The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had several different mascots over the centuries. However, it is the Shetland pony named Cruachan that has become synonymous with the regiment, a tradition which has now been carried on with the Royal Regiment of Scotland. A mascot was kept by the regiment for ceremonial duties as well as acting as an animal ambassador representing the unit on other occasions. Today we take a deeper look at the history of the popular and well-loved Shetland pony mascots: Cruachan I, Cruachan II, Cruachan III, and Cruachan IV.
Cruachan I was gifted to the Regiment in 1929 by the Regiments First Colonel-in-Chief Princess Louise. The Shetland pony was originally called ‘Tom Thumb’ because he was very small but the regiment decided that he should have a more imposing name and so he was renamed ‘Cruachan’ after the battle cry of the Campbell Clan. Cruachan I attended all ceremonial parades and would wear a saddlecloth made of the regiment’s colour. He was known to be playful in his time, occasionally escaping from his stable and leading a number of soldiers around camp in his pursuit. He would also perform some tricks for a lump of sugar. For instance, he would rear up on his hind legs and could ‘give a paw’. He was also known to kick an unwary passer-by. Cruachan I served as the regimental mascot for ten years until 1939 when he retired to a farm near Oxford where he peacefully passed away in 1942.
Cruachan I was succeeded by Cruachan II who was presented to the Regiment in 1952 by Mrs Betty Hyde. Cruachan II became the new regiment mascot just in time for him to march at the head of the Battalion on the Unit’s return from the Korean War and the Far East. At this parade, tens of thousands of people lined Princes Street in Edinburgh to welcome the men home to Scotland and Cruachan II behaved excellently despite it being his first public appearance. He was taller than Cruachan I and he liked to be outdoors, normally grazed on a hill throughout the year.
When Cruachan II was stationed at Stirling Castle, his routine included visits to the wards of the local hospital and as a reward he would have one or two beers that he could finish in seconds. He also got to travel to many countries including Germany and Cyprus with the Battalion, and he famously bit through a glove worn by Queen Elizabeth when she went to pet him during a parade. Cruachan II retired in 1979 until he died five years later in 1984.
Cruachan III was purchased by the serving soldiers in 1995 and his first official parade was on St Andrews Day, 30th November 1995. Cruachan III was a great favourite with the crowd and he very much liked being centre of attention, being hugged and patted by thousands of children over the years. He drew a crowd wherever he went and attended many important events during his career. For instance, he led the Battalion during the series of Homecoming Parades when the soldiers returned from their 2008 tour of Afghanistan. Cruachan III also attended Highland Games, shows, and fairs throughout Britain as well as military parades such as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo
For the most part, Cruachan III was well behaved at events. He could be a little temperamental and stubborn when he was bored but when required he performed his duties in a professional manner as he was aware that wearing his saddle cloth meant he was on duty. He served everywhere the Argylls did around Scotland and England, including stints at Balmoral with the Royal Guard. He also served with them on several operational tours, in the Balkans, Iraq and Northern Ireland. During his service, he was awarded the NATO Former Yugoslavia Medal, the Iraq Medal, the General Service medal with the Northern Ireland Clasp, the Accumulated Service Medal and the Jubilee medal. He was also promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal during his service.
After the amalgamation of the Scottish regiments to form the new Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, Cruachan III became the mascot for this regiment. The original green and gold saddle cloth with an embroidered regimental badge of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was changed to the badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Cruachan III retired from service at age 23 on the last night of the 2012 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo after leading the guard of honour at the show’s finale in front of 9000 people and 1000 cast. Cruachan III became stablemate to Cruachan IV who took over from him as the official mascot, although Cruachan III still travelled with Cruachan IV to events for as long as he could. He died in 2018 and his ashes are buried in the grounds of Stirling Castle
Cruachan IV was presented to the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2012 and undertook his first official engagement in 2013. He can often be seen at the head of many of the Regiment’s ceremonial events and he is a regular visitor to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Royal Guard at Balmoral. Cruachan IV has been notionally promoted to the rank of Corporal and this is more an honorific distinction in recognition of his service to the Regiment since 2012. For the most part he is well behaved and has a love for polo mints. He continues to enjoy being the centre of attention drawing large crowds wherever he appears.
Shetland Pony mascots have been an integral part of the Army in Scotland’s history for nearly 100 years – since Princess Louise presented Cruachan I to The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1929. They have all embodied the toughness, feistiness, humour and sometimes stubbornness of the Scottish soldier and have always been much loved members of their regiments, serving with them wherever in the world they went.
Written by Caitlin Stewart, Digital Content Volunteer