The Timor Pony
"...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..."
Reading Banjo’s famous poem, few spare a thought for the line “- a touch of Timor Pony -” What was it about this relatively unknown, yet substancially influential Breed in Australia's history?
The Timor Pony has been in Australia in numbers since the early 1800's, with the ﬁrst stallion having been imported to Sydney in 1803. Although the Timor Pony is not endangered as they continue to exist
on Timor Island, they are in danger to being lost to the Australian mainland. The Timor Pony played a crutial part in early Australian horse breeding, but sadly - just like the Waler - this wonderful Breed has been largly forgotten.
Where the Thoroughbred horses could not withstand the tropical conditions and diseases of the Northern Territory, the hardy little Timor not only endured; it flourished. Timors were introduced into Australia en masse from 1820, and trading ships continued to supply the popular demand for Timor Ponies throughout the 19th Century. They landed on the Coburg Peninsula, North-East of Darwin. Many were shipped into the Australian colonies for working duties, intended as pack animals for the explorers, grazers and gold miners of the Territory. They eventually spread throughout all of the Australian colonies, and were hightly valued as tough working ponies.
The Timor pony today can still be found on Timor Island. Outside the regional centers of Timor, the villages use the Timor as a pack and riding animal.
Living among the hills and gullies of central Timor, the Timor Pony has developed a surprising hardiness and proven stamina. Australian and Dutch Commandos of Sparrow Force and the 2/2nd Indep. Coy, used the Timors for pack and riding duties against the Japanese in WW2 on Timor Island. Without the Timor Pony, resistance against the Japanese could not have continued as long as it did and many wounded soldiers could not have been recovered to ﬁght again.
"After a week Martins and her family decided to brave the enemy and return (PTE Keith) Hayes to his Company. They wrapped him in a blanket, put him on a hardy Timor Pony, and then 3 Timorese guides led him along windy mountain tracks, dodging Jap sentries..."
Yet the Timor Pony is not a formal native to Timor Island, but was introduced around 1292 AD. It roots stem from the Asiatic Wild Horse, of which the Chinese crossed with cavalry horses descended from the Tarpan Pony that Khublai Khan took on a conquest of the Indonesian Islands in 1292. The remnants and descendants scattered through the Islands were the progenitors of the Timor Pony.
Two elements constitute the Timor pony; The Tarpan (equus caballus przevalskii gmelin), and the Asiatic Wild Horse (equus caballus przevalskii przevalskii) - also known as 'Przevalski’s Horse'. Both these are ancient horses. The Tarpan no longer exists today, whereas the Przevalski Horse has been bred back from the brink of extinction. The Portugese Garrano, Sorraria and the British Exmoor Pony are other pony breeds that also represent a mix of ancient horse genes, and share a common bloodline along with the Timor Pony.
The Australian Pony owes much of its breed existence to the Timor Pony, where Timors were initially mixed with the Hungarian pony, Thoroughbred horse, Shetland ponies, and Welsh ponies. The Timor pony is now under the regulations of the Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Inc. and the Australian Pony Stud Book, so that the fantastical 'Australian' Timor Pony might continue to prosper here as it has done for near 200 years.