13 British Horse Breeds That You Should Know

Britain is most well known for its colonisation of other countries, so you may be forgiven for thinking the country doesn’t have anything of its own to offer. You would be mistaken in this view however – the UK has a vast selection of native horses! Here is a list of a few of the most famous British horse breeds.

British Spotted Pony

This small, UK based breed has been around for several centuries. It was first noted in 1298, and since its inception it has been very popular with the royal family and has been sold for vast sums of money. This breed varies between 8 and 14.2 hands high, and is a hardy pony type. This breed is ideal for saddle and harness uses, and is used frequently for children’s ponies.

Cleveland Bay

Cleveland Bay
Source: Wikimedia.org

The Cleveland Bay originated as a pack horse, that was crossed with Andalusian, Lusitano, and Barb horses after the middle ages. They are always bay, with four categorisations in that color – bright bay, ordinary bay, dark bay and light bay. The breed stands about 16.2 hands; they make up the majority of the bay hoses n the British royal stables, as well as being saddle and general riding horses.

Dales Pony

A mountain and moorland pony from the British isles, the Dales has been linked to the mining industry in Yorkshire since the 14th century. It is ideally between 13 and 14 hands and is a dense, stocky pony with strong legs. Most are black, though brown, bay, gray and roan are acceptable colors. The Dales’ kind, calm temperament lends itself to most disciplines, though they are best suited to endurance and trekking.

Dartmoor Pony

The Dartmoor has lived on the moor that bears its name for many centuries. They have been used as a working horse by the local tin miners, though they now roam semi-feral on the moors. They stand between 11. and 12.2 hands, and can be bay, brown, black, gray, chestnut or roan. When domesticated and broken in, they are used for most disciplines including jumping, dressage and driving, as well as saddle horses for children.

Exmoor Pony

These hardy little ponies roam semi wild on Exmoor between Devon and Somerset in the UK. They were first recorded there in 1086, but fossilised horse remains have been found on Exmoor dating back to 50,000 BC. The Exmoor is strong and stocky, standing between 12.2 and 13.2 hands, and it is usually a dark brown color with “mealy” markings around the eyes, muzzle, flanks and underbelly. They are used for riding, showing, driving and agility.

Fell Pony

Originating in the North of England, the Fell was used as a packhorse and for light agriculture. They are sturdy, strong horses and so very suited to this type of work. The average height is 13.2 hands, and they can be black, brown, bay or gray, but the majority are black. They are agile and sure footed because of their mountain origins, so they are suitable for all types of riding, including jumping, cross country and hunting.


The Hackney was developed in Norfolk in the 14th century, when the king of England wanted horses with a good trot that were powerful and attractive, to be used as riding horses. The Hackney comes in two separate sizes, Horse and Pony – the horse stands around 16.2, the pony can be up to 14.2 hands. They may be any solid color, and because of the sabino genetics they often have white markings. Hackney horses and ponies are popular carriage horses, because of their high speed trotting and exaggerated gaits.

Lundy Pony

This breed was developed on Lundy Island in 1928, and was created by crossing New Forest ponies with a Welsh Mountain stallion. They are incredibly hardy ponies, because of the harsh environment of their native island, and they rarely exceed 13.2 hands. They are usually dun, roan, palomino, bay or liver chestnut, and are useful as children’s riding ponies, because of their small size and good temperaments.

New Forest Pony

new forest pony
Source: Pixabay.com

Horses have lived in the New Forest since before the last Ice Age, and remains have been discovered that date back to 500,000 BC. The New Forest is small but sturdy, and is capable of carrying an adult, although they only stand between 12 and 14.2 hands. They are most commonly bay, chestnut or gray, and are used for general riding, dressage, showjumping and eventing.

Shire Horse

shire horse
Source: Pixabay.com

This beautiful draft horse has been used for centuries as a working animal, as it is massively strong. The Shire is taller than some other draft horses, standing around 17 hands. They may be black, bay, brown gray or roan, and are known for their gentle temperaments as well as their large stature. They were originally used to pull carts delivering ale, and today they are used for forestry work and leisure riding.

Suffolk Punch

The “Suffolk” part of this breed’s name comes from its place of origin, the “Punch” part comes from its solid appearance – shorter but more heavily built than most other draft horses. They were developed for farm work in the 16th century, and generally stand between 16.1 and 17.2 hands. They are all varying shades of chestnut, from light to dark, and they may have small white markings. Today, they are used for forestry, draft work and advertising.


Thoroughbred horse
Source: Pixabay.com

This horse is best known for its use in the racing industry, and has been around since the 17th and 18th century. It was created by crossing native mares with Arabian, Barb and Turkoman stallions, which has resulted in a highly agile, fast and spirited horse. Thoroughbreds range between 15.2 and 17 hands, and are most often bay, brown, chestnut, black or gray. They are mainly used for racing, though they are athletic and also suited to showjumping and dressage.


The Welara was created by crossing the Arabian and the Welsh, in the early 1900s. There are 4 different types of Welsh pony, the A, B, C and D, so crosses between these ponies and the Arab stallions produce different sized offspring – the smallest tend to be under 13 hands, while the largest are between 13.3 and 15 hands. They are used for general riding, show jumping, three day eventing and pleasure driving.

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