Dartmoors are the native pony breed of the county of Devon in southwest England, and have lived on the sparse and inhospitable moors of Dartmoor since the Middle Ages. They were used then to carry heavy loads from the area’s tin mines; when the mines closed they were used for farming or turned out to roam free on the moor. Beginning in the 1900s the ponies were bred at Dartmoor Prison, where Arab, Welsh and Fell pony bloodlines were introduced.
The Dartmoor Pony Society was founded in 1924. The two World Wars proved devastating to the breed, but breeders later began to register as many ponies as they could, and by the 1950s, the population was improving. In the years since, the Dartmoor Pony Moorland Scheme (1988) and the Dartmoor Pony Preservation Scheme (2004) were introduced to halt the decline in numbers and deepen the gene pool. With a global population of just 2,000-3,000 animals (including some free-roaming herds in Dartmoor), the Livestock Conservancy ranks the Dartmoor Pony as ‘critical’ on their Conservation Priority List.
Dartmoor Ponies have small heads, alert ears, kind and intelligent eyes, and a medium-length neck. The breed has muscular legs, a well-ribbed body with plenty of heart room. and well-shaped, hard hooves. The pony moves with minimal knee flexion, resulting in a free-flowing, long and low stride. Mane and tail are full and flowing. For registration purposes these ponies must not stand taller than 12.2 hh.
Acceptable colours are bay, brown, black, grey, chestnut, and roan. Piebalds, skewbalds and spotted markings are not allowed. A certain amount of white is acceptable, although excessive white markings (blaze, stripe, stockings) are discouraged.
Dartmoor Ponies display both sturdiness and quality, and are a suitable size and temperament for a children’s mount. They also excel carrying both children and adults for foxhunting, trail riding, showing in-hand and under saddle, jumping, dressage, and driving.
For more information, visit:
Dartmoor Pony Society