Gotland Pony

The origins of the Gotland Pony can be found on the island of Gotland in Sweden. In Sweden these ponies are known as Russ or Skogsruss (translated to English means “little horse of the forest”) and Skogsbaggar (“forest ram”).


The early history of the Gotland Pony is thought to have begun at least 4,000 years ago and possibly even longer. It is not known when or how the ponies first came to the island of Gotland. There was a significant amount of political strife between the Goths and Roman Empire resulting in very little documentation of this breed’s history. However, there are a few references to wild horses in recovered texts as well as to these ponies having lived in a semi-domesticated manner.

Gotland Ponies are thought to be descendants of the wild Tarpan.  As they are themselves horses of antiquity, many breeds have ties to Gotland Ponies. These breeds include: Konik, Dülmen, Vyatka, Pechora, Bosnian, Garrano, and Sorraia.

Beginning in the 18th century, documentation of the Gotland is first noted. Gotland Ponies would ravage fields in search of food and were seen as pests to be dealt with accordingly. Historical records do show that some ponies were being captured for domestication purposes as early as the Iron Age (220 B.C. to 500 A.D.).

It was in the 19th century that domestication proliferated throughout Gotland. They were found to be useful as light draft horses for farm work. During this same period, there was great attrition in the number of Gotland Ponies. The island itself was becoming increasingly parceled and divided overtaking open forest land. This destruction of the ponies’ natural habitat obviously affected their numbers. Driven from their forest land, they ventured into farmland where they were again viewed as nuisances. Further, during World War I, meat shortages in Europe prompted consumption of these horses.

As a result, the 20th century dawned with only about 150 Gotland Ponies left and was in danger of complete extinction. The Gotland Agricultural Society and local farmers stepped in to save the Gotland Pony breed. It is believed there are over 9,000 Gotland Ponies in Sweden today.


The Gotland Pony is a light horse which stands 11.2 to 13 hands high. The ponies were originally a shade of dun but today are found in a variety of colors: black, bay, buckskin and sorrel.

The body is well muscled. The Gotland has a relatively long back that is straight and strong. There is a sloping croup, profound chest, and powerful shoulders. The legs are muscular with firm joints.

The Gotland Pony excels as a sport horse for youth. It is an excellent riding, trotting, jumping, and dressage horse.