Up until the early part of the 19th century, the Gotland-Russ was commonly used for farming in Sweden and the surrounding nations. Then industrialization invaded Sweden. The Gotland-Russ was slowly replaced by machinery on the farm until very few were used for this purpose. Their native forests were cut down to make room for human expansion, limiting the number of wild ponies. Many domestic ponies were sold to mines in England, Germany, and even Belgium because of their small size and ability to haul heavy loads.
The arrival of the 20th century didn't help their numbers. Industrialization continued and numbers dropped even further. The establishment of stud farms for the Gotland-Russ Pony did help, but only a little. Numbers still dropped, but not quite as fast. The arrival of World War II (WWII) almost spelled the end of the Gotland-Russ as it was hunted to the very edge of extinction.
Just when the breed was about to disappear, the Gotland Agricultural Society stepped in. They enclosed an area of approximately 200 acres and let a few ponies roam free. They carefully selected the herd and allowed them to breed freely. To prevent inbreeding, a new stallion is introduced every three years. Health assessments are performed on all ponies a few times a year.
Today, the most active preservation society for the Gotland-Russ Pony is probably the Gotlandruss Pony Preservation Society. In the United States, the Gotland-Russ Association of North America, formed in 1997, continues to be devoted to this breed. Associations can also be found in Denmark and Finland.
The Gotland-Russ Pony is physically a very strong animal. They tend to be intelligent, healthy, hardy, energetic, and playful. These traits make this animal perfect as a children's mount. The most common acceptable colors include bay, black, buckskin, and sorrel. Disallowed colors include piebald, albino, and roan. The perfect height of a Gotland-Russ Pony is 12.1 hands.
This horse breed is not often seen in North America, but it is becoming more popular in Sweden for dressage, show jumping, driving, harness racing, and pleasure riding. The Gotland-Russ is also popular as an eventing horse.