Hackney Pony

Hackney Pony
  • HEIGHT: 12.2–14.2 hands
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Northern England
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Effervescent ponies of great presence with brilliant high action and excellent stamina
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Fine harness, pleasure and roadster driving

The Hackney Pony resulted from the efforts of one British breeder, Christopher Wilson of Westmoreland. He wanted to create a small animal with all the brilliance of a good Hackney Horse but with distinct pony character. He began in 1872 with a brown roadster pony stallion named Sir George, foaled in 1866, that carried both Norfolk and Yorkshire blood and was said to be an exceptionally good-looking pony. He crossed this animal primarily on Fell Pony mares but also tried a few crosses on Welsh Ponies. Sir George, who stood just under 14 hands, seems to have contributed speed and elegance, while the Fell Pony side of the family added high knee action and substance.

Wilson’s ponies were an immediate success. They were fancy, fast trotters that made quite an impressive sight when hitched to light carriages, and prices soared for the best ones. According to the Hackney Horse Society in England, Mr. Wilson believed in maintaining the hardiness of the ponies by leaving them to fend for themselves on the moors over the winter. He may also have used wintering on the moors to limit the height of his ponies, which means they didn’t eat very well when they were turned out. Nonetheless, they survived and sustained their abilities as wonderful driving ponies.

Hackney Ponies have been exported to many countries. After World War II, they began to be bred almost exclusively as show ponies. Because of their brilliance and snappy movement, they are always show-stoppers in fine harness, pleasure, and roadster classes. In shows in the United States, Hackney Ponies are divided by size as well as activity. Ponies measuring 50 to 56 inches are known as Cob-Tails and compete in fine harness with docked tails, a tradition that goes back to their early days in England. Cob-Tails must exhibit very high action and are shown pulling formal, four-wheeled driving vehicles. Smaller ponies, 50 inches and under, are shown with full-length tails. There is also a pleasure pony division in which ponies of any size may be shown. In these classes, the manes and tails are long but the required action is not quite as extreme as in the more formal classes. The pleasure vehicles are two-wheeled.

Hackney Ponies, particularly those that lack the brilliant action needed for the show ring, often find their way into other lines of work where they have proved to be first-rate jumpers; good trail, hunter, and event ponies; successful Western contest ponies; superb pleasure driving ponies; and generally fine athletes.

Breed Characteristics

The Hackney Pony is prized for its high flashy action, dazzling show presence, and athletic good looks.


The Hackney Pony stands between 12.2 and 14.2 hands. It has a light, somewhat long head with a straight or slightly convex profile and large, expressive eyes. The ears are small and pointed. The arched, muscular neck is set smoothly onto the shoulders, which are muscular and sloping. The back is short and straight, the croup long and slightly rounded with a tail that springs from high up. The tail is carried gaily. The legs are slender but very strong, with good joints and hard feet.

Known primarily for their outstanding action under harness, Hackney Ponies also perform well as hunter/jumpers and trail and event ponies, and even in Western competition.

The Hackney Pony was created as a separate breed in the 1870s from trotting breeds like the Norfolk and Yorkshire crossed on Fell Pony and Welsh mares.

Most Hackney Ponies are bay, brown, or black, with minimal white markings.


Hackney Ponies are almost always bay, brown, or black. Chestnut occurs rarely but is allowed, as are roan and gray. White markings are permitted but usually consist of only a narrow blaze, snip, or strip, and white not much higher than the fetlocks.


According to the Hackney Horse Society (incorporated in 1891):

• The Hackney Pony does not have its own studbook but is registered in the same book as the Hackney Horse.

• The database does not include an actual count of all animals registered.

• Four hundred to 500 new animals are registered each year, of which 90 percent are Hackney Ponies.

• Hackney Ponies are most popular in the Midwest, especially in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

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