Welsh Horses: “Ceffylau Cymraeg”

The Welsh Cob was bred to be the perfect all-’rounder, capable of being ridden at speed across rough ground.

| September 2018

  • welsh horses
    Native Welsh ponies are thought to have lived in Wales for well over 1,000 years. Herds living in a semi-feral state still exist on the mountains and moorlands of Wales today.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Welsh Mountain Pony
    Since time immemorial, Welsh ponies have been used as shepherd's mounts, pit ponies in the coalmines of Wales, children's riding ponies, and — like this one — as show animals.
    Photo by Sarah Hayman, courtesy Welsh Pony and Cob Society
  • Welsh Cob Stallion
    There is no prouder sight than that of Welsh Cob Stallion. They are strong, alert, and have a fast, high-stepping trot.
    Photo by Sarah Hayman, courtesy Welsh Pony and Cob Society
  • Welsh Cob
    The ultimate all-'rounder of the horse world, the Welsh Cob can turn its hoof to carriage driving, long-distance riding, showing, dressage, and jumping.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Welsh pony North Wales
    A Welsh pony on the Carneddau Mountains in North Wales. There are few wild ponies tougher than a Welsh pony. They have the ability to thrive on poor grazing and survive the harshest of winters.
    Photo by Adam Groves
  • Welsh pony sheep herd
    Our lanes here are just about quiet enough that we can still get away with walking the sheep along the road from field to field. This saves penning the sheep and loading them into a trailer each time they need to be moved.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Welsh Cob
    My brother Andrew's Welsh Cob might not be a show winner, but she's a very useful animal and has proved to have a couple of clear advantages over a farm bike.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

  • welsh horses
  • Welsh Mountain Pony
  • Welsh Cob Stallion
  • Welsh Cob
  • Welsh pony North Wales
  • Welsh pony sheep herd
  • Welsh Cob

For a small country tagged onto the side of England, often forgotten and largely mistaken as being "a part of England," Wales has a surprising number of native breeds of livestock. We have our own cattle, sheep and horse and pony breeds, many of which are the prettiest and most durable animals you can find anywhere in Britain.

Welsh ponies are descended from the ancient wild Celtic ponies that roamed the British Isles well over a thousand years ago. Because of the harsh conditions in which they have lived, these ponies have evolved into tough, wily animals capable of thriving on the poor grazing found on the mountains and moorlands of Wales. Harsh conditions and poor quality fodder have meant that the Welsh pony has remained small in stature, but given that people were considerably smaller and lighter in the past, adults have tamed and ridden these nimble little creatures since time immemorial.

The perfect all-'rounder

Evidence found in Welsh literature suggests that the larger Welsh Cob was developed as a breed as far back as the 15th century. The Welsh Cob as a breed was created by mixing several horse breeds, including of course the Welsh pony, but draught and carriage horse breeds (like the long extinct Norfolk Roadster) were also added, along with some Arabian blood brought in by Crusaders returning to Britain from the Middle East with Arabian stallions.

The Welsh Cob was bred to be the perfect all-'rounder, capable of being ridden at speed across rough ground, useful for pulling a cart and for ploughing, all whilst retaining the hardiness associated with their smaller wild ancestors. It is said that the farmer of the past could use his Welsh Cob for farm work all week, then take it hunting on a Saturday, and use it to pull the cart to take his family to chapel on the Sunday.



Larger draught horses of course had more strength for farm work, but they couldn't trot at speed for 10 miles pulling a carriage like a Welsh Cob could, so if you owned a draught team, you would also have to own a lighter, speedier animal for carriage work and riding, whereas the Welsh Cob was capable of performing all of these tasks, and it could survive on far less fodder than a large draught animal.

Welsh Cob a versatile choice

It wasn't only farmers that used Welsh Cobs. Tradesmen, doctors, drovers and those delivering mail throughout Wales used these strong but lively creatures as transport. It is said that many of the choice animals were selected by their ability to trot quickly over the 35 uphill miles from Cardiff to Dowlais in South Wales. Before the advent of the railways and the motorcar, a horse that could maintain good speed without lameness over a long distance was a valuable creature.



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