Shetland's world-famous small ponies can be seen throughout the islands - grazing by the roadside, on the beaches or on the heathery hills.

Where can I see Shetland ponies?

Appearing to roam wild across Shetland, the ponies are, in fact, all owned and tended to by local crofters. Visitors will be able to spot Shetland ponies grazing on the hills and by the roadside. They can generally be seen in the West Mainland, Scalloway, Tingwall, Dunrossness and the island of Unst.

During August, the local agricultural shows take place, providing excellent opportunities for visitors to see these wonderful ponies in action. Attracting exhibitors from throughout the islands, they include many in-hand classes for adult ponies, foals and young stock, as well as ridden, driven and young handler classes for the performance ponies.

What's the history of the Shetland pony?

For at least 4,000 years, Shetland ponies have roamed the exposed hills and moors of Shetland. This unrestricted lifestyle has led to the evolution of a unique and hardy breed, befitting the environment.

Shetland ponies were used in British coal mines from the 19th century. Hardy, resilient and very strong for their size, the ponies could pass through low underground tunnels hauling truckloads of coal.

At first, ponies were simply rounded up and exported from Shetland but, from around 1880 until the end of the 19th century, there were breeding pony studs in the islands. The best-known of these was operated by the Marquis of Londonderry on the islands of Noss and Bressay, and the story is told in the former stud buildings on Noss.

The export of ponies had greatly reduced the number and quality of stallions in Shetland, threatening future breeding patterns. As a result, the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society was established in 1890 to ensure that purity of the breed was retained.

At home, Shetland ponies were used as workhorses - cultivating the land and transporting peat from hills - an essential addition to crofting families.