The Yonaguni Horse is a small breed of horses that originated in Japan. Though they are small by size, but are very strong. At present, the number of these animals has drastically reduced, which is mainly because of the 20th century industrialization. Though these horses closely resemble both the pony breeds – the ‘Tokara’ and the ‘Miyako’, which are also native to Japan, they have no genetic connection with them.
Though this breed held a very important place in the rural life of Japan by its own rights in the past, but at present is seldom seen, except in a few ranches. However, with strong initiatives for their preservation, their numbers are increasing, but at an extremely slow pace. They are now considered as a precious cultural asset among the Japanese people.
|Other Names||Yonaguni Uma|
|Behavioral Characteristics||Willing, modest, gentle|
|Physical Traits||These are small size horses and are smaller than many other horse breeds). They are strong, and have a large head, with a short neck, straight and erect shoulders, and with a long, sloping back; their hooves are long & hard, and they are able to splay all the four legs; the height at the withers is 44 inches (112 cm)|
|Common Uses||General riding, also for light draft work (but seldom used as work horses in recent times)|
|Coat Colors||Bay, tan, brown, cremello, roan|
|Height/Size||10-12 hands (adult);
Average: 11 hands
|Blood Type||Warm blooded|
|Health Problems||Generally a healthy breed with no breed specific issues|
|Type||Riding horse (past: work horse)|
|Popular Traits||Gentle; because of their friendly disposition, anyone can ride them with ease; popular among women and children for their small size and quiet nature|
|Feeding/Diet||General horse diet including hay, grass, grains, etc.|
|Time of Development||Unknown|
|Country of Origin||Japan|
Little has been known about the evolution of the Yonaguni horses, or where they actually came from. However, many researchers opine that, they had either come from Korea, and are related to the Korean Peninsula of Cheju, or else, were introduced around 2000 years back from southern islands.
In the ancient times, when every household had one or more horses, they played an indispensable part of the Japanese rustics, and were used as working horses for agriculture, farming, transportation of timber wood, and so on. Though, with the advancement of technology and the industrial revolution, along with the emergence of the modern day machinery, the practical use of these quadruples faded in the background, and eventually, their breeding virtually stopped.
In 1939, many horse breeds in Japan were crossed with other breeds to improve their standards as war horses, enhancing them by size. But, the Yonagunis were exempted. They retained their small pony size, and the pure bloodline, and continued to work for different local purposes. However, since the bloodline was preserved and authentically maintained since ages, these equines retained the purity in their traits and characteristics.
In 1975, things went to such an extent that, their numbers dropped to just 59, until an independent association for the dedicated to the preservation of the Yonagunis was formed. The committee dedicatedly worked for the propagation of these horses. The effort luckily worked, and the common people were again encouraged in breeding them. The Yonagunis, thus, started to grow in numbers in the northern and the western regions of the island, approximately counting to 100-120 heads.
With the beginning of 2000 AD, these horses became the emblem of the island, and turned out to be a center of tourism and an attraction for the visitors. Though, they are no more sued for agricultural purposes, or for any other kind of work.