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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Breed made famous in folklore down to critical numbers

ABOVE: Timor ponies running wild in the Northern Territory.

MOST Australians’ only knowledge of the Timor Pony is from the lines of Banjo Patterson’s famous Man from Snowy River poem.

“And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,

He was something like a racehorse undersized,

With a touch of Timor pony – three parts Thoroughbred at least –

And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.

He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die …’ The Timor is blended into Australian folklore by the poem, but has a long association with our early history.

The Timor Pony is believed to have evolved in Indonesia over countless centuries. Horses of some kind have existed on the island since at least the sixth century and were often traded with Thailand, Cambodia and Laos along the Tea Horse Road in 1292 when Khublai Khan invaded the Indonesian Islands.

When Australia was settled, these ponies were brought over in droves, with the first stallion arriving in Sydney in 1803. Unlike most European horses, Timor Ponies flourished in the tropical conditions of northern Australia and they were highly valued as tough working ponies and pack horses. There have been Timor Ponies in Australia but the numbers are now so low that only two purebred stallions are known of.

A small group of people are driving the plan to save the ponies.

Tess Wallis and Barbara Bleicher are working together, and Tess’ stallion Xanthos stands at Barbara’s property.

“I know and have been involved in the care of the only two stallions registered, with Xanthos being housed here,” Barbara said.

“The society responsible for the Timor Pony is the Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Society, but unfortunately, they refer my enquiries back to the APSB, which is the registering body.

“The APSB in return refers me back to the breed society.”

Barbara has begun raising awareness of the breed’s plight through social media, recently reaching out through the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia Facebook page to outline the problems faced.

“There is no plan as yet,” she said.

“The next step is to get a public Facebook page, a private Facebook group, breed standards, assessing body, goals, protocols and a registry.”

Barbara is hoping the Whalers association may have access to early records.

"If not, we basically need to start from scratch and have lost 18 years,” she said.

Wild Timors can still be found in the very remote areas of northern Australia where they have been left to run feral and no new blood has been introduced.

Barbara said options to save the breed include finding and trapping some of these or importing horses from Timor.

“They also have introduced new bloodlines over the years but we might still find some good ones.”

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