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shetland_ponyShetland Pony

Equus caballus


The Shetland Pony is a small variety of horse.  It has a stocky, muscular body with a shaggy coat.  The coat can come in a variety of colors, but the most common are shades of black and brown.


This type of pony weighs between 300 and 500 pounds.  Shetlands stand no taller than 11.2 hands (46 inches) at the withers (shoulders).


  • Horses’ large eyes are set on the side of their heads so they can see nearly all the way around their bodies.
  • Their ears swivel separately so they can determine the exact location of a sound.
  • The strong legs of horses enable them to run very quickly to escape predators.
  • The stocky stance and sure-footedness of Shetland Ponies made them useful for working in mines.


The pony’s diet consists of grain and hay.


Ponies have a gestation period of 11 months. One baby (foal) is born at a time.  Twins are possible but quite uncommon.  A healthy foal is able to stand up an hour after it is born.  Foals are left with their mothers until they are 4-5 months of age, at which time they are weaned.

Shelter and Space Needs

Ponies require adequate open space in which to move around for exercise.  Although they can tolerate cold weather fairly well, ponies do need shelter from the wind and rain.  During the day, Cosley Zoo’s pony shares an outdoor yard with the draft horse.  Each evening he is led into his stall inside the barn, where he spends the night.  The domestic animals are brought indoors during the day in the case of extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or lightning.

Life Expectancy

Shetland Ponies live an average of 20-25 years.

Relationship With Man

Known to be small and hardy, Shetland Ponies were developed for use in coal mining to pull heavy loads in very small spaces. Today, Shetland Ponies are often used as companion animals for children because of their easygoing nature.  They are also used as show animals.

Fun Facts

  • The Shetland Pony was originally developed in the Shetland Islands about 100 miles north of Scotland.
  • Ponies, along with other types of horses, have the ability to sleep standing up, and often do.
  • The height of a horse is measured in hands. Originally a “hand” was equal to the width of a human hand, but has since been standardized. One hand is now equal to four inches.
  • Not all horses wear shoes! Shoes are only necessary to protect the feet of horses that often walk on hard surfaces. The Shetland Pony at Cosley Zoo does not wear shoes, but he does have his hooves trimmed several times a year by a farrier.


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Bobcat photo at top of page by Edward Durbin 

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