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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/557

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541
SHETLAND PONIES.

can help in the way of exertion, though, if put to it, he evinces great power of endurance, and will go through an immense amount of work for his size. The Iceland variety is altogether inferior, shorter-lived, narrower in build, and generally fallacious, but, with all this, he is quicker, livelier, and lacks that air of pensive melancholy which haunts every Shetland pony. Our advice is to avoid the inferior animal, however highly recommended. Their price is, roughly speaking, about half that of the Shetlander, but the money is ill-saved. The average life of an Icelander is about twelve or thirteen years, while the other will live to twenty-five or even more.

During the earlier months of spring, before the snow has fairly disappeared from the Shetland uplands, the American buyer travels over the length and breadth of the isles, picking up every likely animal he can find for the foreign market. In order to secure a good selection it is necessary to forestall him. Hence mid-winter is the best time to buy. Just at present there is a comparative scarcity of fine animals in the islands. Within the last three years, and even before that, a disease affecting the ponies, incurable save in the earlier stages, and called sarcoptic mange, ravaged many districts. Infected animals were freely slaughtered, and the epidemic may be said to have spent itself. Still, the ponies are fewer than they once were, and the price all round is considerably higher. At present it may be said to range from £10 to £30 and upward for three-year-olds. It is impossible, however, within the limits of this paper to instruct intending buyers. The prices are very variable, as the animals often pass through several hands before reaching the ultimate purchaser. The latter will probably be victimized if buying from so-called agents in the south, as the latter will endeavor to extort £18 or £20 for an animal which has cost them little more than half that sum in Shetland. The only safe plan is to purchase through a respectable dealer on the spot.

The variety of coloring in these tiny animals is extraordinary. Almost every possible—and some all but impossible—shade of horse color may be seen during a day's ride through the mainland, from the lightest fawn, almost white, by gray and slaty shades of gradation to brown and black. There are no dapple-grays that we wot of. There is a tradition, of the usual value, that brown is the "true and original" hue. Cream ponies, if otherwise good, fetch a higher price than others, as being a "fancy color," and the same may be said of "piebalds." The theory that light-colored animals are not so robust or hardy as dark ones is not borne out by observation. A stripe, or ribbon-like mark, down the spine is a sign of Norwegian blood, the infusion dating many years back. If the Caucasian legend is to be relied upon, however, the Norway pony is at least first cousin to the Shetland one.