaptable.
PhysiqueTaller and lighter in build than its Island ancestor, head more refined, often with a faint inward dish, ears dainty. High, exaggerated action is reminiscent of a miniature Hackney, often with artificially-developed gaits.

Despite its seeming delicacy, it’s still strong enough to pull twice its weight.
American Shetland Breed Characteristics

More About the American Shetland Pony Breed | History of the American Shetland Pony Breed

The American Shetland was developed in the USA by selective breeding from quality imports of the original Island type, which is stockier than the American version.

It is popular throughout northern America, and demand has sent its value to heights that would be more realistic for a Thoroughbred racehorse.

American Shetland Pony
American Shetland Pony Breed

As early as 1957 an American Shetland stallion fetched $85,000 at auction, and another has since been syndicated for $90,000. (NB Ponies not especially suitable for breeding still command only pony prices.)

Common Uses of the American Shetland Breed

The breed’s adaptability is shown by the many uses to which it is put. In addition to their primary functions as children’s ponies and general household pets.

Shetland pony breeds appear in the show ring in both halter and harness classes (sometimes the ponies’ tail muscles are nicked to give an artificially high carriage and false tails are added, and sometimes false hooves are fitted to make their feet seem longer).

However, on the racetrack, they are trotting before tiny, lightweight racing sulkies (Shetlands have clocked 1.55 on a half-mile track); and in Pulling Contests, where the ponies compete to pull a percentage of their weight.

Greek Pony Breed | Characteristics and Overview

Greek ponies, also known as Katerini ponies, are native to the region of Katerini in Greece and are known for their strong, muscular build. They have a dense, wavy mane and tail and come in colors such as black, brown, chestnut, and grey.

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In the table below are some common ponies under the greek ponies. You’ll also find their characteristics and common traits.

Skyros Pony Breed | Smallest Greece Pony

One of Greece’s smallest ponies, the Skyros, stands 9.1-11hh. It comes from the island of Skyros, where it is used as a pack pony and for light agricultural work.

Skyros Pony Breed from Greece
Skyros Greek Pony Breed

On the mainland, it is more commonly used as a riding pony for young children. It is a finely-built breed of great antiquity, often cow-hocked and with upright shoulders, and its most common colors are dun, brown, and gray.

Pindos Pony Breed | Strong and Hardy Pony Type

Pindos ponies, bred in the mountains and foothills of Thessaly and Epirus, stand 12-13hh and are used for riding and light agricultural tasks.

They are strong, hardy mountain ponies, slight in build, and of Oriental origin. They are often gray or maybe dark in color. Pindos mares are frequently used to breed mules.

Peneia Pony Breed | Perfect for Farm work and as a Pack Pony

Peneia, in the Peloponnese, has its breed of pony which is used for farm work and as a pack pony. It is of Oriental type, a lightweight pony which does well on the poor fare is a willing worker, and is extremely hardy.

Peneia Pony Breed
Peneia Pony Breed

Peneia ponies range from 10-14hh and come in most colors, brown, bay, chestnut, and gray being the most common. The stallions are often used for breeding hinnies.

Caspian Pony Breed | Characteristics and Overview

Caspian ponies, on the other hand, are native to the Caspian Sea region in Iran and are known for their elegant, refined appearance. They have a delicate, dished profile and come in colors such as bay, black, chestnut, and grey.

In the table below you’ll find some of the most common traits and characteristics of the Caspian pony breed.

Origin Persia – Elburtz Mountains, Caspian Sea.
Height 10-12hh. 
ColorGray, brown, bay, chestnut.
CharacterGentle, tractable, and quick-witted. Ideal mount for a small child in a rough country.
PhysiqueIn type more like a miniature horse than a pony. Arab-type head, with small ears and large, prominent eyes.

Fine bone, short back, and tail set high and carried gaily. Mane and tail fine and silky. Sure-footed, quick on its feet, and has a remarkable jumping ability.
Caspian Breed Characteristics

More About the CASPIAN | History of the Caspian Pony Breed

The Caspian is thought, though not proven, to be the native wild horse of Iran which was used by the Mesopotamians in the third millennium BC and coveted by the Achaemenians and Sassanians for ceremonial purposes from the 5th century BC to the 7th century AD.

Caspian Pony Breed
Caspian Pony Breed

For more than 1,000 years later, this animal was believed to be extinct until in the spring of 1965 a few Caspians were found pulling carts in the coastal towns on the Caspian Sea and grazing along the shoreline.

Possible Similarities Between the Caspian Pony Breed and the Miniature Horse of Mesopotamia

Comparative bone and blood studies have been carried out and the great similarity of size, head structure, and slimness of bone has made researchers optimistic about tracing a connection between the Caspian of today and the ancient miniature horse of Mesopotamia.

More About the Caspian Pony Breed History

Although bones of wild horses have been found in Mesolithic cave remains near Kermanshah in ancient Media, the area described by Greek writers as the homeland of the small horse, no miniature horses are to be found there now.

Records suggest that sometime during the last thousand years tribes from Kermanshah were exiled to Kalar Dasht on the northern slopes of the Elburz Mountains and that these tribes took ponies with them.