An excellent example of a Nooitgedachter - A Breed for our times


Nooitgedacht Horse Breeders' Society

A breed which includes both horses and ponies
A breed for our times


Proud Heritage Origin A New Breed
Standard of Excellence Breeders Versatility
Contact Details

Nooitgedachter Breeders in South Africa

Proud Heritage

After more than forty years of scientific breeding, dedication and perseverance, the Nooitgedachter is one of South Africa's truly indigenous horse breeds, descended as it is from the original Cape Horse. Probably one of the rarest horse breeds in the world, this magnificent animal is a worthy descendant of the Basuto Pony, and its illustrious past is closely interwoven with that of South Africa and its people - a symbol of tradition and a proud heritage for future generations.


The story of this breed starts with the Basuto pony, which developed from the Cape Horse in Lesotho (Basutoland) in the 18th and 19th centuries.In the inhospitable highlands of Basutoland, these ponies were dependent on sparse grazing and had to fend for themselves during freezing winters and scorching summers.A horse for our times

Only the toughest animals could survive these extreme conditions and thus evolved a type of pony with a unique character - hardy, courageous and sure-footed. With its strong joints and tough hooves, the Basuto pony could brave the roughest terrain. One of the most striking characteristics it developed, was a natural affection and affinity for people. In addition, it inherited characteristics such as spiritedness, intelligence and stamina from its Oriental ancestors - the Arab, the Barb and the Javanese Pony.

These traits made the Basuto Pony eminently suitable for use as a military horse. During the Anglo Boer War (1899 - 1902), it loyally served Boer and Briton alike and its valor and exceptional powers of endurance have been immortalized in many a military anecdote. Its fame spread and thousands of Basuto ponies were used as mounts in wars the world over. Because of its mass export, drought and neglect, the Basuto Pony teetered on the verge of extinction in Lesotho by the 1940s.


A New Breed

In 1951 the South African Department of Agricultural purchased a nucleus group of animals and a year later initiated a breed project at the Nooitgedachter Research Station near Ermelo.

Because of previous inbreeding, very selective breeding was required. A rigid scientific breeding programme was thus followed and only one in every four foals was kept. With the same dedication and often ruthlessness used by nature to develop the Basuto Pony, officials from the Department of Agriculture continued to develop the excellent qualities.

In 1967, eight separate studs were established on farms as part as part of he breeding programme. In the same year, the Nooitgedacht Breeders' Association was established. A climax was reached in 1976 when it was recognized by the South African Stud Book Association as South Africa's first indigenous breed of horse. A year later, the Department of Agriculture sold it's stud on public auction, entrusting the further development of the breed to the breeders' association. Today there are more than a hundred breeders continuously striving to improve the Nooitgedachter.

Standards of Excellence

The Nooitgedacht Horse - Sturdy and compact with a short back and sloping shoulders. Rideability and stamina are emphasized. Should have a comfortable gait and be able to carry a heavy person over long distances.

Standards of excellence have been set and guidelines laid down for breeders and show judges.  These include:

  • Sturdy and compact with a short back and sloping shoulders. Rideability and stamina are emphasized. Should have a comfortable gait and be able to carry a heavy person over long distances.

  • Predominantly bays or blue, brown and chestnut roans. Piebalds and skewbalds are not permitted. The hide is pigmented.

  • Good natured, fond of people and intelligent. Young horses are easily trained.

  • Minimum height is 138cm or 13.2 hands - ideal height is 153cm or 15 hands.

  • Hardiness, a fine but strong bone structure, good joints and excellent hooves which seldom need to be shod. Noted for its surefootedness.


Thanks to the continued dedication of the breeders nationwide, the future of the Nooitgedacht breed is secure. South Africa can justly be proud of this noble and loyal horse.

The Nooitgedachter excels at gymhana, polo endurance riding and hacking.


This is a breed which includes both horses and ponies - a horse for our times.  It makes an excellent junior and children's jumper, doing well in provincial, national and international jumping competitions. As a show horse it is becoming more popular. Its excellent temperament, manageability and reliability make it a particularly suitable mount for women. It also excels at gymkhana, polo endurance riding and hacking. It is often used in nature reserves for game counting, patrolling inhospitable areas and game viewing.

Contact Details

Nooitgedacht Horse Breeders' Society of South Africa
President: Mr G H Ahlers
Secretary: Mrs. Vicky Engelbrecht
Postal Address: P O Box 12262
Clubview, 0014,
Republic of South Africa
Telephone: +27 (0)12 654 1420
Facsimile: +27 (0)12 654 1420
URL: /org/nooitgedachter

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