Saturday, June 6, 2009

British pony 'rarer than giant panda'

A British farm is celebrating the birth of a pony whose breed is rarer than the giant panda.

By Daily Telegraph Reporter
Published: 4:20PM BST 29 Mar 2009
The rare Eriskay pony is native to the Scottish island of Eriskay. Photo: GETTY

He may be only four days old, but the little Eriskay Pony is full of energy as he gambles about in the field with his mother, called Winnie.

At only three feet tall, nine hands, the little brown foal may seem fragile but farm workers say the boisterous newborn runs circles around his mother.

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Visitors have flocked to Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm, near Salisbury, Wilts, to see the special new arrival, the first of the year.

The little foal has yet to be named but the farm will launch a 'naming' competition next month.

Farm manager John Rogers said the little foal also very popular with farm workers, who have been eagerly anticipating his birth.

He said: "He's a very welcome addition to the farm, a good little lad.

"Everyone has fallen in love with him and I'm sure they'd all like to take him home - without realising he wont be a cute little foal forever."

Mr Rogers said the newborn was in perfect health and was pleased with how well the little foal had adapted to farm life.

He said: "He's a right little hooligan, he's got plenty of energy in him for such a young thing.

"He's got enough strength to give you a good nudge - probably even knock you over."

It is thought the foal will be weened from his mother in around a month, when he will be separated from her but kept on the farm.

The farm set up its breeding programme for the rare Eriskay pony six years ago.

The newborn foal is the latest of three foals to be born to seven-year-old Winnie, brought in from a farm in Scotland.

Winnie's first and second born, named Summer, three, and Solstice, two, still live on the farm.

The rare Eriskay pony, native to the Scottish island of Eriskay, is an ancient breed with Celtic and Norse connections.

The population thrived until the beginning of the 19th century when numbers went into decline.

It is thought the expansion of agriculture, where larger breeds were favoured over the smaller Eriskay, is responsible for the drop in numbers.

The depleted population, around 300 of the Eriskay pony remain in Britain, prompted the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to list the breed as 'critical'.

It is estimated that there are 2,000 to 3,000 giant pandas in the wild.

Eriskay pony at the Royal Highland Show 2005

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