A group of horses running in a foggy landscape

The Faroese Pony

Ota yhteyttä: farm-animals@nordgen.org

 

Origin: Faroe Islands 
Faroese name: Føroyska rossið 
Withers height: Average 122 cm 
Colour: Bay, chestnut, blackbrown/
brown and pied. 
Type: Ponies 
Offspring: 1 
Birth weight: Approx. 27 kg 
Number of breeding females in Faroe Islands, 2020: App. 10

 

 


Not at Risk Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct


History: 

Brought to theFaroe Islands by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the geographical remoteness in the North Atlantic Ocean forced these ponies to adapt to its surroundings. Only the horses that could withstand the weather survived and the Faroe Islands became home to horse breed that was strong, hardy and agile.

Three faroese ponies standing against a dark backdrop

These ponies were used by farmers for agricultural purposes and occasionally for transport between villages. Most of them lived freely up in the mountains all year and no targeted breeding took place. Exportation of the ponies to coal mines in Britain combined with modernization in the agriculture on the Faroe Islands, resulted in breed that nearly went to extinctionIn 1978 the association Breeders of Faroese Ponies (Felagið Føroysk Ross) was established to conserve the Faroese indigenous horse and they have kept the studbook ever since. With DNA testing it is concluded that the Faroese horse is a separate and pure breed. In 2018, the system Føroya Fongur was created, in which online access is provided to the studbook with extensive information about the Faroese horse breed. 

Conservation: 

Today there are about 90 individuals alive, of which 70 can be used in breeding  about half in half stallions and mares. Annually around 10 foals are born. However, these numbers are only available through the association Breeders of Faroese Ponies. The total population size has only been reported to FAO’s record system, Domestic Animal Diversity Information System, in 2016 and 2017. Other numbers, such as breeding females are not reported. Due to the size of the Faroe Islands, the high interest in the Icelandic horse breed and the lack of exportation license to Faroese born horses, it is a challenge to increase the number of Faroese ponies. The association Breeders of Faroese Ponies are working on solutions which include marketing strategies and getting exportation licence. Visit their webpage at www.ffr.fo.  

Characterization: 

Characterization of the breed’s phenotypic traits, genetic diversity and socio-economic importance is essential for conservation. A study by NordGen showed that until 2019 only 4 easily available studies had been conducted. Two of the studies focused on the DMRT3-gene which is associated with gaits, one on the myostatin gene and the last one was a genetic analysis of inbreeding and conservation possibilities. Thus, there is still a huge demand for continued research on the traits and importance of the Faroese Pony.   

Photo: Cécile Zahorka, www.thepixelnomad.com

Date published: 19 October 2020

 

References:  

Breeders of Faroese Ponies (2020). Personal communication. 

Kierkegaard, L.S., Groeneveld, L.F., Kettunen, A., Berg, P. (2020). The status and need for characterization of Nordic animal genetic resources, Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 69:1-2, 2-24, DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2020.1722216 

Promerová, M., Andersson, L. S., Juras, R., Penedo, M. C. T., Reissmann, M., Tozaki, T., Bellone, R., et al. (2014). Worldwide frequency distribution of the “gait keeper” mutation in the DMRT3 gene. Animal Genetics 45(2), 274282. doi:10.1111/age.12120. 

Viluma, A. (2012). Polymorphism in myostatin gene and athletic performance in Nordic horse breeds. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, available at: http://stud.epsilon.slu.se/id/file/2988345 

Berg, P., Praebel, A. & Joensen, D. (2013). Inbreeding status and conservation possibilities of the endangered faroese horse. In Book of Abstracts No.19. Nantes, France, available at: http://old.eaap.org/Previous_Annual_Meetings/2013Nantes/Nantes_2013_Abstracts.pdf#page=504 

Staiger, E. A., Almén, M. S., Promerová, M., Brooks, S., Cothran, E. G., Imsland, F., Fegraeus, K. J., et al. (2017). The evolutionary history of the DMRT3 “gait keeper” haplotype. Animal Genetics 48(5), 551559. doi:10.1111/age.12580.