American Kerry Bog Pony Society ~ Preserving an Ancient Breed

The Survival of the The Kerry Bog Pony

Kerry Bog Ponies Church Farm Cty Down Ireland Ireland is a legendary and mystical land, a blend of memorable beauty, timeless history, and determined ability of its inhabitants to survive incredible hardship. The legacy of Ireland is one of magic, ancient wisdom, beauty and endurance. By no coincidence these words perfectly describe the Kerry Bog Pony.

In the fabric of Ireland for centuries, the Irish Kerry Bog Pony very nearly disappeared forever. It is estimated that by the eighth decade of the 20th century only about 40 ponies remained. Once fixtures of labor in the smallholder’s yard, the ponies could haul volumes of peat from the tricky peat bogs where larger beasts of burden failed. They carried all manner of other burdens, required little food to sustain them, and doubled as the family’s cart pony. But these strong, gentle ponies were outdistanced by war, famine, importation of the donkey, and mechanization. They were relegated to fend for themselves and became objects of neglect, as well as target practice of shooters out for easy sport around the Kerry bogs. Their comeback to become acclaimed as Ireland’s Heritage Pony and established in Ireland’s official Kerry Bog Pony Studbook, is a storybook tale worthy of a land of mist and faerie magic.

The breed owes its escape from extinction in large measure to the vision and tireless efforts of a Kerryman named John Mulvihill. John brought these ponies to national attention, igniting the interest of John Flynn of Weatherby’s, Ireland’s leading DNA laboratory. Weatherby’s confirmed that Mulvihill’s pony, Flashy Fox, possessed unique breed markers. Flashy’s sire, Dempsey Bog, was tested, along with several other ponies in the country. With identification of living foundation stock, a breed was saved. A legend lives.


Kerry Bog Ponies Church Farm Cty Down Ireland The Kerry Bog Pony is an elegant pony of draft use, averaging 10 to 12 hands on natural habitat. The ponies are generally chestnut, grey, black or bay, although light color and pintos are known to occur. They have a long, dense coat enabling them to withstand harsh winter conditions without shelter. The head is of average size, dish faced, with small ears, bearing a similarity to the Arab. However in conformation and type the Kerry Bog Pony is uncannily similar to the Morgan horse. The neck is strong and of medium length; the body rounded, muscular, of short back, laid back shoulder, and deep-chested. They possess unflinching stamina and a strength beyond their size. In all, the Kerry Bog Pony is a powerful breed with innate soundness of foot, ideal for living on the soft underfoot conditions of Kerry bogs. The pony possesses a large heart and lungs which also contribute to the ponies' survival in spite of harsh weather conditions.

The Kerry Bog Pony, “the hobby”, was once a commonplace draft pony in Ireland. However, by the end of the 18th century, pony numbers were in decline with many of these animals being used to support the British cavalry as pack-horses during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The Famine of 1845 probably contributed to the decline in pony numbers, as many of the small farmers who depended on the ponies emigrated or died. The consolidation of farms in the 1850’s along with the increased used of machinery and stronger, taller horse breeds, as well as the donkey, for farming practices also contributed to the decline of the Kerry Bog Pony. The ponies were left to fend for themselves on the marginal lands of bogs and mountains, forgotten and nearly lost forever.

Kerry Bog Ponies Church Farm Cty Down Ireland John Mulvihill, of Co. Kerry has tirelessly worked to save these ponies from extinction. He spent many years searching his local area, where there was a strong tradition of Kerry Bog Ponies, for ponies exhibiting the specific qualities of this rare breed. In the early 1990’s he found a stallion and bred two foals. Weatherby’s Ireland, DNA Laboratories confirmed unique breedmarkers of the Kerry Bog Pony and ponies were tested to identify foundation stock to replenish the breed. Through an extensive breeding program, the once small small herd is growing in number annually, with approximately 200 bog ponies today. The breed has been given the official seal of approval by the Irish Equine Centre following blood and DNA testing and the breed has been recognized as the Irish ‘Heritage Pony’. Official breed registers have been established in Ireland and in the United States.

Kerry Bog Pony Breed Characteristics

Size—Evolved as a small draft pony over centuries in the bogs, averaging 10 to 12 hands on natural habitat. Some ponies are taller, however, while maintaining the other breed characteristics.
Color—Usually of solid color, often with white markings; usual colors are bay, chestnut, black, but also dun, roan, grey, palomino, cremello and white are known to occur, as well as pinto, tobiano, paint.
Head —Pleasant, sweet and sometimes dishfaced with small, pointed ears. Nostrils allow large intake relative to body size and the jaw is strong and well formed with excellent dentition to facilitate grazing on heath, gorse and heather.
Body —The neck of the Kerry Bog Pony is strong and of medium length with shoulders rounded and muscular. The body is strong and compact and the chest is deep with well sprung ribs and good girth. Loins are powerful and the hindquarters are strong and well formed. The tail is full, abundant and well set and carried. Large heart and lungs contribute stamina.
Coat—Long, dense, easily capable of withstanding harsh Winter conditions without shelter.
Legs—Forelegs are strong and muscular with a strong forearm. Hindlegs are muscular and powerful. The cannon bone is short with flat hard bone of good size. Pasterns are short and upright hooves, wide open and well formed of hard horn and require little trimming.
Temperament—Kind, sensible, confident, well mannered, loyal, and courageous. There is none of the stereotype unpleasant 'pony temperament' displayed in this breed.
Action—The Kerry Bog breed is a powerful pony with good bone and of great strength relative to its weight. This, together with its excellent conformation, gives the pony a lovely straight and level action with good balance and a touch of flash. This intelligent pony is very sure footed and well capable of thinking for itself in the soft underfoot conditions of the Kerry bogs.

The Kerry Bog Pony in North America

In 2003 a breeding herd of Kerry Bog Ponies came to the United States. Included in this herd are foundation stallions Dempsey Bog and Old Peat. Two foals were born of this herd in 2004, fillies! — TAF Miss Ruby Peat (Dempsey Bog x Miss Peat) and TAF Foxy Peat (Old Peat x Kerry Rose). In addition to this herd, there are two other ponies, Moneen Red Vixen, a mare believed to be in Pennsylvania (sired by Dempsey Bog) and her 2003 colt (sired by The Spotted Badger) last known to be in Maryland.

Imports already registered in Ireland are accepted by the American Registry. Offspring of registered pairs are accepted by AKBPS with DNA confirmation.

Registration of the ponies is an important feature of their preservation. Breed promotion and preservation of pure bloodlines in North America, including the integrity of the breed Registry are the core of AKBPS’ mission.