The Eriskay Pony
It was one rather wobbly step for a pony, but one giant leap for her kind.
Because this newborn foal taking her first steps is one of the rarest breeds of horse in the world – with fewer of the animals left than there are giant pandas.
So her birth has been hailed as a significant milestone in the recovery of the critically endangered Eriskay pony, which is noted for its gentle, calm temperament.
Experts at the CholdertonRareBreedsFarmPark near Salisbury, England are particularly pleased because the gangly filly, meaning she in turn can one day produce offspring.
The breed, developed by crofters on the Isle of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, was down to just 20 in the 1970s.
Since then, numbers have risen to 300 mares and four purebred stallions, one of whom is the foal’s father.
“They are incredibly rare and endangered,” said the park’s farm manager Alan Talley.
“Over the years on Eriskay the islanders just bred from the quiet, well-mannered ones. “
This led to a breed that was easy-tempered. They can live on very meagre rations and have an oily coat that keeps the weather out.
“They also have a long nose so the cold air they breathe in is warmed by the time it reaches their lungs.
“They are tough, endurable and very strong and make ideal ponies for children to use.”