The Zemaitukas is a breed of pony from Lithuania. Known in written documents from the sixth and seventh centuries and used during the Northern crusades as a war horse. During this time the pony had a widespread population, but over time the breed almost became extinct three times.
First, during the 1800s when agricultural work needed larger and stronger horses, the Zemaitukas was bred with Trakehners, Araibians and other draft horses which decreased the population greatly. It was saved by the Oginski family and the population increased.
The second almost extinction was at the end of World War II when Germans removed the horses from the stud farm and only a single stud was found in 1958. In was transferred to another farm and a new generation of Zemaitukas’ were bred.
The third decline in population was during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Horses that were part of collective farms were gathered and distributed to private owners and breeding declined. In 1994, only 30 adults remained. The Vilnius Stud Farm began preservation of the horse and is still a breeding center. The population has now grown to 400 ponies as of 2010.
There were two types of Zemaitukas. The ones with Arabian blood were used for riding and the other bred from native horses were used for working. After World War II an effort was made to increase the size and strength of the pony to be used for both riding and working.
The current Zemaitukas is a strong and hardy breed with excellent stamina, disease resistant and has a mild temperament that can be easily trained. The pony stands between 50 and 56 inches high and is one of the tallest pony breeds. The coat can be a variety of colors from brown, bay, black or palomino, but is usually dun.
Today the pony is used for riding and farm work, however some are bred with lighter and larger breeds to produce a pony ideal for sporting events.
Image Caption: Zemaitukas Pony. Credit: Tomas Čekanavičius/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)