Norman Thelwell, who died on Saturday aged 80, created some of the most recognisable images in equine art with his cartoons of freckled girls being bounced along on their recalcitrant spherical ponies.
His first of more than 25 cartoon books, Angels on Horseback, appeared in 1957 and has never been out of print. Like those of Giles, Thelwell's books had a place in the downstairs lavatory of almost every country house. Ponies of a certain shape and temper became known as "Thelwells".
Thelwell himself felt more pride at having once been the political cartoonist on the News Chronicle, and he drew many other animal and sporting subjects besides; but it was chiefly for his pony drawings that he was famous. Fans wrote from as far afield as South Africa and Argentina to tell him about things they had seen at horse shows.
Such gleanings were useful since he claimed to have no horse sense and to have ridden only once in his life. Horses, he declared, were "great windy things that'll grab your coat off your back as soon as look at you". As for humans, most "find life a bit of a problem and are pretty jumpy under the skin. It is this insecurity when dealing with other people or animals or inanimate objects that I find both comical and endearing."
In Thelwell's cartoons, the animals invariably have the upper hand. As an art teacher in Wolverhampton in the 1950s he had once taken a group of students out to sketch a fox hunt. Standing alone in a clearing, he saw the fox, exhausted and bedraggled, trying to jump a wall to escape. On impulse, he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and bundled it over. In later Thelwell cartoons of hunts, the fox is always putting one over on the hunters. Thelwell eventually gave up shooting, although he continued to enjoy fishing.
Norman Thelwell was born on May 3 1923 at Birkenhead, one of two sons of Christopher and Emily Thelwell. The family lived in a small terraced house which Norman's mother kept spotless; as he recalled, she "thought that anyone who didn't move the wardrobes once a week to dust underneath was a bit suspect; she wouldn't have a vacuum cleaner because she couldn't believe it could get the dirt out of the carpet".
The boys played in the street under gaslights on cold winter nights and took penny bus rides out to the country whenever they could afford it. Norman could not remember ever having been without a pencil and a sketchbook. "It was simply natural for me. No one ever mentioned art, and I didn't feel I had any particular ability. "
He went to Rock Ferry High School, which had no art room, and left aged 16 to become a junior clerk in an office. The Second World War had already broken out and at 18 he joined the East Yorkshire Regiment as an infantryman. Happy to carry extra weight in the form of his sketchbook and paints, he dashed off extraordinarily vivid pen-and-ink drawings of his fellow soldiers.
The first and last time he ever rode was while serving in India, when the horse bolted with Thelwell clinging on around his neck.
While in hospital towards the end of the war he saw a cartoon in an Army magazine and felt sure he could do better. He sold two cartoons for £50, and by the time he was demobbed he was making a small but regular income.
His clerking job in Birkenhead had been held for him, but one day of it was enough; he handed in his cards and, after obtaining a government grant for ex-servicemen, enrolled at Liverpool College of Art, where he completed the five-year degree course in three years.
By this time he was married to Rhona Ladbury, herself a painter, whom he had met while both were in the Army and attending a life class in the evenings in Nottingham. After he graduated they went to live in a village on the edge of Wolverhampton, where he taught at the art college and drew cartoons in his spare time, selling his first one to Punch in 1950.
They lived next to a field where there were two fat, hairy ponies of uncertain temper. "They were owned by two little girls about three feet high who could have done with losing a few pounds themselves," he recalled. "They would arrive to collect their mounts in yellow pullovers, tiny jodhpurs and velvet safety helmets. I could hear the air whisper as they tested their whips - so could Thunder and Lightning, who pointedly ignored them and went on grazing.
"As the children got near, the ponies would swing round and present their ample hindquarters and give a few lightning kicks which the children would sidestep calmly, and they had the head-collars on those animals before they knew what was happening. I was astonished at how meekly they were led away; but they were planning vengeance - you could tell by their eyes."
One day in 1953 he drew the scene and sent it off to Punch. After five years at the art college he realised that he was earning more in a couple of hours doing cartoons than in a week's teaching.
In 1956 he became a cartoonist for the News Chronicle. He moved to the Sunday Dispatch in 1960, and on to the Sunday Express, where he remained, in 1962. Throughout this time he continued drawing for Punch, and produced more than 1,500 cartoons for the magazine by the late 1970s. He often tackled serious issues, as with his campaign against factory farming: in one of these cartoons, a mother pats her little girl encouragingly - "Run along and help Grandad freeze the chickens . . ." He was ahead of the pack in drawing attention to other farming abuses, such as the ripping out of hedges and pollution. In one cartoon in his book The Effluent Society (1971), he drew two farmers with all their paraphernalia - a huge combine harvester and a couple of tractors - and one is saying to the other: "My wife is just the same. Now she wants a spin drier!" He also saw the comic possibilities in field sports, and in the class stereotypes and social repositioning that occurred after the war.
Thelwell's other books included Thelwell Country (1959), A Leg at Each Corner (1962), The Penguin Thelwell (1963), Top Dog (1964), Thelwell's Riding Academy (1965), Drawing Ponies (1966), Up the Garden Path (1967), Thelwell's Compleat Tangler (1967), Thelwell's Book of Leisure (1968), This Desirable Plot (1970), Penelope (1972), Three Sheets in the Wind (1973), Belt Up (1974), Pony Calvalcade (1981), Some Damn Fool's Signed the Rubens Again (1982), Penelope Rides Again (1988), and The Cat's Pyjamas (1992).
Thelwell enjoyed renovating old buildings to live in. After reconstructing a derelict Cornish mill and its outbuildings - described in his book A Millstone Round My Neck (1981) - he moved to Heron's Mead, a cottage on the Hampshire Test, near Romsey, with seven acres, where he landscaped a garden and lake; this gave rise to another book, A Plank Bridge by a Pool (1978).
A contented man, he rarely left home, except to play boules in the New Forest with friends on Thursday afternoons, and to visit the pub with his wife. Otherwise he would spend hours wandering around his garden or in a small dinghy on the lake. He did not much care for things foreign, and never acquired a taste for pasta or pizza. Whenever he went on holiday he could not wait to get home.
Four years ago he was diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's. He is survived by his wife and their son and daughter.