History and Tourism

Recent nuclear and mitochondrial DNA studies indicate that genetically the Kerry Bog Pony is closer to the Welsh pony than to its geographically closest neighbour, the Connemara pony. The KBP is more closely related to the Northern European breeds such as the Icelandic and Shetland pony breeds, which would suggest that its origins lay in Northern Europe as opposed to Southern Europe. 

In the Bodleian Library (Oxford, England) there is a book depicting "Part of an Irish Procession at Stuttgart in 1617". The morphology of the equines portrayed and their height compared to the adult humans shown, suggest that these may have been ponies of the type known now as Kerry Bog Ponies or formerly as Irish Hobbies.

In 1756 Charles Smith referred to a visit by Isaac Ware to Kerry in 1720 and to Ware's observation that such horses were formerly called Asturiones, as having been originally imported from the Asturias in Spain. Many Irish equines were used as pack horses or as cavalry horses during the Peninsular Wars (1804 - 1814) and again a century later during the Great War. Their removal from their native habitats greatly reduced the numberof horses and ponies in the Irish landscape. Changing lifestyles and methods of transport further reduced their numbers.

Visitors to Kerry (Mr. And Mrs. S. C. Hall, 1840) and prominent British agricultural writers (e.g. David Low, 1842) referred to the distinctive small local ponies of Kerry.

A century later Kevin Danaher (1962) referred to their use in Kerry for transport of sod peat from bog to roadside.

These small, sure-footed, versatile ponies were used on family holdings in the mountains and valleys of Kerry for centuries. They were known locally as Hobbies. It is thought locally that this name may have been derived from a practice in Gaelic-speaking areas of calling "Hup, Hup" repeatedly to a pony to attract it home to the farmyard. The practice is known in Irish or Gaelic as obaireacht.

The modern name - Kerry Bog Pony - reflects the qualities of their living and working environment.

Further Reading: