What is pottoka?
Pottoka is a original breed from Euskal Herria (The Basque Country). It is a sturdy strong animal and very well adapted to the environment of Euskal Herria country side and moulded by it. Inhabitant of our mountains and valleys from the Palaeolithic Age (40.000 bc). The beautiful paintings of Esakin and Santimañe caves are witness to this. Up to now the Pottoka has been a loyal and hard working companion. The Pottoka has played an important roll in the basque mythology and tradition. Plus the antiquity of the Pottoka and its personality make her very special.
Regardless that the work "Pottoka" in basque is used in reference to any animal sibling, it began to be used to name all fouls and finally to this particular special breed.
Some drawings and images in Euskal Herria's caves (Ekain, Saltimañe, Etxeberri ...) have as a common theme the horse's head, favourite hunting prize for the primitive hunters of the Madgaliense age. Also, in many bone carvings the Pottoka is represented. By this data we know that the Pottoka has lived in the mountains and valleys of Euskal Herria since the Palaeolithic age. They are a living testimony of the pre-historic horse, a breed that has lived up to date and that has special zoo technical characteristics.
The Pottoka has had many uses along history. It is a sturdy build animal, it has average measurements and a proportionate body, muscular and strong. As for character; they are fast, loyal, and very resilient. Due to this characteristics they have been used for many functions: to be riden, for hunting, war, to pull carriages, and agricultural labour. It has pulled the miners wagons, seeded grain, for meat (cross breeding with the Burguete horse), it has been exported with foreign expeditions to India (army of India), and lately to keep fields and mountains free of bushes and debris. It can also be seen in various equitation activities.
Regardless of being an extraordinary animal for all of the above, today it is an endanger species. It has been relegated to the mountains and useless corners for various reasons: modern life and the use of engines and machines in agricultural labour, the private property of mountains, and the extensive use of land for productive reasons, the breed and the lack of market for its products.
Nevertheless today the breed is improving y quality and quantity thanks to the protection initiatives. In this sense, a lot can be said of the Associations that have been created for that purpose.
The Pottoka is a lively animal, and fast. Elegant. It has a clean pace and a firm character. With composure and prudence. The Pottoka has lived free in a natural state and has a very develop sense of survival and defence.
It is a social horse, use to live in a herd. The herd is usually formed by 10 to 15 mares and their respective stallions. The relationship among them is very special: at the beginning of Spring and Summer they get stronger. Every herd lives in its territory. The traditions are past on from generation to generation. The landscape, the micro climate and the knowledge of different plants and grass are transmitted from one individual unto another.
The stallion fertilizes all mares during Spring and Summer, from the beginning of march to the end of August. Taking distance from the herd always with a watchful eye on the mares so no other stallion approaches.
Friendship develops among the mares due to the time they spend together in the herd. Pottokas have a sophisticated communication system: some of them are vocal, friendly snorts, by whinnying due to fear, for being angry, etc. Nevertheless, the majority of signs are visual they move their tails, or ears to express hate, threat, curiosity, doubt, passions,...
In every herd there is a mare that has the roll of guide. Usually it is the oldest mare and with more experience. The rest follow her by coordinated movements.
For ever the Pottoka has escape from man. For man it has been a hunting animal hidden in the woods. When man became a Sheppard/ Farmer and quitted his hunting/ recollection activities, he began to be interested in the Pottoka and so, the living conditions of this horse have been changing.
Regardless of the Pottoka being a wild horse, as time went by, it has become a part of mans heritage and has been bought and sold.
The Pottoka has certain characteristics that make her unique to live in its environment: High maternity rate, rough, character, gratitude, learns quickly, adequate for breeding, and some special morphological qualities such as: beauty, cheap maintenance, etc. These traits make the Pottoka a breed apart and give Euskal Herria an added value. We have a great genetic heritage
in our hands and we can not lose it.
In the last 10 years the situation has change. Thanks to the effort of breeders, the number of individuals has grown, today there are more than 700 Pottokas registered in the stud book. Besides, they are being use in leisure riding activities and trial travelling is creating a growing interest.
Due to its ethological characteristics it is a breed that has many breeding capacity and abilities for other activities such as hippo-therapy and tourism leisure rides. We may say it is a great breed for children to learn to ride. Besides, its natural breeding is guaranteed because the social behaviour of the Pottoka is ideal for it.
Because of their size and character, it is ideal for children as a pony, and in many cases, it may also be ridden by an adult. The movements the Pottoka has are equilibrated and harmonic, ideal for a rider. It is an exceptional animal for carriage driving, but due to Euskal Herria mountainous land, there is but a slim chance for them to develop in this activity.
One can not forget the F1 that may come from reproducing the Pottoka with other breeds. The cross breed between the Arab horse and the Pottoka, for example, yields a great animal for raid rides; the size and ability to trot and gallop and the roughness and toughness of the Pottoka. Cross breeding a Pottoka mare with a Burgete stallion we will have an individual adequate to produce meat.
There is no more to say about the Pottoka roughness and toughness and the little feeding needs make it an ideal animal to keep, and at the same time it gives a great service by cleaning mountains and woods from bush and debris.