The Pottok horse is a rare and old equine breed that originates from the Basque Country of France and Spain.

These horses are known for their hardiness and intelligence.

If you’re interested in learning more about this interesting breed, keep reading!

Pottok Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Pottok:

Height (size) Mountain Pottok: 11.3 – 12.9 hands highPlains Pottok: 11.8 – 14.4 hands high
Colors Most commonly chestnut, brown, bay and black, but piebald and skewbald are also seen
Country of Origin Basque Country in France and Spain
Common Uses Riding, often children’s mounts

Pottok Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Originally from the Pyrenees of the Basque Country in France and Spain, Pottok ponies are a semi-feral, endangered breed.

Origins of the Breed

There is very little information available on the history of the Pottok; nevertheless, some think that its origin may be traced back to the horses seen in Paleolithic cave paintings in the Basque Country.

It is for this reason that it is said that these ponies are direct descendants of the Magdalenian horses who lived between 14,000 and 7,000 B.C.

Some people believe that horses that lived during the Bronze Age (3,300 BC – 1,200 BC) had an impact on the breed.

However, to this day, there is no scientific evidence to back up either claims.

Nevertheless, Pottok has characteristics consistent with genetic isolation and shares genetic similarities with other horse breeds, including the Asturcón, Losino, Galician, Landais, and the Monchino.

In spite of the fact that several genetic markers belonging to other European horse breeds were discovered, the genetic difference between this breed and the other European breeds is rather great.

It’s interesting to note that a marker previously exclusively discovered in certain British breeds has also been discovered in Pottoks.

History of the Pottok

They were perfect for smugglers to use in the past because they were well-adapted to life in the mountains, and were dark in color.

Beginning in the 16th century and continuing ahead, they were often used as circus horses and also as pit ponies in France and Britain.

This breed was once widespread, but now it is threatened by the loss of its natural habitat, the increased use of machinery, and crossbreeding, despite the fact that more and more attempts are being made to save the breed and preserve its genetic purity.

At the turn of the 20th century, the practice of crossbreeding led to the creation of piebald ponies, which were used in the circus, and stockier ponies, which were used for draft labor.

In addition, the number of purebred Pottoks was drastically decreased due to the practice of crossing them with Welsh ponies, Iberian horses, and Arabian horses.

Creation of the Official Registry

Since 1970, the breed has had two approved studbooks in the Northern Basque Country.

They divide the horses into two distinct groups, designating Book B for the crossbreeds that have at least 50 percent Pottok blood and Book A for the horses that have a greater level of genetic purity divided into two types, the Mountain Pottok and the Plains Pottok.

Mountain Pottoks are only approved if horses live in the mountainous regions of la Rhune, Bagorry, Ursuya, and Artzamendi for a minimum of nine months out of the year in semi-feral conditions in a harem including mares, foals, and stallions.

Annually on the last Wednesday of January they are gathered and some horses are selected to be sold off to reduce the numbers. The others are branded and released back.

Conservation Efforts

In June of 1995, they were the first Basque horse breed to be listed as indigenous Basque breeds that required conservation efforts.

Today, these hardy ponies are protected, and there are attempts being made to preserve the ancient genes.

There are a few reserves that are specifically devoted to protecting the pony in its natural habitat; nonetheless, there is still controversy about the most effective way to increase their populations.

Some don’t want any foreign blood mixed in, while others want to crossbreed certain animals in order to increase their population.

Despite the fact that there has been some mixing with other breeds, the French want to protect the breed and keep a number of stock pure.

Pottok name comes from Basque language meaning ‘young horse’ or ‘pony’.

The Basque people consider the pony iconic.

Aviron Bayonnais, a French rugby team from Bayonne, has Pottoka as its official mascot.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names

“Pottoka”, “Basque pony”


Once domesticated they are docile, even tempered, and easy going

Physical Characteristics

Extremely hardy breed that may still be seen living in feral herds.

The head is large and square, with small ears and sometimes with a concave profile.

The neck is short, and the back is long.

The legs are short and slender, and the hooves are small and tough.

They can survive on very little food, and need very little if any care.

They are incredibly surefooted, and have a thick winter coat known as borra, which may grow to be as long as 10 centimeters in length on young horses.

They have fluid and well-balanced movements, which makes them excellent for riding and also driving, and they are strong enough to be ridden by children and smaller adults.

These horses have a rapid development rate that allows them to reach maturity by the time they are 2 years old, which helps them survive in the harsh environment in which they live.

Between the populations of the Northern and Southern Basque Country, there are significant genetic differences, so as a result some consider them to be distinct breeds


Most commonly chestnut, brown, bay and black, but piebald and skewbald are also seen

Height (size)

Mountain Pottok: 11.3 – 12.9 hands high

Plains Pottok: 11.8 – 14.4 hands high






660 – 770 lbs (300 – 350 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

Riding, often children’s mounts


Highly resistant to disease

Popular Traits

Feral horses


They can live off sparse feed

Country of Origin

Basque Country in France and Spain