In 1653, the first horses arrived in the Cape area of South Africa through the Dutch East India Trading Company. Although the breed of these horses is unknown, it is believed they were of Arabian and Persian origin. These four horses founded the Cape Horse, which became a well-known breed and gained a popular reputation during the Boer wars. It is understood that the Cape Horse and Basuto Pony started out as the same breed, however, the Cape Horse became infused with Thoroughbred and further Arabian blood to produce a taller and ‘higher quality’ horse. The Basuto Pony then remained the smaller and stockier breed.
Lesotho, then known as Basutoland, acquired many Cape Horses through the trade between the Zulus and the settlers. The rocky and harsh terrain in Lesotho developed the Basuto Pony into a hardy, resilient breed with great stamina. Thousands of Basuto Ponies were exported because of these characteristics, and many of them were killed in action during the Boer War. Today, numbers are steadily growing and efforts have been put in place to re-establish the breed.